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I'm in a little bit of a jam

A discussion of word histories and origins.

I'm in a little bit of a jam

Postby eberntson » Mon Dec 22, 2008 11:44 am

"jam" the word that is bugging me this week... is a small word that has a myriad of definitions, although related definitions. But apparently no one knows its origin, perhaps because it is such a simply common word no one has bothered.

I look on babblefish and it seems that "jam" is "jam" in both German & Dutch too. So that seems to give a clue that it is one of those common Germanic words. Ann thought on where this word comes from?

Definitions-

jam

• verb (jammed, jamming) 1 squeeze or pack tightly into a space. 2 push roughly and forcibly into a position. 3 block (something such as a road) through crowding. 4 become or make unable to function due to a part becoming stuck. 5 (jam on) apply forcibly: he jammed on the brakes. 6 make a radio transmission unintelligible by causing interference. 7 informal improvise with other musicians.

• noun 1 an instance of jamming. 2 informal an awkward situation or predicament. 3 informal an improvised performance by a group of musicians.

— ORIGIN probably symbolic. (huh?)

also...

jam [ jam ]

noun: fruit spread: a spread made from fruit boiled with sugar

[Mid-18th century. Origin ?]
EBERNTSON
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and all good things will be yours.
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Postby Slava » Fri Jul 03, 2009 10:02 pm

etymonline.com suggests that jam may come from champ, which in turn may be imitative (onomatopoeic) of the sound of champing (chomping, nowadays I'd say). At least in English, most of these usages relate to squeezing together somehow. Even the radio usage does; squeezing something out, keeping it out by squeezing the space. Would jazz jam somehow also do this? Perhaps originally a jam session was attempts by each musician to add something to the mix that would squeeze the others out? Leading to virtuosity in adapting to the environment.
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Postby sluggo » Tue Aug 11, 2009 2:11 pm

I would opine that the radio usage is more related to 3 and 4, since no space is actually changed (as in "the door is jammed")- two things occupying a space designated for one.

The musical instance must be an arrival at the same word for unrelated or distantly-related reasons. It's sometimes theorized to be descended from "cutting" sessions where one soloist would try to outdo competitors, but this would be serially, not simultaneously. So that would be a bit of a stretch.
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Postby Perry » Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:06 am

Good morning Sluggo. That must have been some nap to last from late February to early August!
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