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JITTERBUG

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JITTERBUG

Postby Dr. Goodword » Tue Jul 24, 2012 10:37 pm

• jitterbug •

Pronunciation: ji-dêr-bêg • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A fast, jerking dance done to 'hot' jazz in the 40s. 2. Someone who jitterbugs or who is high-strung, hyperactive.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes from the swing era of jazz and is widely believed to have originated with Cab Calloway, leader of one of the most famous swing bands. The noun is also used as a usual English verb; just remember to double the G when adding suffixes that begin with a vowel: jitterbugs, jitterbugged, jitterbugging.

In Play: Jitterbug is a word that never escaped the 40s—though in some US cities it is making a bit of a comeback. As dance crazes come and go, their names come and go with them. We rarely get a chance to use this word today in situations like this: "My grandma and grandpa can jitterbug circles around you and your hip-hop dancing friends." Back in the 40s and early 50s, however, we talked like this all the time: "We jitterbugged at the party last night until we dropped."

Word History: A jitterbug was someone with the 'jitters', who dances nervously or feverishly. We can only speculate as to the origins of jitter. It probably is a variant of an older word chitter, which referred to shivering or chattering teeth. Chitter may have been derived from chatter under the influence of shiver. Shiver was originally spelled and pronounced chiver so the two may have been blended thus: chi(ver/cha)tter. The change of chitter to jitter is easy. The sounds [ch] and [j] are identical, except that in pronouncing [j] we vibrate our vocal cords. Jitter could then have been a very slight variation of chitter. It originally referred to rapidly vibrating teeth or shivering but its meaning expanded to anything shaking rapidly.
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Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:24 pm

My impression is that high school and college kids today are the reverse of the kids fifty years ago. Very few knew how to jitterbug, which looked like a slightly tamer version of Dancing with the Stars. Most of us sat out anything faster than a fox trot, preferring "hugging set to music" and the slower the better. Now since the twist, they gyrate all ove the place.
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Postby bamaboy56 » Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:24 pm

My wife tells me that, back in the day, her mother used to really cut a rug doing the jitterbug. All during the time I knew my mother-in-law, I knew her as a straightlaced, no nonsense person with almost no sense of humor. I cannot imagine her doing the jitterbug. The thought makes me jittery.
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Postby Philip Hudson » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:31 am

If only we had had some dance when I was a youth other than the Texas two step (not the gambling version). All the dancing I ever saw was couples holding each other tightly and simulating, perhaps achieving, coitus on the dance floor. As a result I never learned to dance. I never really discovered dance until Riverdance. When my mom was a girl they danced the Charleston and the black bottom. As an adult, Mother was much too reserved to dance and my dad was definitely anti-dance. Also, the conservative churches began to frown on dancing when my mom was a girl. They hid their dancing by calling it “party games”. Certain kinds of dancing through the ages have been censored. King David danced before the Ark of the Covenant, and he was despised by his wife. The waltz had a hard time making it into society during the time of Straus. Imagine a Straus waltz being considered improper.
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Postby bamaboy56 » Wed Jul 25, 2012 12:44 am

Ha! I agree! When I was growing up, most of what passed for "dance" was something I called "The Zombie", which consisted primarily of couples merely rocking back and forth in a stiff-legged fashion. My father was a competitive Rumba dancer in his younger days, a skill I did not inherit (alas!). I would dearly love to learn to ballroom dance one day. Unfortunately, there is no place to take lessons in this small town I live in.
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