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

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 6 16:34:08 EST 2021


I just found the same text on Google Books. It does indeed seem to be dated
1746.

https://books.google.com/books?id=gMAPAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA249
The Museum: or, The Literary and Historical Register, Dec. 20, 1746, p. 249

On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 4:32 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Wow! Excellent, Ben. Google Books seems to have the same text in 1746.
> So the 1752 text might have been reprinted. I am not completely sure
> about the date. The pages within the volume do not list the year. It
> looks like the year is only specified on the cover. You may wish to
> double check the details in Google Books.
>
> Year: 1746 December 20 (MDCCXLVI)
> Title: The Museum: or, The Literary and Historical Register
> Number 20
>
> https://books.google.com/books?id=gMAPAAAAQAAJ&q=+swearing-box#v=snippet&
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> An APOLOGY for SWEARING
> Being the 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
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
> On Wed, Jan 6, 2021 at 4:11 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > 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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