EMAIL PAGE FOUR
COLUMN 109, SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
(Copyright © 2004 The Blacklisted Journalist)
THE ORIGINS OF 'JAZZ'
Subject: Origin of the word JAZZ
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 07:52:17 -0700 (PDT)
From: Jerry Campbell firstname.lastname@example.org
To: Al Aronowitz email@example.com
[Q] From Brett Culton: "Could you please tell me the origin of the word jazz??
[A] It's a deceptively simple question. A mish-mash of colliding egos, conflicting claims and confused
memories has led researchers down many false trails while searching for the origins of this American art
form, not least where its name came from. To pluck some examples from the many in the books: people have pointed to Jasper, the name of a dancing slave on a plantation near New Orleans in about 1825 whose nickname was Jazz; to a Mississippi drummer named Chas Washington in the late nineteenth century or to Chas, the nickname of Charles Alexander (of Alexander's Ragtime Band) about 1910; to a Chicago musician named Jasbo Brown; to a band conductor in New Orleans about 1904 called Mr Razz; to the French chass?, a gliding dancing step that had already been turned into the archetypically American verb sashay as long ago as the 1830s; to the French jaser, useless talk for the pleasure of hearing one's own voice; or the Arabic jazib, one who allures.
The intimate association of jazz with American black culture has led others to look for an origin in African languages, such as the Mandingo jasi, become unlike oneself, Tshiluba jaja, cause to dance, or Temne yas, be extremely lively or energetic. One early jazz player, Garvin Bushell, was sure it had a fragrant origin. In his 1988 book Jazz From the Beginning, he remembers his early days in music, around 1916: 'the perfume industry was very big in New Orleans in those days, since the French had brought it over with them. They used jasmine " oil of jasmine " in all different odors to pep it up. It gave more force to the scent. So they would say, "let's jass it up a bit," when something was a little dead." John Philip Sousa suggested in the 1920s that jazz slid into our vocabulary by way of the vaudeville stage, in which all the acts would come back on to the stage at the end of a performance to give a rousing, boisterous finale called a jazzbo, a type of low physical comedy. (This one looks plausible; however, jazzbo isn't recorded before 1917 and might be from jazz plus bo, an abbreviation of boy.)
If you weren't confused before, I suspect you are now. There are more folk etymologies around this word than
almost any other, many of them vehemently held in defiance of the evidence. What we do know, as the result of research by Gerald Cohen, is that the word suddenly starts to appear in the San Francisco Bulletin in March 1913 in a series of articles about baseball by E T 'scoop? Gleeson (it's recently been found that an isolated example appeared about a year earlier in the Los Angeles Times, but this is also in a baseball context).
Early examples had nothing to do with music but referred to an intangible quality possessed by baseball players, what another writer in the newspaper, Ernest Hopkins, described in April that year as "life, vigor, energy, effervescence of spirit, joy, pep, magnetism, verve, virility, ebulliency, courage, happiness " oh, what's the use? " JAZZ. Nothing else can express it".
Gleeson later said that he had got it from another newsman, Spike Slattery, while they were at the training camp of the local baseball team, the San Francisco Seals. Slattery said he had heard it in a crap game. Art Hickman, an unemployed local musician, was at the camp to make contacts among the newsmen but took on the job of organising evening entertainments. Among these was a ragtime band he created from other out-of-work musicians, including a couple of banjo players. It was this band that developed a new sound that started to be described in the training camp as jazz.
This name went with Hickman to engagements in San Francisco and later to New York, though his type of syncopated rag, later to be called sweet jazz, turned out to be a dead end musically. By the following year, it seems that the word had spread to Chicago, most probably through the efforts of another bandleader, Bert Kelly. In 1916 it appeared there in a different spelling in the name of the New Orleans Jass Band. Despite this band's name, the word wasn't known in New Orleans until 1917, as early jazz musicians attested.
It is said to have arrived through the medium of a letter from Freddie Keppard in Chicago to the cornet player Joe Oliver. Oliver showed the letter to his prot?g? Louis Armstrong and the name soon became applied to the New Orleans style that became dominant and which was later called hot jazz to distinguish it from the Art Hickman sort. The big question remains: where did those San Francisco crapshooters of 1913 get their word from? This is the point where we step off the path and run the risk of disappearing into an etymological quicksand.
Scoop Gleason said that when they rolled the dice players would call out "Come on, the old jazz". It looks as though they were using the word as an incantation, a call to Lady Luck to smile on them. It's commonly said that the word had strong sexual associations, being a low slang term among blacks for copulation. This may be so, though it's odd that theworldly-wise journalists on the San Francisco Bulletin didn't realise it at the time. If they had, they would surely have stopped using it, at least in their newspaper columns.
