Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Jelly Bean

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 21, 2015

When the word jelly bean is introduced into a conversation, most people — whether children or adults — think of the candy, but a jelly bean hasn’t always been just a candy.  These days, it’s also slang for someone who appears hard-headed but is really a tender heart.  The term arose from the 2006 coming-of-age movie, “ATL” that tells the story of four recent high school graduates facing different challenges at a turning point in each of their lives.

During the eighties and nineties, jelly beans were also shoes obviously made from plastic and available in jelly bean candy colors.  Of course, you can still get jelly beans today from places such as JBeans and Amazon.

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Vincent Joseph Monteleone (18 December 1883 – 18 November 1959) wrote inCriminal Slang: The Vernacular of the Underground Lingo” published in 1945 (and revised in 1949) that a jelly bean was a weakling and a coward.  Now you might think that Vincent was maybe a member of the underworld, but the fact of the matter was, he was a Captain — a police Captain — and he compiled the list over the course of his law enforcement career from the 1920s through to the 1940s.  As an added bonus, his book included a table of hobo code symbols.

Just a few years before Vincent published his book, in 1941, American educator, scholar, literary critic, essayist, poet, and editor John Crow Ransom (30 April 1888 – 3 July 1974) explained in his book “The New Criticism” that jelly bean referred to soft, sweet music.

In the collection of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald (24 September 1896 – 21 December 1940) entitled, “Tales Of The Jazz Age” published in 1922 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, he described a different kind of jelly bean albeit with more than one flavor in his short story “The Jelly Bean.”  It had been previously published in “The Metropolitan” and according to the author, it had been written “under strange circumstances shortly after my first novel was published.”

Now if you call a Memphis man a Jelly-bean he will quite possibly pull a long sinewy rope from his hip pocket and hang you to a convenient telegraph-pole. If you call a New Orleans man a Jelly-bean he will probably grin and ask you who is taking your girl to the Mardi Gras ball.

A few paragraphs later he adds:

Jelly-bean is the name throughout the undissolved Confederacy for one who spends his life conjugating the verb to idle in the first person singular — I am idling, I have idled, I will idle.

Now, a jelly bean wasn’t just a lazy oaf, according to Chicago Bill Elliot out of New Orleans, Louisiana.  In fact, for the January 1920 edition of the “American Photo-engraver” magazine, he wrote an eloquent description of what a jelly bean was.

There is the jelly bean, a species of the genus homo, whose habits and deportment are as follows:  Dresses in the latest design, razor edge creases in trousers, hat and shoes to match, hair split in the middle, he doesn’t walk, he glides like a turtle up to soda fountain.  The most strenuous work he performs is the consumption of a lollypop or nut sundae with a wash down of grape juice and then the mollycoddle dives in the feathers for his beauty nap.

A jelly bean, according to Volume 5 of “Dialect Notes” was described as an indifferent individual.  The term was listed in the chapter on “Terms of Disparagement in the Dialect Speech of High School Pupils in California and New Mexico” and was the result of a high school assignment from 1914.  High school students were instructed to submit twenty terms of disparagement to their teachers that were used in everyday conversation, and to provide definitions for each term submitted.

Other sources state that a jelly bean can also be an inept or stupid person as seen in Volume 33 of “Everybody’s Magazine” published in 1915.  The term is used to great effect in the article, “A Challenge To Authors” by illustrator James Montgomery Flagg (18 June 1877 – 27 May 1960).  You may not recognize his name, but Idiomation is certain that you would recognize his portrait of “Uncle Sam” as over four million copies were printed on posters between 1917 and 1918 as the U.S. sent troops off to war.

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In any case, in his challenge he included the idiom in this passage:

An unknown authorine — and this is straight goods — had the hardihood, when she had been told that I was going to illustrate her woolly little stories — she belongs to the jelly-bean school of literature — to ask the art editor to tell me not to make her heroine FAT!

The illustrator turned writer seems intent on making a point which, upon reading the entire article, seems to illustrate that he has a bee in his bonnet.  In appeared to have reserved particular ire for Wallace Irwin, Rex Beach, Jack Hines and Rupert Hughes.  And he ends his rant with this:

While I would particularly enjoy seeing one of the foregoing authors flounder on this job, I am not bigoted — it is absolutely open to all story-tellers whose stories I have illustrated.  Positively no discrimination against any one!  Whether my illustrations have ruined their stories or  not!  Get in touch with EVERYBODY’s at once!  This is on the level!

In a story in “La Cope de Orc (the Cup of Gold): A Collection of California Poems, Sketches, And Stories by the Members of the Pacific Coast Women’s Press Association” edited by Mrs. Abbie E. Krebs, and published in 1905. The candy known as a jelly bean was used in the story “Miss Kid” by Ruth Comfort Mitchell (21 July 1883 – 17 February 1954).  Ruth went on to write “Of Human Kindness” published in 1940 as a counterpoint to the John Steinbeck (27 February 1902 – 20 December 1968) novel, “The Grapes Of Wrath” published in 1939.

“Then,” he said, fishing in his pocket, “you may as well have this, too:” he drew out the bag of candy.  “I tried to get a juvenile assortment — a hasty recollection of my pinafore days.  Do have a jelly bean.”

“Thanks, but I’d rather have a ju-jube baby.  I haven’t seen one for six years.”  Six years!  The light faded from her face, and she looked out across the sun-baked plain with eyes in which quick tears had gathered, and a wistful droop of the lips.

Jelly beans, as a candy, were well-known in America even as early as the 1880s and 1890s and were subject to duties according to the United States Department of Treasury as well as the Customs and Excise Department Statistical Office of Great Britain.

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While some candy makers insist that jelly beans were created by an unknown American candy maker in the 1800s, none of these candy makers has been able to identify who that unknown candy maker was or where he lived.  Without a doubt, there are newspaper advertisements suggesting that consumers buy and send jelly beans to Union soldiers fighting in the Civil War.  That was the marketing idea of Boston confectioner William Schrafft (15 June 1823 – 9 February 1906). So we know that jelly beans were around in the U.S. from at least 1861 onwards.

