[Ads-l] Early "Jazz" Citation

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Jan 16 19:53:28 EST 2022

Talk about crash blossoms. Well, actually, is there a term for a headline
that isn't liable to *mis*interpretation but  rather to no interpretation
at all?  I suppose a century ago the intended readership might have been
better prepared than we are today to parse a headline reading


Maybe you had to be there...


On Sun, Jan 16, 2022 at 7:41 PM Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:

> Terrific find, Fred. Here's the page image:
> https://archive.org/details/scoop155239pres/page/429/mode/1up
> In context, "slab the old jazz" may be akin to "shoot the breeze," "chew
> the fat," etc. Or since the preceding paragraph (written a comically ornate
> style contrasting with the slang of the quoted passage) is about setting
> aside an expletive-filled argument, perhaps "slab" is like "slab off" (OED
> quoting Bartlett 1859: "throw aside as useless") and it means "put aside
> the old nonsense" or something like that.
> As we've previously discussed, in June 1913 there were two widely
> syndicated articles that presented "the old jazz" as slang from San
> Francisco. See e.g. my ADS-L post from June 2007 or Dave Wilton's writeup:
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2007-June/071855.html
> https://www.wordorigins.org/big-list-entries/jazz
> While the example from The Scoop doesn't mention San Francisco, I think the
> likeliest explanation is that "the old jazz" was inspired by the newspaper
> articles about slang that were circulating around the country at the time.
> And I don't think "teach the Chinaman his music lesson" is a literal
> reference to music but yet another slang idiom (not sure about the
> meaning).
> FWIW, the item is signed "Phinney the Eel," which is also the name of a
> Chicago underworld character in an Aug. 1913 syndicated piece by Gene
> Morgan.
> https://www.newspapers.com/clip/92762265/phinney-the-eel/
> I see there was a reporter for the Chicago Daily News named Gene Morgan, so
> this piece may have first appeared there. And I'd guess Morgan is also the
> author of the item in The Scoop, as his byline appears elsewhere in that
> issue, e.g.:
> https://archive.org/details/scoop155239pres/page/113/mode/1up
> https://archive.org/details/scoop155239pres/page/163/mode/1up
> https://archive.org/details/scoop155239pres/page/192/mode/1up
> --bgz
> On Sun, Jan 16, 2022 at 6:50 PM Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu>
> wrote:
> > 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
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > 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
> > 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.
> >
> >
> >
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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