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Is "jaw away" American or British? Options
Daniel Chouinard
Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 11:46:48 AM
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The idiom of the day today is "jaw away," which means to jabber, or talk excessively. Where did this idiom come from originally? Thanks in advance.
FounDit
Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 2:37:25 PM

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Daniel Chouinard wrote:
The idiom of the day today is "jaw away," which means to jabber, or talk excessively. Where did this idiom come from originally? Thanks in advance.


I have no idea where it came from. Obviously it is connected to the fact that the jaw needs to move in order to talk clearly.

But the only idiom I'm familiar with is (US) "jawboning", which has the same meaning.


A great many people will think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. ~ William James ~
thar
Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 5:21:29 PM

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It's not that common in BE, but you do hear it used for the action of talking at length instead of taking action - eg people sit around jawing and nothing gets done.

But I am not sure about 'jawing away'. Although that is used to add emphasis on the speed or duration of an action.


More common in BE is to have a chat, a gossip, is to have a chinwag. Obviously these idioms seem to focus on physical movements!

There is a famous quotation mistakenly ascribed to Churchill. Actually Churchill said ‘Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.’ Not very catchy. And it sounds a bit unhygienic and very unBritish! Whistle
Far catchier is the later paraphrase by another PM, Harold Macmillan - “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war.”

(Of course, we all know how well that worked...)

So it is British, at that time. But how old it is - no reason why it can't be very old - although it doesn't appear in early literature as far as I know. But it could be a recent invention. It is clear enough what it must mean.

Citations make it quite modern, but that is only where you find it recorded:
Quote:

Jaw
In slang from 1748, "to gossip, to speak;" 1810 as "to scold." Related: Jawed; jawing. Hence 19c. U.S. slang jawsmith "talkative person; loud-mouthed demagogue" (1887), nautical slang jaw-tackle "the mouth" (1829), and the back-formed colloquial noun jaw "rude talk, abusive clamor" (1748).


Quote:

Jaw
Noun
Etymology 1 Edit
From Middle English jawe, jowe, geowe, alteration of *chawe (in early Modern English chawe, chaw), from Proto-Germanic *kawǭ (compare Middle Dutch kauwe (“fish jaw”), kouwe (“mouth cavity”), dialectal German Käu, Keu (“jaw, donkey jowl”)), gradation-variant of *kewǭ (compare Old English ċīan (pl.) ‘gills’, West Frisian kiuw (“gill”), Dutch kieuw (“gill”)), noun from Proto-Germanic *kewwaną (compare English chew). More at chew. Alteration probably influenced by Middle English jolle, chaul (“jowl”), which it replaced (see jowl).


[Icelandic is kjálki, which is closer to 'jowl' in sound.]

Quote:

Jaw
Verb
1(transitive) To assail or abuse by scolding.
1933, Ethel Lina White, The Spiral Staircase (Some Must Watch), Chapter 4, [1]
He built the Summit, so as to have no neighbours. And Lady Warren couldn't abide It. She was always jawing him about it, and they had one awful quarrel, in his study.

2(intransitive) To scold; to clamor.
1748, Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, Chapter 24, [2]
[…] he waked him, which put him in a main high passion, and he swore woundily at the lieutenant, and called him lousy Scotch son of a whore […] , and swab, and lubber, whereby the lieutenant returned the salute, and they jawed together fore and aft a good spell, till at last the captain turned out, and, laying hold of a rattan, came athwart Mr. Bowling's quarter: whereby he told the captain that, if he was not his commander, he would heave him overboard […]

3(intransitive, informal) To talk; to converse.
1952, C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Collins, 1998, Chapter 5,
Today the beastly boat is level at last and the sun’s out and we have all been jawing about what to do.
Romany
Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 7:43:17 PM
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The 18thC citation surprises me - I had thought it to be an Edwardian coinage. It was definitely popular Edwardian school slang so I would have placed it as late Victorian.

But now I begin to wonder if it wasn't sailor's cant? It was not mainstream English or one would be familiar with it from literature; it 'feels' as though its always been a slang/cant term.

Interesting, anyway.
Ashwin Joshi
Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017 10:33:18 AM

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Welcome Daniel Chouinard to the forum.

There is great controversy as to the origin of the English words, phrases and idioms between BE experts and AE speakers. Your query is hot and contentious. The definite answer is doubtful, anyhow give us some time to resolve and come to a possible, plausible, convincing and unquestionable verdict.Brick wall Brick wall






Me Gathering Pebbles at The Seashore.-Aj
thar
Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017 10:47:57 AM

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The number of citations from 1748 is very suspicious. Are they all from Smollett? And if so, why was he using the word in different ways?

In the quotation given, that sounds like an argument to me. Is fore and aft a physical movement round the ship? Or sailors' slang for 'to and fro' ? But definely arguing, fighting, not scolding. Two men don't mutually scold each other! d'oh!
Daniel Chouinard
Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017 4:22:59 PM
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This is a great discussion so far.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017 7:21:47 PM

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This is not a definitive answer (the only definite answer I can give is "I don't know"!)

Digging around in the Google n-gram viewer, I found a few things.

1. In books published in Britain and in America, the word seems to appear a little before 1800.
2. The frequency (about once in 30,000 words) is just about the same in America and Britain.
3. The frequency is five times as much (abut once in 1600 words) in fiction (which indicates that it is a colloquial/slang word.
4. Some early mentions of the word (which may give some idea of its roots) are:

"There was Bobby Pestle, the 'potecary, my uncle Snuffle, and Peter Pillage, the exciseman, and honest little Capias the bailiff. How we did laugh! And so Pillaee he got typsy, and be began jawing, and said as how I was a little snivelling ..." - Acount of a Debate in Coachmaker's Hall by Harum Skarum Esq. - 1780

"Gi' e'er, gi' o'er : * – Tamzen and Thee be olweys wother egging or veaking, jawing or sneering, blazing or racing, kerping or speaking cutted, chittering or drowing vote o Spalls, ..." An Exmoor Scolding: In the Propriety and Decency of Exmoor Language - Peter Lock (of North-Moulton.) - 1782

"The old cabal, who had been before so insolent and saucy, and were always jawing at Will and his comrades, now began to sing another tune, and pretended they would help Will, if he would let them stand at the helm." The Monitor, or The British freeholder - 1757

There are several others - all reports of (or stories told in) British dialect (the only named dialect is West Country).

*********
I searched for the word "jawing" because both "jaw" and "jaws" are also nouns.

From the graph, the word is used in published writings in Victorian times, then becomes more popular right at the end of that period until about 1945. This matches Romany's experiences of it in Edwardian literature.



Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Romany
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017 5:56:47 AM
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Drago - and yes, you and I both seem to be right that, until then, it was merely a slang/regional usage. That would have been enough for it to become popular among schoolgirls (and boys,) to find in very 'racy'. Even my ogre of a grandmother would let the world slip from time to time until my mother would show mock horror at the usage - and Grandmamma would blush!
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