That being said, it’s also a fact that the French invented a process called panning in the early 1800s which is an integral part of the process used to make jelly beans.  By the mid-1800s, England had banned the use of thorium, copper, mercury, and arsenic extracts for coloring panned candies based on an article published in “The Lancet” in 1850.  This means that jelly beans weren’t invented in America, although the name jelly bean may have originated in America.  But was the term jelly beans unknown until it was coined sometime between 1850 and 1861?

Imagine the surprise when Idiomation found jelly bean trees mentioned on page 15 of Volume 3 of “The Public Documents of Massachusetts” published in 1835!

Jelly Beans_1835Unfortunately, Idiomation was unable to learn more about jelly bean trees despite the most ardent efforts to find any information on them.  Perhaps one of Idiomation’s readers or visitors knows something about jelly bean trees and is willing to share that information with us in the Comments section below.

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Calling Shotgun

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 19, 2015

Calling shotgun is, in many ways, no different than calling first dibs.

In the January 17, 2006 edition of the Reading Eagle, Devin Cremer (who, at the time, was a junior at Twin Valley High School in Reading, Pennsylvania) discussed what the article called, “Rules Of Engagement: Calling Shotgun.”  He made it clear that calling shotgun was one of those split-second decisions that we sometimes have to make, and then he made sure he explained what the rules were for calling shotgun.

First and foremost:  You must have complete, 100 percent clear visibility of the vehicle in order to call shotgun.  It is not acceptable to call shotgun while inside of a building, or when an object obscures the view of the vehicle that is to be driven.

Terry Marotta wrote mentioned calling shotgun in an article in the Bangor Daily News on January 31, 1995.  He wrote about the three principles that made a family functional, which, he wrote, were the same three principles that made living in society functional.  The article was entitled, “Sacrifice, Restraint, Affection Important Virtues Of Family Life.”  Part way through the article, calling shotgun was mentioned.

Often you become most aware of sacrifice in its absence.  Take the custom of kids calling shotgun as they race toward the family car.  I hated this custom when I was 6 and I hated it at 36. And I made sure, once I had kids of my own, that whatever goody was awarded, it sure didn’t go to the one who, in a froth of self-interest, was braying for it the loudest.

Based on the writer’s statement, calling shotgun has been around since at least the mid-seventies.  But where did it really come from, and when did it start?

In the book “Poorboy At The Party” by American journalist and author Robert Gover (2 November 1929 – 12 January 2015) and published in 1966 by Simon and Schuster, the author referred to the seat next to the driver of a car as the shotgun seat.

He got up and staggered to the shotgun seat and tossed me the keys.

SIDE NOTE:  Robert Gover was friends with musician Jim Morrison (8 December 8 1943 – 3 July 1971) and in 1968, the two were arrested for causing a disturbance at the Pussycat A Go Go in Las Vegas.

The expression actually has its roots in the days of stagecoach travel when two people were riding upfront:  the driver, and the express messenger.  The express messenger was colloquially referred to as the shotgun messenger.

American investigative journalist, lawyer, novelist, editor, and short story writer Alfred Henry Lewis ( 20 January 20 1855 – 23 December 1914) published his book “Faro Nell and Her Friends: Wolfville Stories” and in this book, the author included a passage about riding shotgun in Chapter IV titled, “Old Monte, Official Drunkard.”

That lack of war instinct in Monte ain’t no speecific drawback.  Him drivin’ stage that a-way-, he ain’t expected none to fight.  The hold-ups onderstands it, the company onderstands it, everybody onderstands it.  It’s the law of the trail.  That’s why, when the stage is stopped, the driver’s never downed.  Which if thar’s money aboard, an’ the express outfit wants it defended, they slams on some sport to ride shotgun that trip.  It’s for this shotgun speshulist to give the route agents an argyooment.  Which they’re licensed to go bombardin’ each other ontil the goin’ down of the sun.

The book had beautiful illustrations created by W. Herbert Dunton (28 August 1878 – 18 March 1936) and John Norval (J.N.) Marchand (1875-1921), and was published in 1913 by G.W. Dillingham Company.

The expression was used in an earlier book by Alfred Henry Lewis entitled, “The Sunset Trail” which was published in April 1905 by A.S. Barnes & Co.  It’s found in the short story titled, “The Worries Of Mr. Holiday.”

Wyatt and Morgan Earp were in the service of the Express Company.  They went often as guards — “riding shotgun,” it was called — when the stage bore unusual treasure.

But riding shotgun and calling shotgun are two different expressions.  It was in the popular TV series, “Gunsmoke” with James Arness (26 May 1923 – 3 June 2011) which ran from 1955 to 1975 that expressions from the television version of the Wild West era were transplanted and superimposed on popular culture of the day.

In Season 2 (1957), Ira Pucket (played by Edgar Stehli) got a job riding shotgun on the stagecoach.  In Season 4 (May 1959) Marshal Matt Dillon (played by James Arness) helped a gunman get a job riding shotgun on a stagecoach.  In Season 7 (1962), Harvey Easter (played by Abraham Sofaer) convinced Charlie Fess (played by Harry Bartell) to quit riding shotgun on the stagecoach.  In Season 8 (1963), Quint Asper (played by Burt Reynolds) agreed to ride shotgun for Sam Gordon (played by Glenn Strange), the driver on the morning stagecoach.  Nearly every season of the show had someone riding shotgun on the stagecoach.

What does this mean for the idiom?  It means that sometime during the late 1950s, the passenger seat in a car became known as the shotgun seat, and if you wanted that prized seat (complete with extra leg room), you had to call it or lose it hence the idiom calling shotgun.

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Dibs (as in “first dibs”)

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 14, 2015

The well-used word dibs (as in first dibs) means to lay claim.  In other words, when someone says they have first dibs on something, they are laying claim of first rights or choice on whatever the something happens to be.  In other words, it’s a claim to the right to use or enjoy something exclusively or before anyone else … a sort of reservation, if you will.

The Wall Street Journal published a news article on January 14, 2001 that talked about how Chicagoans marked their claim for a parking spot after snow was shoveled out of the way.  The article discussed how lawn furniture, plastic milk crates, vacuum cleaners, lamps, fans, paint cans, step ladders, and other sundry items were used to lay claim to parking spots to prevent others from parking their vehicles in available cleared spots.

