[Ads-l] mouth organ, harmonicon, harmonica

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Jan 19 08:25:01 EST 2021


1

It appears that a simple predecessor of the modern harmonica was called the
"aeolina" (OED: 1829), and that the word "harmonica" is borrowed from
German:

1829 _Boston Traveler_ (March 17) 1: THE AEOLINA.--An elegant and very
simple mode of producing delightful musical sounds. [The description speaks
of a metal "plate" and blown "springs."]

1830 _Daily Chronicle_ (Phila.) (Feb. 8) 3:  HARMONICA, or AEOLINA   A
further supply of this new and popular musical instrument, in a great
variety of forms, received and for sale.

1830  _Evening Post_ [N.Y.] (Feb. 9) 2: The newly introduced musical toy,
called the _Aeolina_ or _Mund harmonica_.

1830 _National Gazette and Literary Register_ [Phila.] (Feb. 12) 2:
Instructions for the Aeolina, or Wind Harmonica, with a selection of
popular melodies.

1830 _N.Y, American_ (Feb. 16) 1: Bourne, in Broadway,...has also a book
out on the _Aeolina_, a new sort of mouth harp, with instructions for its
use, and music adapted to its compass.

2
Note the above use of "mouth harp" (OED: 1876). Cf.:

1831 _Pittsfield [Mass.] Sun_  (Feb. 3) 1: A gentleman, among a set of
hunters at grass, in a park belonging to the Duke of Buccleugh, tried the
effect of a small musical instrument called the mouth Aeolian harp. The
horses...followed the musician.

3
These seem to be true modern harmonicas (alias "French harps"):

1865 _Daily Inter-Ocean_ (Sept. 16) 3:  The shrill strains of the
mouth-harp mingled with the roll of the drum.

1868 _Weekly Rescue_ (Sacramento, Cal.) 2: Master Frank Palmer, a lad ten
or twelve summers old, ...played the Cincinnati hornpipe on the mouth harp,
and played the bones at the same time with the left hand.

1869 _Cairo [Ill.] Bulletin_ (Sept. 23) 1: The instruments used were a
single octave French mouth harp and a wheezy old hand organ.

"Mouth harp" (in whatever senses) becomes relatively frequent in the 1870s.

4
OED has "mouth harp" as a syn. for "Jew's-harp" uniquely from 1968.  But
that may be what is meant here, considering the price (allegedly $1.87 in
today's purchasing power):

1869 _Richmond Dispatch_ (May 10) 3: His "music box" ...[was] nothing more
nor less than a ten-cent _mouth harp_.

Since a "mouth organ" originally meant a set of panpipes, it only makes
sense that a Jew's-harp should be called a "mouth harp."

JL

On Tue, Jan 19, 2021 at 6:26 AM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>
wrote:

> 'Harmonica' meaning "Jew's-harp" is not in OED.
>
> The more I look at the various denotations "harmonica" in the 19th C., the
> more confusing it becomes.
>
> For ex., I found no unmistakable newspaper refs. to the playing of the
> modern harmonica during the Civil War.
>
> And cf. this discussion: https://tinyurl.com/y6schsgp
>
>
> JL
>
>
> On Mon, Jan 18, 2021 at 8:20 PM Mark Mandel <markamandel at gmail.com> wrote:
>
>> In reply to Horatius and to Jonathan Lighter, respectively:
>>
>> ETYMOLOGY:
>>
>> From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jew's_harp#Etymology
>> >>>>>
>> There are many theories for the origin of the name Jew's harp. According
>> to
>> the Oxford English Dictionary, this name appears earliest in Walter
>> Raleigh's Discouerie Guiana in 1596, spelled "Iewes Harp". The "jaw"
>> variant is attested at least as early as 1774[8] and 1809,[9] the "juice"
>> variant appeared only in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
>>
>> It has also been suggested that the name derives from the French
>> "Jeu-trompe" meaning "toy-trumpet".[10] (Though in the French idiom, if
>> two
>> substantives are joined together, the qualifying noun is invariably the
>> last.)[11]
>>
>> Both theories—that the name is a corruption of "jaws" or "jeu"—are
>> described by the OED as "baseless and inept". The OED says that, "More or
>> less satisfactory reasons may be conjectured: e.g. that the instrument was
>> actually made, sold, or imported to England by Jews, or purported to be
>> so;
>> or that it was attributed to Jewish people, suggesting the trumps and
>> harps
>> mentioned in the Bible, and hence considered a good commercial name."[12]
>> <<<<<
>>
>> "Not in OED" (though with the multiple levels of quotation I may be
>> misinterpreting or misattributing this comment. If it is intended as "OED
>> does not list 'Jew's-harp' as a sense of "harmonica", I apologize).
>>
>> It is indeed. In the Compact OED, New Edition, p. 894 (p. 232 in its
>> original volume of the not-so-compact edition; I can't tell which volume,
>> but it evidently begins at "interval"):
>> >>>>>
>> Jews' harp. (Also sometimes with small j.) A variant of Jews' trump, q.v.]
>> <<<<<
>> The first citation is from 1595, "R. Duddely in Hakluyt's Voy, III.576".
>>
>> Mark A. Mandel
>>
>>
>> On Mon, Jan 18, 2021, 3:18 AM Horatius <
>> 00000e76b69c74bf-dmarc-request at listserv.uga.edu> wrote:
>>
>> > And the "Jew's harp" name comes from the fact that the inventor is a
>> Jew?
>> >
>> > Verzonden met ProtonMail Mobile
>> >
>> > -------- Oorspronkelijk bericht --------
>> > Aan 18 jan. 2021 05:11, Jonathan Lighter schreef:
>> >
>> > > 'Harmonica'
>> > >
>> > > 1866: OED
>> > >
>> > > 1863 _New-York Herald_ (Dec. 15) 1: The common harmonicon, known to
>> > > schoolboys as the "mouth organ."
>> > >
>> > > ("Harmonicon"; 1876, OED.)
>> > >
>> > > There are earlier exx., but they're at least as likely to refer to
>> > panpipes
>> > > or even Jew's-harps.
>> > >
>> > > II
>> > >
>> > > Harmonica
>> > >
>> > > 'Jew's-harp'
>> > >
>> > > Not in OED.
>> > >
>> > > 1825 _Caledonian Mercury_ [Edinburgh) (June 16) 2: The Jews [sic] Harp
>> > ...
>> > > A.M. Eulenstein, from Heilbron, has invented a new instrument, or
>> rather
>> > > improved the little instrument already spoken of, which he calls the
>> > Mouth
>> > > Harmonica, on which he has been performing various pieces of music,
>> much
>> > to
>> > > the astonishment and delight of numerous private circles.
>> > >
>> > > JL
>> >
>> >
>>
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>
>
>
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
>


-- 
"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

------------------------------------------------------------
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