[Ads-l] Early "Jazz" Citation

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 17 16:40:10 EST 2022


Great work, Jon !  I had no idea that this would turn out to be an established saying.

Fred Shapiro


________________________________
From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, January 17, 2022 9:02 AM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Subject: Re: Early "Jazz" Citation

1944 in Wolfgang Mieder _The Politics of Proverbs_ (Madison: U. of Wisc.
Press) 147: To give the Chinaman a music lesson: to go to the toilet.

https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.definition-of.com%2Fgive%2Bthe%2BChinaman%2Ba%2Bmusic%2Blesson&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Ce34f57c0af3c4486391508d9d9c20d7f%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637780249739542902%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=PnBE27FdD%2BrEkz4Z3kxmRkxPtt3YlxbN8kjVtJOlRBo%3D&reserved=0 : GIve the
Chinaman a music lesson...British phrase meaning to urinate (in a toilet
bowl), based on China porcelain and tinkle-ing, the musical sound of
urination.

Startling as it may be in a 1913 publication, this fits in with "the
clubhouse beaker bazaar" - apparently the clubhouse bar.  Use the cryptic
phrase may simply be out of linguistic exuberance.  Not many "proper"
readers would have had any idea what it meant - any more than we did.

Since "slabs" are widely associated with morgues, I suspect "slab the old
jazz" means "put aside the usual stuff, foolishness," etc.

JL



On Mon, Jan 17, 2022 at 7:25 AM Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:

> Thanks for setting me straight, Ben.
>
> Fred Shapiro
>
>
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Ben
> Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Sunday, January 16, 2022 7:40 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Subject: Re: Early "Jazz" Citation
>
> Terrific find, Fred. Here's the page image:
>
>
> https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Farchive.org%2Fdetails%2Fscoop155239pres%2Fpage%2F429%2Fmode%2F1up&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Ce34f57c0af3c4486391508d9d9c20d7f%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637780249739542902%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=sktyRh6nI8KQZ1fUINOjPHYmY7XE9B%2BVuVqL1gBDDM8%3D&reserved=0
>
> 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:
>
>
> https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Flistserv.linguistlist.org%2Fpipermail%2Fads-l%2F2007-June%2F071855.html&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Ce34f57c0af3c4486391508d9d9c20d7f%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637780249739542902%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=mlMjRCqoTGvyMLsQq7FDzWHlx137aevo9yirHl1l1hU%3D&reserved=0
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> https://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.wordorigins.org%2Fbig-list-entries%2Fjazz&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Ce34f57c0af3c4486391508d9d9c20d7f%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637780249739542902%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=9eln%2BXXz7izrIXZ8R6NrgwEvwBlEkn%2FTSAHCK0n7r%2B4%3D&reserved=0
>
> 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://nam12.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.newspapers.com%2Fclip%2F92762265%2Fphinney-the-eel%2F&data=04%7C01%7Cfred.shapiro%40YALE.EDU%7Ce34f57c0af3c4486391508d9d9c20d7f%7Cdd8cbebb21394df8b4114e3e87abeb5c%7C0%7C0%7C637780249739542902%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000&sdata=Wcan9YOo4mCIDfeL%2BXzAAUNU0nfrEI78Rd4Cqe8gCv4%3D&reserved=0
>
> 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.:
>
>
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>
> --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
> > 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.
> >
> >
> >
>
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--
"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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