It’s called the dibs system — as in, “I got dibs on that space.”  And many here find it deplorable.

Even Jimmy Buffett has called first dibs, to Margaritaville no less, according to a news story in the Rome News-Tribune of January 7, 1998.  The story was about Emma and Neil Mathews who had run a restaurant by the name of Margaritaville in Kingman, Arizona for more than ten years.  The restaurant owners received a letter from the singer-songwriter advising them that he owned the name Margaritaville as a trademark, and that it was used to promote his own restaurants in Key West and New Orleans.  The article was entitled, “Buffet Says He Has Dibs On Name.”

The Daily Reporter of February 8, 1984 used the word not only in a story headline but in the story as well.  Jim Mayer of the Iowa News Service wrote about the regulations in Iowa that addressed the issue of deer killed by vehicles.  In fact, for the most part, the headline was the first sentence of the article.

Driver Has First Dibs On Deer Killed In Vehicular Accident, But Obey Rules. 

One of the helpful hints included this:

Oden said if a driver hits a deer and the deer is either killed or injured so badly that it has to be killed, the driver, or someone he designates, should notify officers, “preferably a conservation officer, highway patrol trooper, or sheriff.”  These officers can complete the paperwork, Oden said.  The form includes a tear-off portion that is given to the person claiming the deer.

During the Depression era, the word dibs was part of a much longer idiom and when someone was seen eating a piece of fruit, someone would inevitably shout out that they had dibs on the core, meaning the core of the fruit in case the first person had left anything on the core to be had.

In the poem, “I Got Dibs” by L.J. Wright and published in “Our Boys” magazine in October 1915, the sense of the word is clear.  The magazine was published quarterly by the Wisconsin Home and Farm School Association, with W.J.C. Ralph as Editor and Business Manager, and R.M. Bradford as Association Editor.  The fact that the poem was included in this issue demonstrates that the word was understood by children and adults alike.  The poem included these two stanzas.

When a morsel is left
In a cooking dish,
This short little sentence
will voice a boy’s wish.

Each boy cries out
As quick as he can,
“I got first dibs
On the baking pan.

The book, “A General Dictionary of Provincialisms” by William Holloway of Rye in Sussex, and published in 1888, gave a definition for dibs as well as provided an example.  It should be noted that his book was based upon previously published books from the late 1700s and early 1800s, which the author mentioned in the Preface.  With regards to dibs, he wrote the following commentary.

The small bones in the knees of a sheep or lamb, uniting the bones above and below the joint.  Five of these bones are used by boys, with which they play a game called “Dibs” in West Sussex.

The term is an abbreviation of a children’s game called dibstones that dates back to the 17th century, with first mention of the game being in 1690.   Here’s how the game was played:  Children would spread knucklebones from sheep on the ground and these became known as dibs.  The game was played much the way jacks is played these days.  The goal of the game was to capture as many knucklebones aka dibs as possible over the course of the game.  Each time a knucklebone was taken, the child shouted “Dibs!”  The game had an effect on these children, and as they became adults, they would continue to use the word dibs when they claimed something before anyone else had a chance to lay claim to it

Idiomation therefore pegs dibs to 1690 (and possibly earlier when the game first became popular among children) when the game of dibstones was played and the word dibs was shouted during the course of the game.

Now while Americans are busy calling first dibs, Canadians call shotgun.  Idiomation wonders how things went from knucklebones (or dibs) to shotguns.  Watch for the explanation next week on Idiomation.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Smof

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 12, 2015

It’s as important to keep abreast of the new idioms, sayings, and acronyms as it is to know what the more aged ones mean and where they come from, and today’s entry is simply this word:  SMOF.

SMOF is an acronym for “Secret Master Of Fandom” and is a well-known phrase in science fiction circles.  According to scifi enthusiasts, the word was coined by American science fiction author, Jack Laurence Chalker (17 December 1944 – 11 February 2005) who retired from teaching in his mid-thirties (after teaching in Baltimore for twelve years) to write novels and short stories full-time.

He is best known for the Well World series of books, however, Amazon lists several of his books available for sale, however, he was far more prolific than just the listed novels.  The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (www.isfdb.org) has a comprehensive list of the author’s works.  But even that list isn’t exhaustive as he wrote 205 works according to the Online Computer Library Center.

The details as to what the acronym means and who coined it is great, however, the acronym has come into its own as a word and is applied to the idea that there is a secret conspiracy group that controls the masses of scifi fandom.  These SMOFs are allegedly responsible for trends in scifi genres and subgenres, media, authors, films, and television series, as well as changes to the aforementioned.

Those who are recognized within the specific scifi fandoms are sometimes referred to as SMOFs due to the work they put into fandoms, thereby causing waves of changes within the scifi fandom community.  The acronym has also become a verb in that when convention organizers or scifi gurus talk among themselves out fandoms, they are said to be smoffing.

Now while it’s true that scifi fans insist that Jack L. Chalker coined the phrase, the term appears in the New York Times on September 6, 1971 which is five years before Jack L. Chalker’s first book, “A Jungle Of Stars” was published.  The article stated:

Except for those who wanted to gafiat, the fen of science fiction fandom for whom fiawol descended on Boston this weekend for their annual worldcon to smof and to buy old fanzines.

Three years prior to that in the November 1968 edition of the Proper Boskonian — science fiction fanzine published by the New England Science Fiction Association — an article appeared entitled, “Smoffing Is A Way Of Life.”

And three years before that, in 1965, American science fiction and horror author and critic, Theodore Sturgeon (26 February 1918 – 8 May 1985) was mentioned in “D. Eney Proceedings: Discon 1962” and when another American science fiction author and critic, Peter Schuyler (P.S.) Miller (21 February 1912 – 13 October 1974) spoke about Sturgeon.

He [i.e. Theodore Sturgeon] is also, in case he is willing … no, not in case he is willing; anyway, whether he likes it or not .. an Honorary Member of SMOF.

Theodore Sturgeon (who was born Edward Hamilton Waldo, and who was a distant relative of US writer Ralph Waldo Emerson) was considered to be one of the most influential writers of the Golden Age of science fiction.   He was responsible for writing the back story for Spock and the Vulcans in the original series episode, “Amok Time” for which he received a Hugo Award nomination.

