[Ads-l] Jazz Girls, 1915?

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Mon Oct 26 08:05:42 UTC 2015


A short film called "A Free Ride" is considered to be the earliest
extant American stag movie. It's generally believed to be a 1915
production, though some scholars argue it's actually from a later
date. Wikipedia has a thorough entry (and embeds the film itself):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Free_Ride

The opening credits read:

GAY PAREE PICTURE CO.
presents
"A FREE RIDE"
Staring [sic] the
JAZZ GIRLS

Given what the two "jazz girls" get up to when they take their ride,
it seems likely that "jazz" was construed in a sexual sense. If the
date of 1915 is accurate, then it might be seen as an antedating of
"jazz" = 'sex' (here used attributively), which OED and HDAS have from
1918.

On the other hand, if the "jazz girls" were understood to be 'lively
and unconventional in the manner of jazz music and its fans,' then
that would support the argument that the dating of the film is
incorrect, since 1915 would have been too early for anyone outside of
the South Side of Chicago to appreciate the musical connotations of
the term.

--bgz

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The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org


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