\ \ [20] Words of unknown origin always attract speculation, and it is hardly surprising that such an unusual and high-profile one as jazz (first recorded in 1913) should have had more than its fair share (one of the more ingenious and colourful theories is that it comes from the nickname of one Jasbo Brown, an itinerant black musician along the Mississippi – Jasbo perhaps being an alteration of Jasper). Given that the word emerged in Black English (probably originally in the sense ‘copulation’), it is not surprising that attempts have been made to link it with some West African language, and picture it crossing the Atlantic with the slave ships, but there is no convincing evidence for that (the scenario seems to have got started with a 1917 article in the New York Sun, which was purely the invention of a press agent).

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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