FWIW: NYU librarians and "Jazz"
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From: Kent Underwood (kent.underwood at NYU.EDU)
Subject: Re: [MLA-L] More on first citation of "jazz"
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Date: 2003-09-08 07:50:11 PST
Respondents to my posting on Friday (below) point to the Oxford English Dictionary entry on "jazz," which gives a 1909 gramophone recording "Uncle Josh in Society" as the earliest citation. Uncle Josh did get around, but OED2, it seems, is wrong about the 1909 date, i.e.,
"The true etymology of 'jazz' is complicated by several infamous errors,
which keep recurring in popular accounts of the word's origin. Even
the venerable OED2 makes an error. The big dic [sic] first cites the
term as appearing in 1909 on a gramophone record 'Uncle Josh in
Society.' This is an error. The term didn't appear on the 1909
pressing of the record, but on a later, 1919, edition. Also two French
dictionaries, 'Le Nouveau Petit Robert (1993) and 'Grand Larousse
Dictionnaire de la Langue Francais (1975) reference a 1908 use. These
are typos; they should read 1918." --From "Wordorigins," ed. David Walton (1997-2003)<http://www.wordorigins.org>
And this from George Thompson, who discovered the now reigning 1912 Los Angeles Times citation:
"I first posted the 'Jazz Curve' to the discussion group of the American Dialect Society, ADS-L. One of the other members, Prof. Gerald Cohen, has devoted two issues of a newsletter he publishes to the history of the word 'jazz.' Some months ago he sent several messages to ADS-L demonstrating that the record that's the source of the OED's 1909 citation for 'jazz' was a version recorded in the late 1910s, if I remember, 1918. I was involved in a discussion about the correct dates of the citations in the French dictionary. I believe that all these discussions are excerpted in Cohen's latest compilation of material is a 91 page survey of what is known about the history of jazz: vol. 32, #4-5 (2002) of 'Comments on Etymology.' If anyone is interested in it, it may be bought from him at the Dept. of Applied Arts and Cultural Studies, Univ. of Missouri at Rolla, Rolla, Missouri, 65401 (or gcohen at umr.edu) The cost will probably be about $8 or $10; it's an installment of a new
s letter on the history of slang that sells for $15/year."
Music Librarian, New York University
Email: kent.underwood at nyu.edu
Snail: 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012
----- Original Message -----
From: Kent Underwood <kent.underwood at nyu.edu>
Date: Friday, September 5, 2003 6:30 pm
Subject: [MLA-L] First usage of "jazz" ("jass")
> My NYU colleague George Thompson has turned up, in the Los Angeles
> Times database, what is evidently the earliest written usage of
> the word "jazz" (aka "jass") yet reported. The two stories, from
> April 2 and 3, 1912, predate the 1913 San Francisco newspaper
> story commonly cited (in New Grove and elsewhere) as the earliest.
> As in 1913, though, the 1912 writers are talking not about music,
> but baseball pitching.
> Here are the citations:
> BEN'S JAZZ CURVE. "I got a new curve this year," softly murmured
> Henderson yesterday, "and I'm goin' to pitch one or two of them
> tomorrow. I call it the Jazz ball because it wobbles and you
> simply can't do anything with it."
> As prize fighters who invent new punches are always the first to
> get their's Ben will probably be lucky if some guy don't hit that
> new Jazzer ball a mile today. It is to be hoped that some
> unintelligent compositor does not spell that the Jag ball. That's
> what it must be at that if it wobbles.
> LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 2, 1912, part III, pg. 2, col. 1
> [A column of notes and comments about the game, "Around the Bags"
> by Owen R. Bird in the paper the next day includes the paragraph]:
> Of course they will want to know what the first ball pitched by
> each slabster was. Well, Leverenz got away with a nice straight
> strike, and Henderson cut the outside corner with a fast curve
> also for one strike. Benny calls this his "jass" ball. LOS
> ANGELES TIMES, April 3, 1912, section III, p. 3, col. 1
> Kent Underwood
> Music Librarian, New York University
> Email: kent.underwood at nyu.edu
> Voice: 212-998-2523
> Fax: 212-995-4794
> Snail: 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012
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