[Ads-l] jitney

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Sep 9 11:46:20 UTC 2021

Speaking of jitney—Peter Reitan today wrote, in part: “…if a ‘jitney’ was a nickel and later a bus…”—there’s a new article in town.
It is quite learned and, imo, not quite persuasive. I have previously posted here on jitney, with antedatings and proposed etymology.
Gold, David L. 2021. "American English gitney ~ jitney '[any] American coin of low denomination' < Louisiana French *jetonnet *'idem' = French jeton + diminutive suffix -et (A Study in English and French Etymology and Numismatics).” In: Literature is Comparative : Toute littérature est littérature comparée. Etudes de littérature et de linguistique offertes à Roy Rosenstein par ses collègues, ses disciples et ses amis. Textes recueillis par Danielle Buschinger, Martine Marzloff, Patricia Gillies et Marie-Geneviève Grossel. Amiens. Presses du Centre d'Etudes Médiévales de Picardie. Collection Médiévales no. 70. Pp. 232-243.
It ends (p. 241, without the italics there):
In summary, because *jetonnet *’[any] coin of low denomination’ has a phoneme after /n/, it seems to be a likelier immediate etymon of jitney than English jetton and French jeton.
[then, immediately following, with my elipsis:]
Postscript. The missing link between jetonnet and gitney ~ jitney is regional American English gittany ~ jittany, recorded in …. Gittany ~ jittany, which preserves the trisyllabicity of jetonnet, became gitney ~ jitney by syncope.
[end of D. L. Gold quotation]
Whether the postscript’s “missing link” undercuts the proposed “immediate etymon” I suppose depends on the definition of the latter.
Whether the source was jeton (as I suggested), jetton, or a hypothetical jetonnet may be a case of dispute so intense because the stakes are some small.
But more antedatings and discussion may be welcomed.
PS An interdating of New Yale Book of Quotations: 1970, The American University: A Public Administration Perspective, p. 31:
We can no longer use our little joke that campus politics are so nasty because the stakes are so small. They are now so nasty because the stakes are so high.
PPS fwiw, jitney is not in Dictionary of Southern Appalachian English, 2021.

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