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Pronunciation: jæz Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Raz-ma-taz!1. A genre of popular music characterized by syncopation, improvisation, and a forceful rhythm. It emerged in the early 20th century in New Orleans from ragtime, developing into several styles: the blues, Dixieland, swing, smooth jazz, fusion, etc. 2. Energy, animation, excitement, fire. 3. Crap, nonsense, malarkey as in 'all that jazz'.

Notes: This word comes with an adjective, jazzy "colorful, exciting", which provides its own noun, jazziness. You can jazz something up by making it more colorful or exciting.

In Play: Jazz is still very much alive, though not as universally popular in the US as it once was: "The jazz trumpet, saxophone, and trombone were replaced by the guitar and bass in the 60s." The figurative sense of the noun is reflected in the verb: "Hans Orf jazzed up his room with phosphorescent posters of poltergeists illuminated by black light."

Word History: Despite endless efforts, the origin of today's Good Word has eluded detection. It is certainly an American contribution just like the music it refers to. Apparently, the music antedated the name by quite a few years. Whether the term originated in New Orleans has been contested by claims that it first emerged in Chicago or San Francisco. It has been suggested that it is a shortening of jezebel, in accord with its original reputation. Another suggestion is that it is a variation of jasm "energy, spirit, pep", a college slang word of the late 19th and early 20th century. Wherever it originated, it cannot be traced back to any African language. (The suggestion for today's Good Word came from Albert Skiles—and that's no jazz!)

Dr. Goodword,

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