"jeffing" for drinks

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Thu Jan 3 01:57:30 UTC 2008

Here is a nice old word, scantily documented.

The Atlas was a Sunday newspaper from NYC.  A paragraph in the July 11, 1841 issue claimed that the temperance movement will be a great benefit to printers,  because
There will be an uncalculable saving in em quads, which were formerly worn out in jeffing for drinks.  The Atlas, July 11, 1841, p. 3, col. 2.

"em quads" and "jeffing" were in italics.  an em quad is a piece of black type that might be used to make the indentation at the start of a paragraph.

HDAS has the game described in Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, of the mid 1680s, but not the word itself until a passage quoted in Thornton's American Glossary, then another gap to the late 1860s.  I'm pleased to point out that this is a free-range "jeffing", not a tame one from a glossary.  Jeffing was done by taking a small handful of quads, shaking them and throwing them onto a table, like dice.  Whoever threw the most quads to land with the knick upwards was the winner.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list