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jones / jonesing

Posted: Tue Oct 26, 2004 8:10 am
by Archived Topic
Hi to all - recently I remarked to a (younger) friend that I was "jonesing" for caffeine, and he looked completely blank. Now I am wondering - what was the origin of "to jones" as a verb used to mean "to have an uncontrollable craving for" - I know it must come from the drug culture of the sixties (or earlier?) but have no clue otherwise. Your thoughts?
Submitted by Freda Fishman (Boston - U.S.A.)

jones / jonesing

Posted: Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:25 am
by Ken Greenwald
‘Ask the Wordwizard’ (Jonathon Green) has previously discussed JONES and JONESING, but I would like to update and expand on his response, using material from his book Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang and the Oxford English Dictionary.

JONES (capitalized or lower case) noun - U.S. drugs, slang [1950s and still in use] 1) drug addiction, especially to heroin. 2) [1960s and still in use] heroin, a heroin addict, the symptoms of heroin withdrawal. 3) [1970s and still in use] pleasurable drug-induced feelings. 4) [1970s and still in use] (U.S.) a strong craving, desire, or habit, whether for cigarettes, food, a person or anything, e.g. ‘a love jones,’ ‘a chocolate jones.’ [the common family name; its link to craving remains unexplained]
<1965 “My jones is on me; it's on me something terrible. I feel so sick.”—‘Manchild in Promised Land’ by C. Brown, x. page 272>

<1970 “Jones, a fixation . . . ; compulsive attachment.”—‘Dictionary of Afro-American Slang’ by C. Major, page 71>

<1971 “Blind people got a hummin JONES [[l.c.]] if you notice.”—‘Black World,’ October, page 62>

<1974 “I was using half a bundle a day, twelve bags, and dope was easy to get. I didn't know what a ‘Jones' (a habit coming down) was. I never had to be sick.”—‘Jones: Portrait of a Mugger’ by J. Willwerth, vii. page 99>

<1989 “I'm on a bad fuckin' jones”—‘Rummies’ by P. Benchley, vii. page 81>

<1998 “I have a jones for your baked ziti.”—‘College’ in ‘Sopranos’ (television shooting script)by J. Manos & D. Chase, 1st Series, page 17>
JONES / JONESING (capitalized or lower case) verb – U.S. Drugs, slang [1970s and still in use] 1) to experience the symptoms of withdrawal from heroin; (later also) to feel a physical craving for any addictive substance. Also with ‘down’ or ‘out.’ 2) to feel an intense craving or desire for something. Frequently with ‘for.’
<1971 “How many stayed off drugs after ‘Jonesing down’ at an Army amnesty center?”—‘Kennebec Journal’ (Maine), 28 October, page 33/5>

<1986 “When the cocaine supply ran out, he and people with him began ‘Jonesing.’”—‘Washington Post’ (Health Section), 14 May, page 14/3>

<1989 “She's jonesing for those diamond earrings.”—‘U.C.L.A. Slang’ by P. Munro, page 53>

<1994 “Gimme my reds [i.e. Marlboro cigarettes]. I've been jonesing for an hour.”—‘Swingers’ (film script, 3rd draft) by J. Favreau, Page 47>

<2002 “If you're still jonesing for more adrenaline, you can brave the white-water rapids or rappel every.”–‘Elle,’ March, page 256/2>

<2004 “‘Can you help an old man out?’ asked Charlie, looking like he was jonesing a bit, his foot tapping, his mouth moving as if he were chewing an invisible piece of gum.”—‘Twice’ by L. Miscione, page 59>
JONESER [[l.c.]] noun [1980s and still in use] (U.S.): an addict, especially of cocaine.

JONESTOWN [[l.c]] noun [1980s and still in use]: drug addiction [reference to the mass suicide of 913 cultists, followers of the Reverend Jim Brown at his settlement of Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978].

JONES MAN/BOY [[l.c.]] noun [1970s and still in use] (U.S. Black/drugs): a heroin dealer.

Ken G – March 30, 2005

jones / jonesing

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 8:54 pm
by Shelley
In today's New York Daily News, there's a feature on a piece of real estate (a former stable on Great Jones Alley) off of Great Jones Street in Manhattan. The feature features a timeline of the development, deterioration and renaissance of the street, and includes the following:
1960s Jazz great Charles Mingus moves in next door at 5 Great Jones Street. The term 'Jonesing' enters the language as junkies and dealers come and go from the alley next door.
Lois Martin hinted at this origin for "jonesing" in a thread about drug references oh, so long ago.
This caught my eye because, during my first trip to New York, my time was largely spent in a loft building on Great Jones. At the time I didn't know the neighborhood was "in decline" -- it just looked like New York to me!

jones / jonesing

Posted: Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:21 pm
by Erik_Kowal
That reminds me of an episode many years ago when I had a summer job as a tour leader. On this occasion I was in charge of a bunch of American high-school students and their teachers who were visiting Europe. On that day we were taking a bus tour of central London, and the driver happened to turn into Great Smith Street. "Who was Great Smith?", one of the teachers wanted to know.

jones / jonesing

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:23 am
by minjeff
Just as a side note:

In slang (that I think originates in New York city) jonesing means to be kidding, not serious in what one just said.

jones / jonesing

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 6:51 am
by Erik_Kowal
Jeff, are you sure you're not thinking of 'joshing'?

jones / jonesing

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 7:04 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Shelley, It looks like you’ve got it right (and Lois had it right). It seems odd to me that I'm not familiar with Great Jones Street, and here I thought I knew NYC pretty well. But, of course, my knowledge is mostly vintage (pre-1970s or so) and then I suppose there is just too much of NYC to know it all. Out of curiosity I did some searching to see what I could dig up and I found the following in the archives of the New York Times, March 17, 2002, page CY2:

F . Y . I .

