[Dixielandjazz] Chasse -Jass - Jazz - The French Connection?
Stephen G Barbone
barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sat Mar 28 18:43:02 PDT 2009
On Mar 28, 2009, at 3:00 PM, dixielandjazz-request at ml.islandnet.com
> "Ulf Jagfors" <ulf.jagfors at telia.com> wrote:
> For what it is worth
> Stephen wrote;
> "'Jazz' probably comes from a Creole or perhaps African word, but
> connections have not been proven."
> My Gambian counterpart in the banjo origin research Daniel Jatta
> claims that
> there is a word in the Senegambian Wolof language "Jahazz" which
> means to do
> something together in a disorderly or unorganized way. Could perhaps
> very well in early jazz, I guess. If it really has any bearing on
> the origin
> of the word jazz I do not have a clue.
To add to the many theories, can Jass /Jazz be derived from the French
word Chasse? Below is excerpted from a long dissertation on Jazz
etymology in the 1991 Oxford English Dictionary. The complete article,
which is too long to post, but fascinating, is at:
A French etymon for JAZZ - By Bob Rigter
OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY IBSN 90-5183-213-1
African slaves in Louisiana did not preserve their original African
languages. Due to the fact that they had been captured or bought as
individuals from various regional and tribal backgrounds, they
developed pidgin languages in which much of the vocabulary was adopted
from the language of their masters. Even today, French continues to be
spoken in certain areas of Louisiana. In view of all this, the
conclusion is justified that, in the later nineteenth century, black
speakers in Louisiana would have quite some words of French origin in
their vocabulary. , , ,
In New Orleans, as also in some coastal areas of Africa and on some
islands on the trade route from Africa to Louisiana, many coloured
people spoke a creolised French. If no English origin appears to be
available for the American word JAZZ, a French source would seem quite
likely in view of the origin of jazz music in New Orleans,and in view
of its Creole and African roots.If there is a French etymon for JAZZ,
it should satisfy the following criteria:
a. the French word can be aptly used to refer to the sense of
accelerating the rhythm of the music without actually speeding the
music up. This seeming acceleration is so crucially characteristic of
jazz - and of the African strands of its origin (see Lafcadio Hearn
(1890) p.220) - that a word referring to it would be a suitable label
for the music.
b. the French word can be aptly used to the sexual pursuit stylised in
the traditional African dance to the African strands in the origin of
this type of rhythmical music. (Again, see Lafcadio Hearn (1890) p.
220, where the music and the dancing in the French West Indies are
described. Hearn also refers to a source dating from 1722, in which
the exciting, rhythmical music and overtly sexual motions in dancing
to it, are described by a French priest).
c. the French word can be used for sexual intercourse.
d. the French word must be phonetically relatable to JAZZ, or its
earlier form JASS.
A French word that meets all these requirements is CHASSE.
CHASSE and JAZZ in French dictionaries
The Grand Larousse de la Langua Française (1971) derives CHASSER from
Classical Latin CAPTARE. It provides two related meanings: 'chercher à
prendre' and 'pousser devant soi, obliger à avancer ... faire avancer
rapidement'. Clearly, the first can be related to the sexual
connotation, and the second to the rhythmical connotation of the word
JASS as it was used in New Orleans round 1900.
The noun CHASSE is defined (under II.1) as follows: 'Action de
poursuivre une personne ou un animal en vu de s'en emparer.' Among the
examples given, are: Faire la chasse au mari; Faire la chasse à une
Le Robert, Dictionnaire de la langue française (1985), agrees with the
Grand Larousse almost verbatim, but adds: 'ÊTRE EN CHASSE, en chaleur
(se dit de la femelle de certains animaux à l'époque où elle recherche
Under JAZZ, both dictionaries state that the origin of the word is
obscure, and that it used to be written as JASS. Le Robert, in
addition, provides '... un sens dialectal (région de la Nouvelle-
Orléans) obscène <<coïter>>'.
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