Reflections on 1831 "Jazz"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Nov 1 03:36:51 UTC 2001

>>"Tu as les genoux chauds, tu veux jaser."
>>What does this "comic proverb" mean? What is the significance of "avoir les
>>genoux chauds" (I guess = "have warm knees")? ....
>>Maybe it's just my profound ignorance of French, but I still have trouble
>>making this "comic proverb" support "jaser = coiter". ....

>I think those 'hot knees' of yore are like our 'hot pants'. ....

Very possibly this is the correct interpretation. But it is suggested by
"jaser" = "coiter" ... which is the very equivalence which one would hope
the quotation would establish, or support. If one starts without the
assumption that "jaser" can mean "coiter", then one has "You have warm/hot
knees, you want to jaser", where the meaning of "jaser" is in question.

Now we know what "jaser" usually means, and meant ....


"Thresor de la Langue Française" (1606):

<<Jaser, Fabulari, Nugari, Garrire, Nugas dicere.>>

"Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française" (1694):

<<Jaser. v. n. Causer, babiller.>>


That is, "jaser" = "chat"/"gossip"/"babble"/"talk nonsense" or so.

And "jaser" is argot for "pray", at least from about 1890.

Now taking the quoted "comic proverb" as it stands, we have "You have
hot/warm knees, you want to (?)chat/babble/pray".

(1) In the proper context, "pray" might make sense in conjunction with "knees".

(2) "Genoux" in some contexts = "lap". Here is a passage by Balzac ("Maître

<<Il rêvait. ... Il se voyait sur un coussin, aux pieds de la comtesse; la
tête sur ses genoux chauds d'amour, il écoutait le récit des persécutions
et les détails de la tyrannie que le comte avait fait jusqu'alors éprouver
à sa femme ....>>

The "d'amour" would seem to make "genoux chauds" even more sexually
suggestive ... but what is pictured here as I understand it is a cozy chat,
with the man's head resting on the countess' warm lap as she jazzes on
about her husband's iniquities. [Please correct my interpretation if
necessary.] So it could even be "You have a warm lap, you want to chat" ...
probably suggestive, but not the same as "... you want to f*ck".

It may be that "jaser" was used for "coiter" (though it still might be
nonce only); but I don't think I can come to this conclusion on the basis
of the single "proverb".

Web search finds "genou(x) chaud(s)" elsewhere in (1) an osteopathic list
of knee lesions, (2) an advertisement for ski clothing.

-- Doug Wilson

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