April 7, 2013

Do you remember the slang use of "the end"?

"A term of extreme approbation: the best, the ultimate." I looked up "end" in the (unlinkable) OED, while writing the previous post (about all the "The End of" book titles), and I got nostalgic for the 1950s/early 60s when "the end" was very common slang. Here are the OED's examples:
1950   Neurotica Autumn 45   Senor this shit [sc. narcotic] is the end!
1954   Time 8 Nov. 70   A term of high approbation in the swing era was ‘out of this world’, in the bop era it was ‘gone’, and today it is ‘the greatest’ or ‘the end’.
1957   J. Kerouac On Road ii. iv. 127   That Rollo Greb is the greatest... Man, he's the end!...
1963   Nugget Feb. 46,   I was blowing some jazz in the student lounge on this end Steinway.
Blowing some jazz on a piano. I would have thought blowing jazz could only be done on wind instruments. I look up the jazz slang "blow," and there's this:
1962   Radio Times 17 May 43/3   A jazz musician never plays an instrument—he blows it, whether it be drums, piano, bass, or horn. Should he ‘blow’ with feeling, or great excitement (‘like wild’) he is either ‘way out’ or ‘wailing’.
The 1960s progressed and The Doors came out with "The End"This is the end/My only friend, the end — and "the end" lost its soaring, fun-loving feeling. [AND: Bob Dylan sang: "Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?"]

"Blow" acquired a mid-60s slang use: "to blow (a person's) mind, to induce hallucinatory experiences (in a person) by means of drugs, esp. LSD; hence transf., to produce (in a person) a pleasurable (or shocking) sensation." OED examples:
1967   San Francisco Examiner 12 Sept. 26/3   On a hip acid (LSD) trip you can blow your mind sky-high....
1968   J. D. MacDonald Pale Grey for Guilt (1969) xii. 152   They had some new short acid from the Coast that never gives you a down trip and blows your mind for an hour only.
1970   Rolling Stone 30 Jan. 1/2   Blue blazer, grey flannel pants, shirt and a beautiful scarf with a chunky Mexican turquoise/silver bracelet and ring which blew the white-shirted jury's minds.
Can you guess who blew the jury's minds in 1970? "Heroine To The Rescue: Jimi Hendrix Is Innocent/Dope? 'I've outgrown it.'" That was in January. Speaking of the end, Hendrix's end was later that year, in September.

ADDED: Rereading this post, I'm thinking the Oxford English Dictionary editors intended to drop a clue that Jack Kerouac was not as hip as he seemed — that he picked up his slang from Time Magazine. Look at that greatest... the end... combination. 

IN THE COMMENTS: urpower said:
Kerouac's "On the Road" was completed in May 1951 and the recently published 'scroll' version includes the quoted sentence. Time magazine, still not with it! And wonder if "blowjob" came from jazz. Edmund White said it came from blowing, like wind, but ??
Thanks, urpower! I'm glad to see Kerouac vindicated. (Still don't know if the OED-ers did that on purpose.) I will reward you for your assistance by looking up "blow job" in the OED:

1961 A. Hecht in Hudson Rev. XIV. 371 59 And you can get a blow-job Where other men have pissed.
1969 Oz May 14 No, I don't want a blow job—I'm a girl.....
The definition links back to the slang for "blow," which has historical examples as early as 1933:
1933 Brevities 12 Oct. 1 (heading) Sexy sailors blow! Bawdy boys run riot on high seas as fags stir emotions of rollicking rovers.
1941 G. Legman in G. W. Henry Sex Variants ii. 1158 Blow, to fellate or cunnilingue, the object being the person, and not the genital organ.
1959 W. S. Burroughs Naked Lunch 86 ‘Darling, I want to blow you,’ she whispers.
1968 J. Updike Couples ii. 148 The bitch won't blow unless she's really looped. What did the Bard say? To fuck is human; to be blown, divine.
1969 P. Roth Portnoy's Complaint 191 ‘I want you to come in my mouth,’ and so she blew me.
1978 M. Puzo Fools Die vi. 82 There was a whole regiment of floozy Nightingales passing through his hotel room, washing him, feeding him and, as they tucked him in, blowing him to make sure he was relaxed enough to get a good night's sleep.
The jazz meaning of "blow" is only traced back to 1949: "1949  L. Feather Inside Be-bop ii. 72   Nobody ever gave Diz or Bird a lesson in the art of blowing a jazz chorus." So I take it the derivation is the other way around, and meaning was sexual before it was musical.

I was going to say that the original meaning of the word "jazz" was sexual, but the OED doesn't back up that folk etymology. It has "jazz" as "Attested earliest in California, frequently in baseball contexts and as college slang" and meaning "Energy, excitement, ‘pep’; restlessness; animation, excitability," as in "I got a new curve this year... I call it the Jazz ball because it wobbles and you simply can't do anything with it," which was quoted in the L.A. Times in 1912. The OED opines: "The suggestion that the sexual sense... was primary is unlikely, chiefly for semantic reasons, though not impossible." The earliest example of "jazz" meaning "sexual intercourse" is from 1918:
1918   J. Dos Passos Jrnl. 11 Nov. in Fourteenth Chron. (1973) 229   Talk is mainly of seasickness and the possibility of French jazz.
ADDED: Here's that "Original Scroll Version" of "On the Road." I'm putting it in my Kindle for future — coming soon! — blog posts. And here's "Portnoy's Complaint." You know you want it.

45 comments:

urpower said...

Kerouac's "On the Road" was completed in May 1951 and the recently published 'scroll' version includes the quoted sentence. Time magazine, still not with it! And wonder if "blowjob" came from jazz. Edmund White said it came from blowing, like wind, but ??

AllenS said...

