[Ads-l] swear(ing) box, swear(ing) jar

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 6 16:11:16 EST 2021


Taking it back much further...

https://newspaperarchive.com/other-articles-clipping-apr-02-1752-2168788/
The Maryland Gazette, Apr. 2, 1752, p. 1, col. 1
An Apology for Swearing.
Being a Remonstrance of one of the Members of a certain Society near St.
James's, against erecting a Swearing Box, and imposing a Penalty upon Oaths.


On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 4:02 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Fun topic  and nice work, Ben. Below is a match that occurs a bit
> earlier in 1875. The following excerpt contains "swearing box"
> together with the variant "curse box" which you did not list. The
> penalty is a nickel instead of a dime.
>
> Date: February 20, 1875
> Newspaper: The Philadelphia Inquirer
> Newspaper Location:
> Article: The State and Vicinity
> Quote Page 1, Column 5
> Database: GenealogyBank
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> In a Westwood, Bergen county, store, is a "curse box." Every body that
> utters an oath is obliged to deposits five cents in the box. The
> "setters" call it a "swearing box," and say it's a sinking fund for
> them when they get hard up.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
> On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 3:10 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > Dennis Baron asks about the history of the "swear jar" and its precursor
> > the "swear box." Neither is in OED or other dictionaries I checked
> (though
> > there's a Wikipedia entry -- see below).
> >
> > Here are the earliest cites I've found so far for the different variants.
> >
> > * "swearing box" (1878)
> > https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67055532/swearing-box/
> > The Weekly Observer (Raleigh, NC), Apr. 30, 1878, p. 1, col. 4
> > New York, April 22, 1878 -- A queer character died here a few days ago --
> > George W. Blunt, aged 77, for many years Commissioner of Pilots. He
> > abhorred profanity, and kept in his office a tin box in which he required
> > every man who swore in his presence to deposit a dime, the proceeds being
> > applied to some charitable purpose. It is related that he himself was the
> > largest contributor, giving from two to five dimes every day for an equal
> > number of "damns." His box was crammed for a while, but the pilots
> learned
> > to take their luxuries in cheaper regions and of late a dime, except it
> was
> > from Mr. Blunt's pocket, had rarely dropped therein. It is related that a
> > prominent yacht-owner entered Mr. Blunt's office one day, and while
> > conversing with him swore. Mr. Blunt demanded his 10 cents. An
> explanation
> > followed and the yacht-owner retired, apparently very indignant, but
> > without paying the fine. Mr. Blunt was surprised next morning at
> receiving
> > a check for $1000 as a "swearer's contribution" to the charities to which
> > the swearing box was devoted, the "Pilots' Charitable Fund" and the
> "Pilots
> > Benevolent Association."
> >
> > * "swear box" (1883)
> > https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67054515/swear-box/
> > The Boston Globe, Mar. 20, 1883, p. 6, col. 3
> > $100 a Week for the "Swear-Box." (Pittsburg Dispatch.)
> > In the office of the pilot commissioners in New York is a strong iron box
> > constructed on the plan of a toy savings bank. It is known among the
> pilots
> > as the "swear-box," and every person swearing in that room has to pay ten
> > cents for each oath, or three for a quarter, the money going into the
> box.
> > One pilot is known to have paid over $1000. It was not unusual to collect
> > $100 a week for the first few months after it was put up, but of late
> years
> > the contributions have fallen off heavily. The rule is rigidly enforced
> and
> > no one ever objects to paying the penalty, even if the oath was purely
> > accidental. Old Commodore Vanderbilt was once a heavy contributor, and so
> > were other large ship and boat owners.
> >
> > * "swearing jar" (1947)
> > https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67055396/swearing-jar/
> > The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA), Apr. 4, 1947, p. 1, col. 1
> > It says that John Gray and Budd Sarkis at the Rolly Room have filled
> their
> > third "swearing jar" and it's going to a little girl in the Village ...
> > seems they have a glass jar down there and when anybody says the bad
> word,
> > he has to chunk it in the jar for charity ... the hospital has benefited
> > twice because of breach of tempers ... now this little girl is going to
> > profit. ... So, if you have to swear, do it at the Rolly Room and be
> > prepared to pay.
> >
> > * "swear jar" (1953)
> > https://www.newspapers.com/clip/67054952/swear-jar/
> > The World (Coos Bay, OR), June 30, 1953, p. 2, col. 2 (photo caption)
> > A "swear jar" at the Blue Moon tavern has raised approximately $100 for
> the
> > North Lake Crippled Children's Camp and has started a movement expected
> to
> > spread to other taverns in Coos County. Mrs. Joe Rennaker, bartender,
> > thought up the plan and the owner, Robert Downer, has asked all 47 other
> > taverns in the county to do the same. Mrs. Rennaker, center, is holding
> her
> > swear jar, while Mrs. Clea Farr and Robert (Scotty) Agnew demonstrate how
> > fines are collected.
> >
> > Wikipedia has an entry that dates "swear box" to the 1890s. It also
> claims
> > "swear jar" dates to the 1910s, but that appears to be based on false
> > positives from Google Ngrams and not actual cites.
> > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swear_jar
> >
> >
>

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