Peter Schuyler Miller was also a technical writer, amateur historian, and amateur archaeologist who was a descendant of Colonel Philip Peter Schuyler (1736 – 1808) who defended Fort Schoharie (NY) during the Revolutionary War, and the colonial governor of New York and first mayor of Albany, Colonel Peter F. Schuyler (1657 – 1724)

What this means is that the word smof and the acronym SMOF existed before Jack Laurence Chalker is credited for coining the term in 1971.  How far back it goes, however, is unknown to Idiomation.

Perhaps one of our avid fans who is knowledgeable in the area of science fiction history has the answer.  If so, please feel free to share the information along with a link in the Comments Section below.

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Comstockery

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 5, 2015

Comstockery is a word not often heard these days, but it’s a word that has had a serious impact on the late 19th century and throughout the 20th century.  What is comstockery?  It’s censorship on the basis that there’s perceived obscenity or immorality in a piece of art, whether it’s literature, visual arts, song, photography, or any other related domain.

While one might think that the word is an offshoot of the concept of sending someone to the stockades for public shaming after having committed a crime, the history is actually less complicated than that.  It is interesting, however, to note that both sending someone to the stockades and comstockery had to do with public shaming.

The word is directly related to Anthony Comstock.   And who was Anthony Comstock?

In 1872, using a pseudonym rather than his real name, Anthony Comstock (7 March 1844 – 21 September 1915) sent away for a copy of Victoria Woodhull’s book.  She was a women’s right activist and her book told the story of an affair between American preacher and reformer Henry Ward Beecher (24 June 1813 – 8 March 1887) — referred to in the press as America’s most famous preacher — and one of his parishioners.  It should be noted that Pastor Beecher was alleged to have strayed with three different women during his marriage to wife, Eunice Bullard White (3 August 1837 – 1897) with whom he had ten children.  He had an affair with poet, Edna Dean Proctor, and was accused of having affairs with Elizabeth Tilton (her husband, Theodore Tilton leveled the accusation in 1874), and Chloe Beach.

When he received the book, using a 1864 law that prohibited the distribution of obscene publications and images (where said definition was vague), he filed legal action against Victoria California Claflin Woodhull (23 September 1838 – 9 June 1927) and her sister Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin (26 October 1844 – 18 January 1823), who later became Lady Francis Cook by marriage.

SIDE NOTE 1:  Victoria Woodhull was the first female candidate for President of the United States, running for office in 1872.  She ran on the Equal Rights Party ticket, fifty years before American women had the right to vote.

SIDE NOTE 2:  While Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin were arrested, jailed, and prosecuted on obscenity charges leveled against them by Anthony Comstock.  They were acquitted of the charge.

SIDE NOTE 3:  Tennessee “Tennie” Claflin was the mistress of American capitalist Cornelius Vanderbilt (27 May 1794 – 4 January 1877) when she and her sister Victoria lived in New York City in the early 1870s.

Anthony Comstock founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, and the year after the filing his unsuccessful action against Victoria Woodhull and her sister, Tennie, the U.S. Congress passed the “Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use” on March 3, 1873 which became colloquially referred to as the Comstock Laws.

The Act criminalized the sale and/or distribution of materials that were allegedly obscene or immoral, and made it a criminal offense to mail said materials through the federal postal system or to import said materials into the United States from abroad, whether by way of the federal postal system or any other means.  Once the Act was passed, Anthony Comstock was named a Special Agent and was made a Postal Inspector for the United States Post Office, a position he held until 1915 (forty-two years).

The Comstock Laws suppressed the works of authors such as D.H. Lawrence (11 September 1885 – 2 March 1930) and George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950) as well as medical texts.  Some say that George Bernard Shaw coined the term comstockery in 1905 to mock the rampant censorship that was an ingrained aspect of society.

SIDE NOTE 4:  When George Bernard Shaw was prosecuted for his 1905 play, “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” he was acquitted on all charges.  The negative publicity received in the press only made the play more successful, and theater patron flocked to performances.

However, the term is found in an editorial in the New York Times dating back to 12 December 1895.  The editorial read in part:

Our esteemed contemporary the Courrier des Etats-Unis relates the melancholy sequel of Mr. COMSTOCK’S latest raid, or latest but one, in the interest of … … what will be readily understood if classified as Comstockery Justice Jerome has expressed the opinion of sane persons; and with pain that his colleagues on the bench have outnumbered him.

12 December 1895

It didn’t take long for the word to take hold (less than a year), as the Los Angeles Herald of February 28, 1897 (just over a year after the New York Times editorial was published) used it on page 20 of that edition.  The news bite originated with the New York Times, and was reprinted in the West Coast newspaper.  The news article was part of a larger column titled,”Books And Those Who Make Them” and the column was edited by Enoch Knight.  The snippet in question had to do with the Boston Bacchante at the Boston Public Library in Massachusetts.

But such a disposition is incompatible with the Puritan conscience, which refuses to be at rest until its doubts are finally laid.  When the Puritan conscience is complicated by culture, and questions arise touching the relation of art and morals, the result is very serious.  Were the trustees, after all, guilty of Philletinism and Comstockery?  Had they confounded immorality with morality, and assigned a work of art to a wrong jurisdiction?  Was there not some fourth dimension in which the postulates of the sculptor and the police can be reconciled?

Idiomation thereby pegs the word to the New York Times editorial staff on December 12, 1895 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jesse James (as in gambling)

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 30, 2015

Perhaps you’re at a casino or watching a movie about players in a casino, and they’re playing a game of craps.  When someone rolls a four and a five, others call it a Jesse James.  You’re confused.  After all, wasn’t Jesse James a noted outlaw from the late 1800s?

Most of us know the stories about the juvenile delinquent Jesse Woodson James aka Jesse James (5 September 1847 – 3 April 1882) who robbed his bank in 1869 and his first train in 1873 (the same year that Russian thistle seeds were accidentally scattered to the wind somewhere in South Dakota) and made life impossibly difficult for the law who chased after him and his gang across Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas.  Not only did he rob trains, he robbed banks, and was a murderer.

