1916 cites for "jazz" (Day Book, Daily Illini)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Fri Feb 1 17:04:04 UTC 2013

On Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 11:53 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> On Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 4:29 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
> > creepy
[As in: 1916 Sep 29 _Day Book_ 29/1 Hundreds of dancers in the Hotel
Walton of Philadelphia were startled when four staccato shots broke
the creepy rhythm of a "jaz" band Wednesday morning.]
> with the current negative sense?

Way back in 1893, the relevant OED fascicle gave these senses for
"creepy" (still not updated 120 years later!):

 1. Characterized by creeping or moving slowly.
 2. a. Having a creeping of the flesh, or chill shuddering feeling,
caused by horror or repugnance.
 b. transf. Tending to produce such sensations.

I think the 1916 cite fits sense 2b pretty well. OED cites:

1883   ‘G. Lloyd’ Ebb & Flow II. xxxiii. 236   The whole place seemed
lonely, and, as Mildred whispered to Pauline, ‘creepy’.
1892   Spectator 2 Apr. 470/1   A really effective romance of the creepy order.


Ben Zimmer

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

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