Glossary of jive talk

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Cab Calloway, who wrote a Hepster's dictionary about the language of jive.

Jive talk, also known as Harlem jive, the argot of jazz; jazz jargon; vernacular of the jazz world; slang of jazz; and parlance of hip,[1] was the distinctive slang which developed in Harlem where jive or jazz was played and was subsequently adopted more widely in US society, peaking in the 1940s.[2] H.L. Mencken, in his The American Language, defined it as "an amalgam of Negro-slang from Harlem and the argots of drug addicts and the pettier sort of criminals, with occasional additions from the Broadway gossip columns and the high school campus."[3]

This was documented in works such as Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary: Language of Jive (1939), which was the first dictionary published by a black person,[4] and Dan Burley's Original Handbook of Harlem Jive which was compiled and published in 1944 at the suggestion of Harlem poet Langston Hughes.[5] Besides referring to the music scene, much of the argot related to drugs such as marijuana. For example, Mezz Mezzrow gave this sample:[6]

SECOND CAT: Hey Mezzie, lay some of that hard-cuttin' mess on me. I'm short of a deuce of blips but I'll straighten you later.
MEZZROW: Righteous, gizz, you're a poor boy but a good boy — now don't come up crummy.
SECOND CAT: Never no crummy, chummy. I'm gonna lay a drape under the trey of knockers for Tenth Street and I'll be on the scene, wearin' the green.

Glossary[edit]

Alligator
A devotee of jazz or swing music. Perhaps alludes to sharp-dressing with alligator leather.[7]
Chops
Noun. Refers to any musician's level of ability.[8] Originates from the physical changes that occur in a brass player's mouth and lips. E.g., Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong. Also a term used for a musician who had significantly improved his or her playing. E.g., "I got my chops up" or "Has he got the chops to play with this group?". Chops can also refer to general ability in any skill. E.g., "Yo', I found a lawyer who has the chops to get George Shearing a driver's license!"
Frail
Diminutive of "frail sister". Also used as a noun for any hepster woman.
G-man
Government man, especially one who arrests or harasses peaceful citizens.
Gage
Noun for marijuana. Particularly associated with Louis Armstrong.
Gate
Noun. Any man, usually used as a greeting. "Yo' gate, what's the word from the herd?".
Gatemouth
A horn player who has a large mouth or a mouth that is habitually open. Playing brass instruments often results in larger cheeks and a callus on the player's lip. The larger cheeks is the origin of the word "chops". After 1930, however, "Gatemouth" generally referred only to Louis Armstrong.[9]
Hep
In the know. Later, hip.
Hep cat
Knowledgeable person. Later, hipster.
High
Happy. See "mellow"
Hoochie Coocher
Hot babe who dances laying down. "Minnie the Moocher was a red , hot HOOCHIE COOCHER." – Cab Calloway
Hoochie coochie
Erotic dance.
Jeff
Opposite of hep; unhip, uncool or opposed to hipness
Jelly roll
1) female genitalia, 2) act of coitus. 3) Jelly Roll Morton: a famous stride piano player.
Jitterbug
Swing dance. Same as the Lindy Hop, a dance created in the 1920s and 1930s. Danced to swing and Western Swing.
Jive
Cab Calloway defines this in the 1930s as "harlmese speech" meaning the style of slang. In basic terms jive means talk.[10] It can also be an object or to mean kidding with someone. It is often confused with jibe which means in accordance with. If people say "This doesn't jive", the correct term would be to say, "This doesn't jibe" (now meaning it doesn't fit an accordance).
Jive talk
"Whaddya say, gate? Are you in the know, or are you a solid bringer-downer?" – Cab Calloway. "Are you Hep to the Jive" – Cab Calloway.
Light up
To light a stick of T or reefer.
Lid
A Prince Albert tobacco can filled to the lid. Roughly one ounce.
Man!
Commonly used as an interjection or for emphasis. Also in alternative to "boy" which was used by whites as a disparaging term used to hail African American adult males.
Mellow
Let's all get mellow. Words in the song "Light Up". Meaning is obscure. Probably means light-hearted, calm and happy.
Mighty Mezz
An expertly rolled reefer. Named after Milton Mezz Mezzrow, the saxophonist who played with Louis Armstrong. Mezzrow was close friends of Louis Armstrong. He was also a user of marijuana and a distributor strictly to other musicians that were his friends.
Mop
Noun for woman. Often a reference to another hepster's girlfriend.
Muggles
1930s and '40s slang for marijuana.
Mugglin'
I's a-muggin', you 's a-muggin', meaning getting high on reefer.
Pot
Short name used for the mysterious potted plants that musicians always traveled with in 1930s and '40s.
Puff
to smoke weed.
Reefer
The marijuana plant, aka hemp, pot, ganja, or Cannabis. Refers to the leaf of the plant or a cigarette rolled from the plant (JIVE, STICK OF TEA). See also: Reefer Madness, a 1936 anti-cannabis propaganda film
Reefer man
Some one who uses reefer.
Stick of tea
Joint, reefer, left-handed cigarette.
Stuff
1) Jive, Muggles, reefer. 2) Nickname for famous viper, jazz fiddler, "Stuff" Smith, famous viper and composer of viper songs such as If You're a Viper.
"T" or Tea
Marijuana.
Tea pad
in Harlem in the 1930s and 40s, and after-hours club where pot was smoked and jazz music performed.
T-man (Tea-man)
Marijuana provider.
Vipers
refers to hep cats from the 1930s who inhaled. And they liked it so much they incorporated it into their life style and sang about it. The singers and songwriters were the best of the time, think: Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Louie Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and Louie Jordan . They frequented tea pads and smoked jive. Vipers is onomatopoeic from sssssst — the sound made by an inhaling pot-smoker or a snake.
Zoot suit
Named in the rhyming way of jive talk: "a Zoot Suit with a reat pleat, with a drape shape". With a generous cut but tight cuffs, this was popular with dancers of the swing era.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Clark (2001), "Jazz and language", Riffs & choruses, pp. 459+, ISBN 9780826447562 
  2. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, "A variety of American English associated with the Harlem area of New York; slang used by American Blacks, or by jazz musicians and their followers. Also attrib., as jive talk." 
  3. ^ Richard McRae (March 2001), ""What is hip?" and Other Inquiries in Jazz Slang Lexicography", Notes 57 (3): 574–584, doi:10.1353/not.2001.0041 
  4. ^ Stephen Calt (2009), Barrelhouse words: a blues dialect dictionary, University of Illinois Press, p. xxi, ISBN 9780252076602 
  5. ^ Theodore Hamm (2008), "Dan Burley’s Original Handbook of Harlem Jive (1944)", The Brooklyn Rail 
  6. ^ Burton W. Peretti (1994), The Creation of Jazz, University of Illinois Press, pp. 130–134, ISBN 9780252064210 
  7. ^ Luis Alvarez (2008), The Power of the Zoot, University of California Press, pp. 91–93, ISBN 9780520253018 
  8. ^ Marieke Hardy, Michaela McGuire (2011), Women of Letters, Penguin, ISBN 0857962698, "'chops' being jive talk for 'skills'" 
  9. ^ Francis Newton (1960), "Appendix 2 Jazz Language", The Jazz Scene, p. 289+ 
  10. ^ http://www.cabcalloway.cc/jive_dictionary.htm
  11. ^ Jessie Carney Smith (2010), Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture, ABC-CLIO, p. 1554, ISBN 9780313357978, "The suit came with its own argot ...This was a variant of swing slang or jive talk popularized by Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Lester Young." 

Further reading[edit]