SIDE NOTE:  Gamblers use amusing terms when gambling.  This LINK shares some of the most popular ones.

Some gamblers will tell you that the Jesse James got its name because the outlaw was shot dead with a bullet to the back of his head from a 45 held by Bob Ford, a new recruit to the Jesse James gang.

In a column written by gaming guru, Mark Pilarski for the Casino City Times on December 10, 1999, the writer refers to the Jesse James.

NINE: “Center field,” “center of the garden,” “ocean liner niner,” “Nina from Pasadena,” “What shot Jesse James? A forty-five.”

There’s a website that offers to share the author’s method for winning at craps.  The website was set up on April 15, 1999 and it was recently updated so readers can only guess that this gamble paid off for Johnny Craps.  The page in question where the idiom is found is titled, “An Old Timer’s Guide To Beating The Craps Table” and the first paragraph promises readers that they, too, can learn to play craps just like renowned gambler Johnny Craps.

Snakes eyes, Little Joe, Jesse James, Boxcars: All part of the craps lingo. If you’re a shooter, you already know that this game can be a cruel, relentless mistress in any happy marriage. Somewhere in the world, there’s a guy pulling his hair out at a casino due to a bad run. But not every player need fall victim to the unremitting nature of this world famous dice game. Taking a lesson from the renowned Johnny, average players can elevate their craps game to a new level.

According to Tom Dalzell and Terry Victor, co-authors of the book “Vice Slang” published by Routledge in 2007, the idiom was first used by Steve Kuriscak in 1985 in his book “Casino Talk.”  They also make mention that in Thomas L. Clark’s book, “The Dictionary of Gambling and Gaming” published in 1987, he puts the use of Jesse James in gambling to 1981.

In William M. Reddig’s book “Tom’s Town: Kansas City and the Pendergast Legend” published in 1947 by J.B. Lippincott Company, the following was shared with readers about Jesse James.

Jesse James found relaxation in the gambling halls during periods when he lived incognito in Kansas City, and was not molested.  When they were not figuring on deals in lots, grain, hogs and cattle and other matters of commerce, the citizens exercised their financial genius at chuck-a-luck, faro, three-card monte, roulette, high five, keno, poker and, occasionally, craps.

Now while the game of craps was originally invented by Sir William of Tyre back in 1125 AD during the Crusades and was known as Hazard (after the castle where the game began), the renamed French version known as Le Crapaud was introduced to New Orleans in the early 1800s by French-Creole American nobleman, Bernard de Marigny (28 October 1785 – 3 February 1868) — his full name and title was Marquis Antoine Xavier Bernard Phillippe de Marigny de Mandeville — whose family owned a large plantation.

SIDE NOTE:  Le Crapaud translates in English to the frog.  The game was named thusly because of the stance players took while playing the game.

From there, the modern game of craps was developed thanks to the efforts of American dice maker, John H. Winn, back in 1865 … just four years before Jesse James began his career as an outlaw.

However, it’s not until 1981 that the craps term Jesse James begins to appear in print and therefore, it’s reasonable to believe that the term is a relatively recent one that dates back to sometime in the 1970s.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Smart As A Whip

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 28, 2015

When someone is said to be smart as a whip, it means that person is able to think and reason logically to a high degree, with a small degree of error in  his or her thinking.  In other words, intellectually speaking, they are blindingly brilliant.

On March 11, 2003 the column by Chip and Jonathan Carter entitled, “Inside The Video Games” reviewed the game “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb” for the Rome News-Tribune.  The game was available for Xbox and would be available for the PlayStation2 in May.  The reviewers loved the game, going so far as to say that the “game play is a work of art.”  What’s more, both Chip and Jonathan gave the game an overall rating of A+ for overall awesomeness.  As a sort of play on the fact that Indiana Jones has a penchant for whips, the review was titled, “Smart As A Whip.”

The Telegraph of Nashua, New Hampshire published their “Around The Town” column on March 13, 1965 with the idiom in the article, “Some Old Timers Are Smart As A Whip.”  It set the tone for the piece, and began with this paragraph.

Some of the senior citizens who call at the office to talk about the days of their youth are as smart as a whip and can recall their early days here with much more facility, I have found, than the later generations.  If you can make them feel easy you usually wind up with a fund of information about Nashua, of their time anyway.

The Bend Bulletin newspaper of October 17, 1952 ran an ad for Lester Hou’s Central Oregon Motors in Redmond, Oregon.  The dealership was a Mercury dealership, and they were proud to trumpet the benefits of the Merc-O-Matic drive.  At the time, there were three choices for a transmission on a Mercury:  Standard, Touch-O-Matic Overdrive, and No-Shift Merc-O-Matic Drive.  They blended a second idiom into the advertisement by stating that “whip smart and saddle fancy” was an old Western saying.

The same advertisement for other dealerships were published in other newspapers such as the Spokane Daily Chronicle, the Spokesman-Review, the Ellensburg Daily Record, and other major newspapers in America.  The copy was the same from newspaper to newspaper, and the idiom that was upfront and bolded was “Smart as a whip.”

In the November 30, 1938 edition of the Times Daily, the newspaper ran a photograph of Mrs. Angier Priscilla Duke (the former Priscilla St. George) in black boots, creamy tan whipcord breeches, plaid sports coat, man-tailored shirt, and a foulard tie.  She was a fetching woman, and the photograph was captioned, “Smart As A Whip.”

Priscilla wed Angier Duke (30 November 1915 – 29 April 1995) in Tuxedo Park on January 2, 1937.  He was the son of Angier Buchanan Duke and Cordelia Drexel Biddle of Philadelphia which means that the 21-year-old bridegroom was not only a member of the Duke family but the Biddle family as well.  The Duke family fortune came from the American Tobacco Company that was founded in 1890 by his great-uncle James Buchanan Duke, and the Biddle family fortune was due to banking.

The bride’s father was the grandson of the late George F. Baker Sr. who, upon his death, was hailed as the last great titan of Wall Street, and was known to be the financial genius of First National Bank.  The bride’s mother was a first cousin of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Their wedding was followed by what the newspapers called “a grand tour, round-the-world honeymoon” that kept them away from New York for eight months.  Unfortunately, she was the first of his four wives, and they divorced in 1939, just two years after they wed.