The first direct sexual associations date only from 1918, at a point by which the word's musical sense had become firmly established. We have no knowledge of the racial background of those crap shooters in San Francisco, so there's even doubt whether the word has any associations with black English at all. The most plausible sexual origin is in the word jism, also known as jasm. This has a long history in American English, being known in print from 1842 and probably a lot earlier still in the spoken language. It could have the same sense of spirit, energy or strength later associated with jazz, but the primary idea seems to have been semen or sperm, a meaning jism still has, one that has obvious associations with vitality and virility. It may be relevant that one of the earlier examples, in the Daily Californian in February 1916, writes the word as jaz-m. It doesn't seem too implausible to suggest that jasm lost its final letter, turned into jass and then into jazz.
It's likely that Gleeson and his fellow newspapermen didn't connect their new word jazz with jism, not knowing about the intermediate steps. Of course, that just takes the whole matter back another step in this never-ending dance of word history. The English Dialect Dictionary records the eighteenth-century form chissom, to bud, sprout or germinate, which looks possible. Others have pointed to an origin, via black slaves, from words like Ki-Kongo dinza, the life force, or from other African languages. So at least some of those folk etymologies may be nearer the truth than one might have thought.
World Wide Words is Copyright - Michael Quinion, 1996?2004. All rights reserved. Contact the author for reproduction requests. Comments and feedback are always welcome.
Page created 10 July 2004. ##
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RUSH LIMBAUGH RINGS THE BELL
Subject: Fwd: Rush rings the bell...anyone answering?
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 20:38:50 EDT
Love him or loath him, he nailed this one right on the head.............
By Rush Limbaugh:
I think the vast differences in compensation between victims of the September 11 casualty and those who die serving the country in Uniform are profound. No one is really talking about it either, because you just don't criticize anything having to do with September 11. Well, I just can't let the numbers pass by because it says
something really disturbing about the entitlement mentality of this country. If you lost a family member in the
September 11 attack, you're going to get an average of $1,185,000. The range is a minimum guarantee of $250,000, all the way up to $4.7 million.
If you are a surviving family member of an American soldier killed in action, the first check you get is a $6,000 direct death benefit, half of which is taxable. Next, you get $1,750 for burial costs. If you are the surviving spouse, you get $833 a month until you remarry. And there's a payment of $211 per month for each child under 18. When the child hits 18, those payments come to a screeching halt.
Keep in mind that some of the people who are getting an average of $1.185 million up to $4.7 million are complaining that it's not enough. Their deaths were tragic, but for most, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Soldiers put themselves in harm's way FOR ALL OF US, and they and their families know the dangers.
We also learned over the weekend that some of the victims from the Oklahoma City bombing have started an organization asking for the same deal that the September 11 families are getting. In addition to that, some of the families of those bombed in the embassies are now asking for compensation as well.
You see where this is going, don't you? Folks, this is part and parcel of over 50 years of entitlement politics in this country. It's just really sad. Every time a pay raise comes up for the military, they usually receive next to nothing of a raise. Now the green machine is in combat in the Middle East while their families have to survive on food stamps and live in low-rent housing. Make sense?
However, our own U.S. Congress just voted themselves a raise, and many of you don't know that they only have to be in Congress one time to receive a pension that is more than $15,000 per month, and most are now
equal to being millionaires plus. They also do not receive Social Security on retirement because they didn't have to pay into the system.
If some of the military people stay in for 20 years and get out as an E-7, you may receive a pension of $1,000 per month, and the very people who placed you in harm's way receive a pension of $15,000 per month.
I would like to see our elected officials pick up a weapon and join ranks before they start cutting out benefits and lowering pay for our sons and daughters who are now fighting.
"When do we finally do something about this?" If this doesn't seem fair to you, it is time to forward this to as many people as you can. If your interested there is more.......................
This must be a campaign issue in 2004. Keep it going.
SOCIAL SECURITY: (This is worth the read. It's short and to the point.)
Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions during election years. Our Senators and Congressmen do not pay into Social Security. Many years ago they voted in their own benefit plan. In more recent years, no congressperson has felt the need to change it. For all practical purposes their plan works like this:
When they retire, they continue to draw the same pay until they die, except it may increase from time to time for cost of living adjustments. For example, former Senator Byrd and Congressman White and their wives may expect to draw $7,800,000 - that's Seven Million, Eight Hundred Thousand), with their wives drawing $275,000.00 during the last years of their lives.
This is calculated on an average life span for each.
Their cost for this excellent plan is $00.00. These little perks they voted for themselves is free to them. You and I pick up the tab for this plan.
The funds for this fine retirement plan come directly from the General Fund--our tax dollars at work! From our own Social Security Plan, which you and I pay (or have paid) into -- every payday until we retire (which amount is matched by our employer)--we can expect to get an average $1,000 per month after retirement. Or, in other words, we would have to collect our average of $1,000 monthly benefits for 68 years and one month to equal Senator Bill Bradley's benefits!
Social Security could be very good if only one small change were made. And that change would be to jerk the Golden Fleece Retirement Plan from under the Senators and Congressmen. Put them into the Social Security
plan with the rest of us and then watch how fast they would fix it.
If enough people receive this, maybe a seed of awareness will be planted and maybe good changes will evolve. WE, each one of us... can make a difference..
How many people can YOU send this to "?? ##
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