Jazz from Teas

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Sep 17 00:43:34 UTC 2007

>Could someone provide a summary of the reasons why Daniel Cassidy's
>proposed derivation of jazz from the Irish word teas should not be
>credited?  People keep adding this to the Wikipedia article, and I
>would like to be able to articulate succinctly why linguists do not
>take his theory seriously.

Does "credited" here mean "taken as essentially certain" or simply
"accepted as one of several reasonable possibilities", or something in between?

I believe the etymon of "jazz" is probably English "jasm", in line
with the Wiki piece. But AFAIK decisive evidence has not been
presented; therefore other notions can be (seriously) considered.

Cassidy derives "jazz" from Irish "teas" (pronounced approx. "chass",
apparently) = "heat".

Bob Rigter has another derivation ...


... from French "chasse" = "chase"/"hunt".

There are other published suggestions including "jasmine", French
"jaser", Mandingo "jasi", etc., etc.

All without any convincing evidence.

At least we know that the candidate etymon "jasm" really was in
existence in the milieu in question. I don't think we have any
indication of Irish "teas" being used in English; Cassidy didn't
present any such evidence AFAIK. But this sort of reasoning does not
answer the derivation question; it only addresses plausibility ...
and sometimes the truth is seemingly implausible.

Cassidy's book about Irish etymologies of English slang has been
published recently; I haven't read it.

No reason why Cassidy's notion should not be included in the Wiki
article ... but I think equal time (i.e., probably, very little)
should be given to Rigter's speculation ... and several others.

-- Doug Wilson

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