The 1882 book “Picturesque B. and O.: Historical and Descriptive” by Joseph Gladding Pangborn (9 April 1848 – 17 August 1914) provided an enchanting account of crossing the American countryside by way of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company trains as they headed out from the Jersey City depot.

The Pangborn family was one that was rich in American history.  Joseph Gladding Pangborn’s father signed up for volunteer service in the Union Army when the Civil War broke out, and was fatally wounded at Forth Ethan Allen in Virginia.  His mother’s family was steeped in American history.  John Gladding had arrived at Newburyport, Plymouth Colony in 1660,and settled in Bristol, Rhode Island where he and his wife, Elizabeth Rogers raised four children.

The American Civil War broke out, and at fourteen years of age, he enlisted with the Union Army as a drummer boy.  He was assigned to the Forty-fourth Regiment New York Infantry.  In 1865, he served in Texas, and in 1866 he returned to his home in Albany, New York.  He became a reporter and worked for the New York Times, the New York Tribune, The Republican (in Chicago), and the Kansas City Times.

By 1876, he had moved on to a new career with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, and on May 1, 1880, he joined the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as a general advertising agent, then moving on to special representative status.

When the book was published, it contained 70 sketches along with the prose. And early in the book, smart as a whip was used.

Young Luap was, in his way, as striking a possession as any in the menagerie, and although the last of the Four to be trotted out, was by no means entitled to such place by reason of characteristics lacking; indeed, he possessed them to such a degree as to almost require an apology for not mentioning him first.  Smart as a whip, but far from as pliable, he comprehended more in a moment than the balance of the quartet could grasp in a week.

In the “Dictionary of the Gaelic Language” by Norman Macleod, the idiom is recorded as smart as a lash and is considered to be a provincial term.

But it’s in the “Recreative Review, or Eccentricities of Literature and Life” in Volume 1 that the connection between being smart and whips is made in an essay that begins on page 336. In the essay published in 1821, a passage talks about the virtues of whipping a boy to improve him.

But the practice is an old one.  Doctor Tempete is mentioned by Rabelais as a celebrated flaggelator of school-boys, in the college of Montaigne, in Paris. Buchanan was wont to tickle his royal disciple, James the First, and joked with the ladies of the court about it.  And, with respect to that of our public schools, it may be of service; for every one must allow it makes a boy smart.

The fact of the matter is that as early as the 17th century the word smart meant both to be strong, quick, and intense in manner and to be painful.  So while a whip might cause pain and smart, someone would be strong, quick, and intense in manner in the same way a whip is strong, quick, and intense.

Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published variation to the idiom than the one in 1821, it is reasonable to believe that the idiom goes back at least to 1800, and most likely much earlier.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gold Bricking

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 16, 2015

Every once in a while, you may hear someone accusing another of gold bricking.  It sounds to some as if it should be a compliment, but it isn’t.  If you accuse someone of gold bricking, you’ve accused them of idling, of shirking responsibilities, or of getting someone else to do the job they were supposed to do.  In other words, the person accused of gold bricking has tricked someone into believing that it is of value for them to take the job off the slacker’s hands and do it for him (or her).

It was in the August 2, 2003 edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that a story from the Associated Press was picked up and posted.  It was part of the “Auto Racing Notebook” column and began with talk of Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart and car owner Chip Ganassi.  It went on to talk about the U.S. Grand Prix in June, and Ralf Schumacher, among other topics.  While the article was entitled, “Ganassi Interested In Stewart” the photo by Tom Strattman (also of the Associated Press) was captioned thusly:

Gold-Bricking?  Ryan Newman, winner of last weekend’s race at Pocono, takes a break in the garage area before the start of practice yesterday for tomorrow’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Qualifying for the race is today.

On October 7, 1978 the Pittsburgh Press published a story from New York by George DeWan.  It was about the largest known accumulation of gold — valued at $75 billion US at the time of the story — and where it was stored.  While the journalist noted how safe the location was, he also provided a great of detail in his story.  The headline that went with this story was, “Fed Takes Pride In Being Noted For Goldbricking.”

The Pittsburgh Press was quick to report on gold bricking on July 27, 1952 when ir reported on qualifying for insurance for vets of the Korean War, and mentioned that some of the new laws had been introduced for family members as well.  The article was entitled, “New Law Cuts Goldbricking.”

Some dictionaries claim that the term came about during World War II, however, Idiomation has found the term published in earlier news stories.

Once again, it was in the Pittsburgh Press of January 28, 1934 ran a one paragraph article in the newspaper about a situation happening in Steubenville, Ohio the previous day.  There had been a lot of firings going on, and this is what was reported.

One hundred CWA workers were removed from the payroll here on charges of drunkenness, ineligibility and the old army game of “gold-bricking.”  Charges that some of the men were drunk on the job and that others were loafing, were investigated by the complaint board.  Others were not on the eligible list, the board found.

The article, was simply titled, “Fired for Gold-Bricking.”

And in the October 26, 1923 edition of the Reading Eagle, when it was reported that Socialist candidate for mayor, J. Henry Stump, claimed that the city garbage plant was mismanaged, the article was titled, “Candidate Stump Reviews Statement Made By Mr. Smith:  Asserts City Was Gold Bricked.”   In the story proper, the following was included:

Mr. Stump quotes Mr. Smith as admitting that the city was gold bricked in purchasing the garbage plant, and asserts that the erection of an entirely new plant at the time would have meant a large saving to the city.  Councilman Smith has charge of the city’s garbage disposal.

Perhaps the dictionaries attributing the term to World War II meant it was a term that came about during World War I.  Except that, too, would be incorrect.

The Sarnia Observer newspaper of July 22, 1898 republished a story that had been published in the Windsor Record originally.  The article stated that J.D. Moor, a produce dealer of St. Marys (Ontario)  had been robbed at pistol point and relieved of $9,000 CDN by C. Mott of Philadelphia and his accomplice, J.C. Brown, also of Philadelphia.  A third man, named Bedenfield, involved in the caper managed to escape arrest and couldn’t be found by the police.  Later on, it was learned that J.C. Brown was actually J.C. Blackwell, Bedenfield was actually George Mason,and C. Mott was none other than Chas. Watts, a known Chicago criminal.  This article was entitled, “Gold Bricked The Police: Moore’s Swindlers Were Fully Identified.”

