[Ads-l] 'gig' = (non-show-business) engagement, 1952

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 25 20:03:00 UTC 2015


>From my "gig" files, another 1952 example of extended use:

---
Baltimore Afro-American, Apr. 19, 1952, (Afro Magazine Section) p. 9, col. 2
"Mainstream" by Ralph Matthews, Jr.
I have jotted down some other phrases currently in use among
Baltimore's "hip" set (you aren't "hip" if you say hep) for students
of the American language. ...
A girl is no longer a "broad" but "Bone." You don't wear clothes, you
wear "fronts." A steady job is a "gig" or "hame," when you buy
something you "cop" and if you don't have money you're "lootless" or
"on the shorts."
---

And here's a playful extension from Lionel Hampton:

---
Pittsburgh Courier, Mar. 6, 1954, p. 19, col. 1
"Show Biz Buzzes" by Lionel Hampton
Just one year ago this column made its first "gig," and it sure did
knock me out to see it in actual print.
---


On Sun, Oct 25, 2015 at 2:09 PM, Geoffrey Nunberg wrote:
>
> The OED gives a 1964 cite from J.H. Clarke's Harlem as the
> earliest instance of the "also transf. and attrib." use of 'gig'
> ("An engagement for a musician or musicians playing jazz,
> dance-music, etc.; spec. a 'one-night stand'). "Pa-knockin'
> hisself out on a mail-handler gig at the Post Office where
> the pay is so lousy he's gotta work a part-time gig." That
> cite should really be 1963, but there's a much earlier
> instance in Kerouac's piece  "The Railroad Earth," written
> in 1952-53 but published in the collection The Lonesome
> Traveler, 1960. Kerouac describes working as a railroad
> brakeman in San Jose:
>
> It's the chief dispatcher calling from 4th and Townsend in
> the Sad Frisco, "Keroowayyy? It's deadhead on 112 to
> San Jose for a drag east with Conductor Degnan got that?"
> ..."All you do is get ups and you already done made how
> many dollars? Anyways in your sleep and put on your gig
> clothes and cut out and take a little bus and go down to
> the San Jose yard office down by the aiprort and the
> engines are being lined up and numbered out there...
> You go down and find your conductor who'll just be some
> old baggy-pants circus comedian with a turned-up hat brim...
>
> This is the sense that figures now in "the gig economy" etc.,
> which Ben discussed in his WSJ piece. It corroborates my
> sense that this was one of the musicians' terms brought
> into the mainstream by the hipsters and beats, along with
> 'riff', 'cool', and my favorite, the late, lamented "Solid!"
>
> Geoff
>
> PS. "The Sad Frisco" seems to be Kerouac's own - it
> appears in The Subterraneans, too.

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