Jazz and the OED (a note from Bob Rigter)

On his retirement from the University of Leiden, Professor Noel Osselton was presented with a collection of studies in Tieken & Frankis (eds.) 1991, Language usage and description, Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Since Noel Osselton was a ‘dictionary man’, it was a pleasure for me to conclude my own career as a linguist in Leiden with a study on the etymology of the word JAZZ, which so far, the Oxford English Dictionary has failed to provide. The title of my contribution was ‘Light on the Dark Etymology of JAZZ in the Oxford English Dictionary‘.

In 1990 I had myself retired from Leiden to pursue a career as a full-time jazz musician and writer. On my website I later published an abridged version of my contribution to Tieken & Frankis 1991: The etymology of the word JAZZ.
The many contacts I have since had with musicians and aficionados steeped in the jazz tradition have only confirmed my theory that the word JAZZ (spelled JASS in 1917) is derived from creolised French CHASSE. Strong arguments for the etymology I propose are found in the abridged version below. No counterarguments have come to my attention. As a jazz musician and former linguist I sincerely hope that the proposed etymology will find its way into the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary.

Bob Rigter, 1-8-2009

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