One of the most successful gold brickers was American confidence man, Reed C. Waddell (1860 – 5 April 1895) who is credited for coming up with the gold brick game.  He wasn’t the first, of course, but he was the most successful of his time when it came to gold bricking, raking in $250,000 USD in a ten-year period.

But it was in October 1879 that gold bricking became known when newspapers across the U.S. reported that the bank president of the First National Bank in Ravenna (Ohio), Mr. Newell D. Clark had been hoodwinked by miners — led by Peter Lavin — requesting an advance on a 52-pound gold brick in their possession.  The ruse was that the corners of the brick were gold however the body was the brick was not, so when Mr. Clark had the blacksmith cut off one corner of the brick, and an assayer confirmed that the corner was gold, the president of the First National Bank in Ravenna (Ohio) advanced $10,000 USD to the miners.

In other words, that gold brick was useless to the First National Bank in Ravenna (Ohio) … and gold bricking became synonymous with being fooled or tricked.

To this end, the spirit of the word gold bricking, as it refers to shirking one’s responsibilities and convincing someone else to do the job, is carried over from the incident in 1879.

Posted in Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gold Digger

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 14, 2015

Beware of gold diggers as the only interest gold diggers have lies in how much wealth other people have allegedly built for themselves that gold diggers can lay their hands on.  The focus of a gold digger is to  entrench himself or herself in the relationship with a primary focus of material gain for the gold digger.  Many mistakenly believe that gold diggers are only women, but gold diggers — being equal opportunity scammers and opportunists — can be male or female.

UPDATE 21 APRIL 2015:  The term is still in vogue as gold digger found its way into this TMZ article published online on April 21, 2015.

Lamar says he’s ecstatic with the ruling telling TMZ, “I want her to go on television and apologize the same way that she went on there and accused me of being a gold digger and tricking her into having a baby.

The Ottawa Citizen published a quick news article on March 16, 1983 about Canadian actress Erin Fleming (13 August 1941 – 15 April 2003) and American comedian Julius HenryGroucho” Marx (October 2, 1890 – August 19, 1977).  She was accused — by the Bank of America lawyer acting as the executor of the late comedian’s estate — of misappropriating nearly half a million dollars in gifts.  The lawyer was quoted by the journalist in the article.

“If she was only a gold digger it would have been all right,” Bank of America attorney Brin Schuman said, “but what she did was dig away at his heart, dig away at his soul, dig away at the man.”

Fifty years before that new story, the Milwaukee Journal edition of May 23, 1933 ran the story of the divorce trial between Eugenia Woodward Jelke (1905 – 1990) and her successful Wall Street broker husband, Ferdinand Frazier Jelke (5 February 1880 – 30 August 1953).  She, of course, was the daughter of Allan Harvey “Rick” Woodward (16 September 1876 – 23 November 1950) who was a successful mining engineer, president of Woodward Iron, and owner of the Birmingham Barons baseball team in Birmingham, Alabama, and Annie Jemison, daughter of Civil War era politician Robert Jemison (17 September 1802 – 16 October 1871).

It was a nasty divorce with a great many accusations being hurled back and forth between the parties.  He sued for divorce on the grounds of having been unfaithful to him and extreme cruelty; she sued for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 1:  Judge Walsh denied each party’s divorce petition
on June 1, 1933 on the grounds that Mr. and Mrs. Jelke were equally guilty, and no one person was at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 2:  On April 21, 1934 it was reported by the media that Eugenia had moved to Nevada to become a resident so she could file for purposes of being able to legally divorce Frazier.  They had already signed a separation agreement months earlier.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE 3:  After Eugenia divorced Frazier, she married William Hitt.

The reporter on this particular day sent a quick article back from the court room in Newport, Rhode Island, to his publisher, that began with this sensational paragraph.

Mrs. Eugenia W. Jelke testified at her divorce trial Tuesday that her millionaire husband caller her a “dirty little gold digger,” blackened her eye, threw her across a room, and threatened to knock out her teeth.

Just a few years earlier, the Milwaukee Journal published a news story on January 26, 1928 about a different kind of gold digger.  This one had been charged with grand larceny in the first degree.  Among many outrageous claims this gold digger had made was to state that American entrepreneur Marshall Field (18 August 1834 – 16 January 1906) — founder of Marshall Field and Company — was a close relation (an uncle, no less).  And he was male … not a successful swindler who was short and unremarkable looking.  The article began with this shocking revelation:

A jury composed largely of married men heard evidence Thursday against Robert Whitman, alias “Lord Beaverbrooke,” the masculine gold digger.  The leading prosecution witness to support the charge of grand larceny was Mrs. Rose Burken, who said the fictitious nobleman had robber her of jewelry valued at more than $70,000.

This wasn’t the first time he’d been arrested on charges such as these.  In fact, his reputation preceded him, and he was known to many police precincts.  How well-known was he?  According to the Dansville Breeze newspaper of Dansville, New York, this was published about the man in the March 21, 1928 edition.

Police of various cities who have been interested in “Lord Beaverbrook” have estimated that he has married from ten to fifty women in his 49 years of life and has profited hugely thereby.  Once when arrested in St. Louis while New York detectives were seeking him, he gave $15,000 cash bail and jumped it, immediately.  In court the other da he said he was born in San Francisco and “had loved on both sides of the continent.”

At the end of the trial, Robert Whitman was found guilty of grand larceny, having stolen $90,000 worth of jewels from Mrs. Burken.

American novelist, playwright, and Olympic water polo player, Rex Ellingwood Beach (1 September 1877 – 7 December 1949) published his novel “The Ne’er-Do-Well” in 1911.  Among many interesting twists and turns in his life, he found himself in Alaska in 1900 and for five long years, he was a prospector during the Klondike Gold Rush.  Being unsuccessful in this attempt, he turned to writing.

His second novel, “The Spoilers” was a novel inspired by real events he witnessed during his prospecting years, and he was rewarded for his efforts with a best-selling novel the year the novel was published.  But it was in his novel, “The Ne’er-Do-Well” that the term gold digger cropped up, in this context.

