Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue May 23 17:57:38 UTC 2006

On 5/23/06, Roger Shuy <rshuy at montana.com> wrote:
> Since I've played one of these instruments in groups over the years, I
> thought I might leave the shadows and join in. When the members of my group
> are identified to audiences, the usual term to describe what I play is
> simply "harp." If I had a second choice, it would be "harmonica." To me,
> "mouth organ" sounds crude or sloppy. I've heard "French harp" from a few
> people the past but it is by far the least common. I think it might be a
> variant used by some for "jews harp" (also "juice harp," equally crude and
> sloppy sounding).

A young John Lennon felt the need to correct the host of BBC's "Pop Go
The Beatles" when said host identified John's "harp"/"mouth organ" as
a "harmonica":


June 1, 1963 - 1:30 P.M.-5:30 P.M.
The Beatles
Interviewed By Lee Peters
BBC Paris Studio, London, United Kingdom
Broadcast June 11, 1963, 5:00-5:29 P.M. On BBC Light Programme, Pop Go
The Beatles #2
LEE PETERS: There's always too much monkey business on these sessions,
but now John has his work cut out on the next one, as he takes the
guitar on and off his neck, and pulls the harmonica in and out of his
JOHN: Harp, it's a harp.
LEE PETERS: What's a harp?
JOHN: Uh, the harp. I'm playing a harp in this one.
LEE PETERS: Playing a harp?
JOHN: Harmonica I play in "Love Me Do", harp in this one, little.
Mouth organ. Harp.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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