Monday, June 4, 2012

Keeping Up with the Jonesing

A review of a new PBS television series suggests that it’s so good “that you will be jonesing for more.”  To jones (for) is a relatively new verb (1970s) meaning “to crave something strongly.”  It derives from the noun jones, from the 1960s, meaning a habit, a desire, or an addiction—especially to heroin.

Around the midpoint of the 20th century jones was used in drug-culture slang to mean heroin itself and thence an addiction to heroin. draws a blank when it tries to trace the origin of this usage.  Best guess is that there once was a notorious drug dealer by that name or, more likely, that ‘Mister Jones’ was a frequent euphemism for a local drug pusher.

Jones is a common Welsh name, the earliest record of which in England is in the late 13th century. The name derives from a patronymic form of the Middle English name Jon (or Jone), and means “son of Jon.” The Anglo-Saxon equivalent would be Johnson.

Another well-known phrase, keeping up with the Joneses, is from the title of a 1916 comic strip by Arthur R. Momand in which he parodied American domestic life.

Few people have a jones for the Bard of Buffalo Bayou’s miasma of words, but inexplicably, he continues to spew them out anyway.  

            There was a young lady named Jones,
            Who couldn’t abide baritones.
            If one sang a cadenza,
            She’d contract influenza,
            And drown out the sound with her moans.

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