[Ads-l] Jazz Girls, 1915?

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 27 12:41:31 UTC 2015

On Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 8:18 AM, Amy West wrote:
> Ben Zimmer wrote:
> > On Mon, Oct 26, 2015 at 1:18 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >>
> >> As a title, "Jazz Girls" may imply no more than that jazz-loving women were
> >> more likely to - well, you know.
> > Yes, like "jazz babies," those female jazz enthusiasts who the OED
> > informs us were "frequently regarded as somewhat dissolute"! (The
> > titular "jazz baby" of the 1919 song wanted to be "jazzing all the
> > time.")
> >
> Because I do vintage dance, I'm beginning to wonder if the social dance
> of the period is the "missing link", if you will, between the sex and
> music senses of "jazz". With Ragtime and 20s there is a big shift in dance:
> 1) the dances shift from mostly contra to mostly paired
> and
> 2) the paired dances "bubble up" (if you will) from the dance halls (as
> opposed to trickling down from formal balls), and there are taxi
> dances/dancers (rent a dance partner)
> and
> 3) tango, which is just an overtly sexy dance
> So, I'm thinking that folks working on "jazz" might be wanting to talk
> to some dance historians and see what they've found for instances of
> "jazz" in the historical dance materials . . .

Thanks, Amy. I learned some fascinating bits of jazz/dance history
when I was researching "heebie-jeebies" for a recent Lexicon Valley


My (admittedly anecdotal) impression is that the link between sex and
new "hot" dance styles associated with jazz really hit the public
consciousness with the Charleston, starting in 1923 and peaking a few
years later (when the "heebie-jeebies" and other dances were also
taking off). But of course the roots would go back way before that.


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

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