[Ads-l] Early "Jazz" Citation

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 16 18:50:17 EST 2022


Actually, I think this is the only known citation of "the old jazz" in that time-period that is not relating to the San Francisco area.  I should also note the obvious point that this citation is from Chicago, which appears to be the incubator of "jazz" referring to music.

Fred Shapiro


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From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
Sent: Sunday, January 16, 2022 6:27 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Subject: Early "Jazz" Citation

I often criticize other people for far-fetched etymological theories based on coincidence, and often espouse the theory that if a citation is "too good to be true," it's doubtless not true.  But I have found an interesting citation and seek help in interpreting it.

1913 The Scoop (Press Club of Chicago) 13 Sept. 429 (Internet Archive)  And say, Glommer, old peg, let's slab the old jazz.  Some night we'll meet at the clubhouse beaker bazaar.  And then we'll both teach the Chinaman his music lesson -- eh, kid?

The earliest known use of "jazz" meaning a type of music was discovered by me in a 1915 issue of the Chicago Tribune, a full year or so earlier than any other such usage.  I realize that the citation above is probably a usage of the slang term "the old jazz" that was current in 1913 in San Francisco and elsewhere, and probably is not referrring specifically to a type of music.  But does anyone have any idea as to what a slangy use of "slab" as a verb might mean?  And does anyone think this could be a reference to music?  The context seems musical, unless "music lesson" is some kind of metaphor.  The citation is an item that immediately follows an item about "negro" music.

Fred Shapiro

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