“Good heavens! You’ve told me so a dozen—”

“Ah! Then you have nothing except my word. Well, sir, now that I come to think it over, I believe my name is Locke, after all.” He grinned. “Anyhow, I love my little room and I think I’ll keep it. Please don’t be peevish. I want you to do me a favor.” He removed the ring from his finger, and, handing it to the Purser, said “I want you to get me two diamonds’ and a ruby’s worth of shirts and collars; and also a safety razor. My mind has stopped working, but my whiskers continue to grow.”

The officer managed to say with dignity: “You wish to raise money on this, I presume? Very well, I’ll see what can be done for you, Mr. Locke.” As he turned away, Kirk became conscious that the woman in the next chair had let her book fall and was watching him with amused curiosity. Feeling a sudden desire to confide in some one, he turned his eyes upon her with such a natural, boyish smile that she could not take offence, and began quite as if he had known her for some time:

“These people are money-mad, aren’t they? Worst bunch of gold-diggers I ever saw.” Surprised, she half raised her book, but Kirk ran on: “Anybody would think I was trying to find a missing will instead of a shirt. That purser is the only man on the ship my size, and he distrusts me.”

The woman murmured something unintelligible. “I hope you don’t mind my speaking to you,” he added. “I’m awfully lonesome. My name is Anthony, Kirk Anthony.”

Evidently the occupant of the next chair was not a football enthusiast, for, although she bowed her acknowledgment, her face showed that the name carried no significance.

However, in the “Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia” published in 1906, the definition under gold digger was this:

One who digs for or mines goldThis word is almost exclusively used to designate placer miners, or those who dig and wash auriferous detrital material (gravel and sand).  Those who are engaged in mining in the wild rock are called quartz miners.

While there is overlap between the mining term and the social term, that overlap happened sometime between 1906 and 1911.  As such, gold digger appears to have been first published in 1911 with the transition in meanings understood in the intervening five years between the dictionary definition and the new meaning.

Posted in Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Jay

Posted by Elyse Bruce on April 9, 2015

Now that Idiomation has tracked down jaywalking, jay driving, and jay town, the matter of what a jay is still remains to be solved!  Thanks to ongoing thorough research, the expression flap a jay cropped up.

To flap a jay is to swindle someone who is easily fooled, where flap means to manage adroitly and turn over … at least that’s according to the “Dictionary of Slang, Jargon and Cant.”   This dictionary was compiled and edited by Albert Barrère (died 1896) — author of “Argot And Slang” — and American humorist and folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland (15 August 1824 – 20 March 1903) — author of “The English Gypsies And Their Language” and other novels — and published in 1889.  The book included English, American, and Anglo-Indian slang as well as pidgin English, Gypsy jargon and what Messrs. Barrère and Leland considered to be irregular phraseology.

In the December 19, 1884 edition of the Pall Mall Gazette, warning words of wisdom were shared with readers about jays, not meaning the birds.  In fact, readers were warned of the dangers of larcenists who preyed upon gullible people.

The intending larcenist will strike up a conversation with a likely looking jay in a public conveyance and win his friendship.

While it wasn’t an expression that was used at great length over the generations, it is one that survived intact over the years.

Elizabethan dramatist, poet, and translator George Chapman (1559 – 12 May 1643) influenced the Stoicism movement.  It was his translation of “Homer” that was the standard English version for generations.  And it was Chapman who found himself imprisoned along with Ben Jonson and John Marston in 1605 by order of King James I of Britain because the king found their play, “Eastward, Ho!” offensive to their countrymen.

On November 16, 1632, the play “The Ball” by George Chapman and James Shirley was performed for the first time, licensed by Sir Henry Herbert.  The play centers on Lady Lucina who finds amusement in mocking and ridiculing her unwanted suitors.  The play makes the most of how easily it is to play those who are easily led to believe things that aren’t as they seem, thereby taking advantage of them.  The following happens in Act Two of this play.

LUCINA
You will see me again.  Ha, ha, ha!  Scutilla.

SCUTILLA
Here, madam, almost dead with stifling my laughter.  Why, he’s gone for a licence; you did enjoin him no silence.

LUCINA
I would have ’em all meet, and brag o’ their several hopes, they will not else be sensible, and quit me of their tedious visitation.  Who’s next?  I would the colonel were come, I long to have a bout with him.

SOLOMON
Mr. Bostock, madam.

LUCINA
Retire, and give the jay admittance.

Enter Bostock

BOSTOCK
Madam, I kiss your fair hand.

LUCINA
Oh, Mr. Bostock!

William Shakespeare’s play, “Cymbeline” published in 1623 was set in Ancient Britain and is based on legends that were well-known at the time.  In Shakespeare’s play, Imogen (the daughter of King Cymbeline) runs off and marries Posthumus (who is below her status) instead of Cloten (who is of equal status to Imogen).  Posthumus is exiled to Italy where he meets Iachimo who bets Posthumus that he can seduce Imogen.  It’s a familiar enough scenario when it comes to Shakespeare’s plays.

In Act III, Scene iv which takes place in the country ner Milford-Haven, a discussion takes place between Piranio and Imogen in which Imogen says:

IMOGEN
    I false! Thy conscience witness: Iachimo,
    Thou didst accuse him of incontinency;
    Thou then look’dst like a villain; now methinks
    Thy favour’s good enough. Some jay of Italy
    Whose mother was her painting, hath betray’d him:
    Poor I am stale, a garment out of fashion;
    And, for I am richer than to hang by the walls,
    I must be ripp’d:–to pieces with me!–O,
    Men’s vows are women’s traitors! All good seeming,
    By thy revolt, O husband, shall be thought
    Put on for villany; not born where’t grows,
    But worn a bait for ladies.

What this shows is that jay in Shakespeare’s play and in George Chapman’s play was a word that was known to their audiences.  This means it is accepted that the word and its associated meaning goes back to at least 1600, and most likely to the mid to late 1500s.

It also seems that the word and the behavior attributed to those who are accused of being jays is related to the European bird, Garrulus glandarinus, which was more commonly known as the jai in Old French from the Late Latin word gaius which means a jay.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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