[Ads-l] (reposted with typos corrected) Re: jitney--etymology and antedating

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sun Jul 3 13:46:05 UTC 2016

Previously I antedated jitney to 1899 [1]:

Morning Herald, page Page 4, iss. 349, December 16, 1899
Lexington, Kentucky
Election So Quiet This Pair of "Heavy-Enders" Didn't Know it Was on - A Little Tramp

"Can't spare de change. Me granmaw died in Sout' Afriky an' I need dis
to float me over ter de fun'ral"
"Quit yer kiddin' an' let me have a jitney"

In the May 1, 1915 Literary Digest, Frank H. Vizetelly, "The Lexicographer's Easy Chair" p. 1062,
col 2-3 reported:

"To Troop-Sergeant George Washington Lee we owe the reminder of a little catch popular with the
Louisiaian French-Speaking negro:
Mettons jetnée danz il trou
Et parcourons sur la rue--
Mettons jetnée--si non vous
Vous promenez à pied nou!
This may be freely translated:
Put a jitney in the slot
And over the street you ride;
Put a jitney--for if not
You'll foot it on your hide.
...." [But the whole article is worth reading, including the proposal that the word was "coined
by Southern negros for a nickel" and influenced by French jeton or jetton.]

The following newly-reported discovery appears to confirm such an origin by giving--in an
African-American newspaper in 1898--a transitional form.

Illinois Record, Springfield IL, [America's Historical Newspapers] Jan 29, 1898, p. 3 col. 5
"Spingfield South-End Happenings":
"What little jetney coachman on S. 6th street has such a big head he cant put on the coachman's
hat he only wears the coat with brass buttons?"

Note association with coach as well as (presumably) coin (or token), of little worth.

[For previous discussion and bibliography--though citing Vizetelly in a 1932 reprint--David L. Gold,
"9. American English jitney 'five-cent coin; sum of five cents' Has No Apparent Jewish or Russian
Connection and May Come from (Black?) Louisiana French jetnée (On the Increasing Difficulty of
Harvesting All the Grain)" in Studies in Etymology and Etiology....2009.]

Stephen Goranson

[1] https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__listserv.linguistlist.org_pipermail_ads-2Dl_2009-2DMarch_089013.html&d=CwIFAw&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=yg00-wyRnpXZDnNF-ZX6mS_lLkp0Tjoa3OWxpnu1geU&s=r-SO5IhEKREmJB2MZcd4Ip4KdlgGlNgIyjxbv1negvE&e=

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