"dust my broom" (was: "dig" probably not from Wolof)

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Dec 13 16:23:17 UTC 2004

Gerry Cohen posts:
>        "Dust my broom" isn't sexual; it merely means "leave."  HDAS
gives a long history for "dust" (= depart, clear out)  and gives an
1821 cite for "broom" (=to leave; the next earliest cite is 1932), but
the presence of  jazz "broom" (verb) and "dust one's broom" may be
independent of the 19c uses.

This is from an essay in which a NYC newspaper editor was showing off
his mastery of the lowlife slang introduced to NYers when the managers
of the Park Theater brough over the script of "Tom and Jerry" and had
an immense hit with it.  HDAS's 1821 citation is from the novel Tom &
Jerry (probably, rather than the play):

After roystering at the Theatre, they broomed to a neighboring bousing
ken. . . .
Commercial Advertiser, February 1, 1827, p. 2, col. 3

This editor's competence in slang wasn't perfect, since he
uses "broomed" to mean something like "went quickly from one place to
another" rather than "left a place quickly" -- "exit hurriedly, pursued
by a bear" -- but that's the English major breaking out in me again.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

"We have seen the best of our time.  Machinations, hollowness,
treachery, and all ruinous disorders follow us disquietly to our
graves."  King Lear, Act 1, scene 2 (Gloucester speaking).

----- Original Message -----
From: "Cohen, Gerald Leonard" <gcohen at UMR.EDU>
Date: Saturday, December 11, 2004 4:34 pm
Subject: Re: "dust my broom" (was: "dig" probably not from Wolof)

> In reply to Bill Mullins' question below:
> > Where does "dust my broom" come from?
> >
> ****
>            This now is only a guess on my part: A custodian
> leaving after a day's (or
>        night's) work might clean off his broom outside, so when
> he returns the next
>        day, he won't start off with a broom full of dust. Perhaps
> housemaids did the
>        same. So if one or the other said: "I'll dust my broom
> now," that would mean
>        it's time to finish work and go home.  Then, by
> shortening, "I'll broom" (= I'll
>        leave), with possibly no connection at all to the 19c
> "broom" attestation.
>            Btw, there's a blues song which tells the sad tale of
> a man who's been
>        mistreated by his woman and is planning to leave her. (See
> Google).  Here's
>        the first verse:
>        I'm gonna get up in the mornin'
>        I believe I'll dust my broom (2x)
>        Girlfriend, the black man you been lovin',
>        girlfriend, can get my room.
>        Gerald Cohen
> > ----------
> > From:         Mullins, Bill
> > Sent:         Thursday, December 9, 2004 10:42 PM
> > To:   Cohen, Gerald Leonard
> > Subject:      RE: "dig" probably not from Wolof
> >
> > >For anyone interested in this general topic, see my article:
> "SexualTerms and Metaphors in th Blues, part 1", in: _Studies in
> Slang, Part V_, (book edited by Gerald Leonard Cohen), (Frankfurt
> a.M.: Peter Lang),
> > >1997, pp.73-126. The quote from the Lil Johnson song appears on
> p. 88.
> > >
> > >Gerald Cohen
> >
> > Where does "dust my broom" come from?
> >
> > And does the article include Spinal Tap's "plow my beanfield"?
> >
> >
> >

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