When my final chapter has been written, and the obituary has been published, I want it to look something like this:

AllenS died kicking and screaming.

edutcher said...

If you, as Ann does, get your oldies off XM Radio, you'll hear it every now and again.

edutcher said...

PS Of course, the penultimate was the living end.

ricpic said...

Jack was a good Catholic Canuck who went astray for awhile but came home at THE END.

wyo sis said...

Paraphrasing Deep thoughts:

When I die I want to go peacefully in my sleep. Like my grandfather. Not kicking and screaming like the passengers in the car he was driving.

chickelit said...

The 40th anniversary rerelease of The Doors first album includes a version of "The End" with all the gratuitous "fuck chants" restored as Morrison originally recorded them. It cheapens and worsens the song IMO.

Archilochus said...

“Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end. The children of thy servants shall dwell secure; their posterity shall established before thee.”

Paddy O said...

He was one hoopy frood.

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

"The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us into that room eludes me, though I have a sharp physical memory that, in the course of it, my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake: Ride the snake / ride the snake /To the lake / the ancient lake."

Phil 3:14 said...

Never been a "Doors" fan but that song mixed with
this is a great beginning to a great movie.

PS Professor are you on a 60s jag or something?

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

"At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others — poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner — young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life: I am the Lizard King, I can do anything."

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

"I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all — Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life: The west is the best /
The west is the best / Get here, and we'll do the rest"

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on / He took a face from the ancient gallery / And he walked on down the hall / He went into the room where his sister lived and a breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea."

Phil 3:14 said...

from Online Etymology Dictionary:
jag (n.1) "period of unrestrained activity," 1887, American English, perhaps via intermediate sense of "as much drink as a man can hold" (1670s), from earlier meaning "load of hay or wood" (1590s), of unknown origin. Used in U.S. colloquial speech from 1834 to mean "a quantity, a lot."

Surprised the word/phrase is so old.

Phil 3:14 said...

How 'bout a more upbeat "End"

Phil 3:14 said...

How 'bout a more upbeat "End"

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

"There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic: The blue bus is callin' us."

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

"The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering to it, and contiguous to absolutely nothing: There's danger on the edge of town, and Weird scenes inside the gold mine."

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain / And all the children are insane / All the children are insane / Waiting for the summer rain, a great number of insane children dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps."

chickelit said...

Did you stop to consider
How it will feel,
Cold grinding grizzly bear jaws
Hot on your heels

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

"The door that he pushed open, on the advice of an elevator boy, was marked 'The Swastika Holding Company,' and he looked inside: Father, yes son, I want to kill you / Mother...I want to...gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder."

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

The crystal ship is being filled
A thousand girls, a thousand thrills,
A million ways to spend your time: Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season..."

betamax3000 said...

Jim Morrison Fitzgerald robot says:

"After a little while Mr. Gatz opened the door and came out, his mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears, in mute nostril agony."

chickelit said...

Speaking of Doors trivia, the 40th anniversary edition of their 1967 album includes Indian Summer, a song recorded in 1966 but withheld until Morrison Hotel (1970).

The quality of Morrison's voice and sound of the instruments in "Indian Summer" belonged more to the spirit of 1966 than to the jaded 1970's. The song was like a gorgeous last summer day in the fall of the 1960s and closing of Morrison's life.

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside: the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop: there’s something very sensuous about it — overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands."

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"Sometimes she and Miss Baker talked at once, unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence: they have worries, they're counting the miles, they're thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they'll get there - and all the time they'll get there anyway, you see.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

“The air was soft, the stars so fine, the promise of every cobbled alley so great, that I thought I was in a dream: I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. "

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart: the closer you get to real matter, rock air fire and wood, boy, the more spiritual the world is.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling: we lay on our backs, looking at the ceiling and wondering what God had wrought when He made life so sad.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

“Let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, the circumstances of existence are pretty glorious: I’ll be the man smoking two cigarettes.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us into that room eludes me, though I have a sharp physical memory that, in the course of it, my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs and intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across my back, and I said, 'That last thing is what you can't get, Carlo. Nobody can get to that last thing. We keep on living in hopes of catching it once and for all.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

“She talks with a broken heart - Her voice lutes brokenly like a heart lost, musically too, like in a lost grove, and when the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air."

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house: I think it's a lovely hallucination but I love it sorta.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"Sometimes a shadow moved against a dressing-room blind above, gave way to another shadow, an indefinite procession of shadows, that rouged and powdered in an invisible glass, and just for a moment I had reached the point of ecstasy that I always wanted to reach, which was the complete step across chronological time into timeless shadows."

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"A breeze stirred the gray haze of Daisy’s fur collar: emotionlessly she kissed me in the vineyard and walked off down the row."

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes: I walked clear down to Times Square & just as I arrived I suddenly realized I was a ghost - it was my ghost walking on the sidewalk.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air: all I wanted to do was sneak out into the night and disappear somewhere, and go and find out what everybody was doing all over the country.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing: somewhere along the line I knew there'd be girls, visions, everything -- somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"Even when the East excited me most, even when I was most keenly aware of its superiority to the bored, sprawling, swollen towns beyond the Ohio, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only the children and the very old — even then it had always for me a quality of distortion: New York gets godawful cold in the winter but there's a feeling of wacky comradeship somewhere in some streets. LA is a jungle.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery, and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes; to the children and the innocent it's all the same.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening, too, would be over and casually put away; I'd sleep and forget it -- I had my own life, my own sad and ragged life forever.”

betamax3000 said...

Kerouac Fitzgerald Robot says:

"I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife: I took a straight picture that made me look like a thirty-year-old Italian who'd kill anybody who said something against his mother. ”

Methadras said...

I was always preferential to Fin.