English "jitter" from German "zittern"?

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Mon Mar 26 01:30:38 UTC 2007

  This e-mail provides one more piece in the "jitters" puzzle. ----
In a Dec. 23, 2006 ads-l message, Jonathan Lighter contained the following helpful information:

        "<snip>  APS reveals the following, which is probably a slight antedating of Sturges:

>   1929 _Life_ (Mar. 22) 28: A couple of sessions with the spirits which will give you the chattering jitters.
>   <snip>"
        * * *
           A check of the Life article shows that "spirits" here refers to ghosts rather than liquor. The etymology of "jitters" remains open to speculation, although I still like the suggestion of my student, Daniel Gill, that it may derive from German (or Yiddish?) "zittern" (= tremble).

            Here now is the full passage containing the March 22, 1929 "jitters" (incidentally: on page 29, not page 28); "jitters" comes at the very end:
                "Into Thin Air (Double-Doran, The Crime Club) by Horatio Winslow and Leslie Quirk is a mystery tale worth two hours of anyone's time.  It just misses excellence by a final twist of the plot which discloses that authors have been playing with you all along.    I don't much like being played with.  When I give my all to any detective I expect him to play fair with me, and not try to slip anything over in the last chapter.     But in spite of that dastardly trick, I think you'll enjoy Into Thin Air for its speedy narrative and intersting characters.  It's about a crook who's dead, but returns, apparently to annoy a famous criminologist.  Likewise involved are two girls, the criminologist's assistant, a medium, a magician and a couple of sessions that will give you the chattering jitters."
        Gerald Cohen
        P.S. The next task is to check the book _Into Thin Air_ to see whether "jitters" might turn up there.


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