The mistaken 1909 "jazz" attestation in OED; was: "Please don't shoot the organist; he's doing his best" (1882)

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Sun Dec 24 02:33:24 UTC 2006

     I'm away from my papers but can provide a general response about the 1909 "jazz" in OED. The presentation of this attestation is a flat-out error and has been recognized as such at OED at least by Jesse Scheidlower.  The attestation was submitted by Peter Tamony (to whose memory, all honor!), who heard the attestation "jazz" in a later recording  (1919) of "Uncle Josh in Society."  Tamony knew that the earliest recording of "Uncle Josh..." was 1909 and evidently assumed that that earlier recording was the same as the 1919 one.  BIG MISTAKE!  The late David Shulman listened to the 1909 recording and reported in an article that it contained no "jazz."  IIRC, the 1909 version was "One lady asked me if I danced the german."
    A year ago (IIRC, Oct./Nov. 2005 issue) I prepared a detailed Comments on Etymology treatment of "jazz" (140 pages) with due credit to all the people who have assisted me over the years in the study of  the origin of the term.  Once the San Francisco newspapers from 1913 come online, I'll incorporate any possible additional information into the treatment and publish the work as a monograph (again, with all due credit). One of the items in the COE "jazz" treatment (btw, draft #3)
is a reprint of Shulman's article on the alleged 1909 "jazz" attestation.
       Also btw, several libraries subscribe to Comments on Etymology, and so the 2005 "jazz" issue is available out there. 
Gerald Cohen

From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Laurence Horn
Sent: Sat 12/23/2006 7:47 PM
Subject: Re: "Please don't shoot the organist; he's doing his best" (1882)

What was the verdict on that 1909 first cite in the OED (still up
there) for "jazz"--

1909 C. STEWART Uncle Josh in Society (gramophone-record), One lady
asked me if I danced the jazz.

do I recall that being dismissed here as a typo or misdating?  [Note
that it doesn't appear in brackets.]  I ask partly because my
students, answering a question on "jazz" etymythologies on their
take-home final, have found their way to this entry, which they take
(not unreasonably) to be the earliest cite for any sense of the word,
predating those West Coast baseball occurrences for 'vim' and such.

Sorry if the answer is obvious to some of you.


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