Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Mar 21 09:07:33 UTC 2001

"Jitney" has appeared on this list before, meaning (1) nickel (5-cent
coin), (2) bus or taxicab, (3) automobile, (4) two-bit [adjective].


(1) As early as 1915, "jitney" was referred to as "the Jewish slang term
for a nickel". I know that there has been a negative paper on this
proposition and that Mencken disparaged it, but can any of the local
scholars who are knowledgeable in Yiddish shed any light on this?

(2) In Canadian stock markets, there are apparently "jitney trades" done by
"jitney brokers", apparently more or less "proxy brokers". I can't find
this "jitney" explicitly defined in my dictionaries, nor in the
specifically Canadian dictionaries. How might this expression have originated?

(3) In "This Side of Paradise" (1920, but set in 1915 or so), F. Scott
Fitzgerald has a character say "Here's the old jitney waiter. If you ask
me, I want a double daiquiri." This is cited (HDAS, DARE) as an example of
the adjectival sense = "cheap"/"two-bit". But why refer to the waiter this
way? Does it mean he's decrepit? Or a poor waiter? Or what?

-- Doug Wilson

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