Jazz from Teas

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Tue Sep 18 23:52:15 UTC 2007

Fred Shapiro, Tue 9/18/2007 2:55 PM, wrote: 

I'm not sure why Jerry Cohen leaves out the 1912 "jazz curve" citation from his account of the origins of _jazz_.  Doesn't it seem likely that the "jazz curve" is a usage related to the 1913 "pep, vim, vigor" usage?

Fred Shapiro


In reply:

 The 1912 (very brief!) appearance of "jazz/jass/jazzer ball/curve" at the start of the 1912 season is controversial.  It was used in reference to Portland Beavers pitcher Ben Henderson's pitch by the Los Angeles Times reporter, April 2 and 3, 1912 and only there and then. 
It was conspicuously absent from Henderson's home town newspaper, even though reporters/cartoonists always had their eye out for something interesting to present.  It is very difficult for me to imagine the term "jazz" being used throughout the 1912 season and then leading to Scoop Gleeson's acquiring the term in 1913.  Gleeson himself later said that he acquired the term from sports editor "Spike" Slattery (The Call), who had picked it up from overhearing "Come on, the old jazz" when players in a craps game rolled the dice.  Gleeson made no mention of the term being in general use already.  The furthest back Gleeson could go with the term was to the craps game that Slattery had witnessed.
Now, in ads-l messages a few years ago a few members believed there was in fact a direct link from the April 2 and 3, 1912 attestations of "jazz" to Gleeson's use of the term in 1913.  Their assumption was that the term must have been used throughout the 1912 season.  So, we have a fundamental difference of opinion on this point.  Hey, no problem.
This subject is discussed in my Oct./Nov. 2005 Comments on Etymology treatment, pp. 4-5 and 43ff.
Gerald Cohen

From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Gerald Cohen [gcohen at UMR.EDU]
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2007 9:30 PM
Subject: Re: Jazz from Teas

The musical term "jazz" can be traced back to San Francisco baseball use
(1913; first = hot air, baloney, then three days later: = pep, vim, vigor,
fighting spirit). From there (if Scoop Gleeson's story is credited) it goes
back to a crap game, in which "jazz" was used as an incantation to lady
luck.  Gleeson reports that William ("Spike") Slattery (then sports editor
of The Call) 'spoke of something being the "jazz," or the old "gin-iker
'"Spike" had picked up the expression in a crap game.
'Whenever one of the players rolled the dice he would shout. "Come on, the
old jazz."'
------------------So, the application of Irish "teas" (= heat) would have to
have been applied not to the hot water of Boyes Springs but to lady luck in
"Come on, the old jazz."

And how would "heat" be relevant here?

Gerald Cohen
P.S. The October/November 2005 issue of my series of working papers Comments
on Etymology contains "Jazz Revisited: On The Origin Of The Term--Draft
#3."--140 pp. and includes due credit to everyone (esp. ads-l members) who
contributed to the discussion.  I didn't bother to include Daniel Cassidy's
treatment to date (in the ads-l messages) because it was in preliminary form
and seemed embarrassingly weak.  But since he has now put it in a book and
aggressively trumpeted it on the Internet as "Fact," I'll have to address it
in a coming issue.  Meanwhile, I do not see it having any credibility at
all. Btw, don't forget 1915 "Jaz-m" (= pep) in the 18 Feb. 1916 The Daily
Californian" (pointed out by Barry Popik).  That's the same as the shortened
version "jazz" (= pep, vim, vigor) used so frequently 1913ff. in the San
Francisco Bulletin and seems to support the more plausible view that "jazz"
derives from the well attested (19C.) "jasm" (= energy, force).

On 9/16/07 3:57 PM, "Baker, John" <JMB at STRADLEY.COM> wrote:

> 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.
> John Baker

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