The Great Jones

Q. East Third Street becomes Great Jones Street between Broadway and the Bowery. Who was Jones and what was so great about him?

A. Jones is Samuel Jones, a lawyer sometimes called Father of the New York Bar. He owned the land on which Great Jones Street now runs and bequeathed the property to the city with the caveat that any street that ran through the land be named for him.

In 1789 a street was opened there, but New York already had a Jones Street in Greenwich Village. So the new street was named Great Jones Street because it was wider than the norm.

In the desire to be remembered, Jones may have linked himself with a different aspect of the city’s culture. The slang term ‘jones,’ meaning an addiction to drugs, is said to have originated among addicts who lived in Great Jones Alley, off Great Jones Street, between Broadway and Lafayette street.

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang is usually pretty good on such etymology and I was surprised that all they had said on jones, as noted in my above posting, was “the common family name; its link to craving remains unexplained.” So I went back to see if I had missed something and found that that Jonathon Green had revised his discussions on jones words in his 2005 2nd edition – my above posting quoted the 1998 first edition. He made several changes (e.g. dates, etymology), but rather than try to cherry-pick, I’ll just reproduce the whole thing:

jones noun:

1) [1960s and still in use] (US drugs) (also Mr Jones) drug addiction, especially to heroin.

2) [1960s and still in use] A heroin addict.

3) [1960s and still in use] U.S. drugs Heroin.

4) [1960s and still in use] The symptoms of heroin withdrawal.

5) [1970s and still in use] Pleasurable drug-induced feeling.

6) [1970s and still in use] (U.S.) A strong craving or habit, whether for cigarettes, food, a person or anything, e.g. a love jones, a chocolate jones.

[the common family name; its link to craving remains unexplained; note Hip Hop Connection (December 1999): ‘According to our colleagues at the Online Rap Dictionary, it comes from Jones Alley in Manhattan where junkies, with their ever-present longing, used to live’]

It should be noted that Jonathon Green still said that the link to craving remains ‘unexplained,’ but then he goes on to provide a quote that does explain it. Perhaps he might have felt that just the one source may not have been substantial enough. But I would say that, looking at the above evidence, the etymology looks pretty solid to me.

Other changes in Cassell’s 2nd edition include the addition of the verb:

jones verb:

1) [1970s and still in use] (drugs) To suffer from narcotics addiction or the withdrawal symptoms that accompany it.

2) [1980s and still in use] In figurative use, to be obsessed by, to be dependent on.

3) [1980s and still in use] To want very much.

4) [1980s and still in use] 9U.S. campus) To intrude in order to try to prevent someone who is attempting to seduce another.

5) [1990s and still in use] (U.S. campus) To do wrong, to cause someone to be unhappy.

jonesing (out) noun [1970s and still in use] (U.S. drugs) withdrawal from an addictive drug, with the symptoms that accompany this.

Also, The noun jonestown has been removed in the 2nd edition. Probably due to a reevaluation that found this usage to be too low to warrant inclusion.

Ken – March 24, 2007

jones / jonesing

Posted: Sat Mar 24, 2007 8:12 pm
by Shelley
Ken, I'm glad you expanded on this, and especially adding the bit about Mr. Samuel Jones being the source for the name "Great Jones Street". The article in yesterday's New York Daily News also included a story under the 1830s heading which stated that, since Mr. Samuel Jones and his wife were so affluent and fashionable, the other members of high society had difficulty "keeping up with the Joneses." Now, it's unclear whether the article was laying the origin of the phrase to Mr. and Mrs. Jones of Great Jones Street, or if the writer was just trying to be clever. I'd want confirmation from one or another source before I could be certain about this. I'll look around when I get more time.

jones / jonesing

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 12:02 am
by Ken Greenwald
Shelley, I would say that the writer was trying to be clever and that the expression was born in 1913 as the title of a comic strip as described in the posting keeping up with the Joneses. I say this because after doing another pretty good search today after my original one for the 2004 posting, I still find that the earliest appearance in print was as the title of the 1913 comic strip. Now it just doesn’t make sense to me that if people really did want to keep up with the Joneses in Samuel Jones’ day, or thereabouts, that the expression would have sat dormant for something nearing a century without appearing in print and then would suddenly have shown up in 1913 as the title of a cartoon, the origin of which its author clearly explained and which had absolutely nothing to do with Samuel Jones.

Here is a bit more that I stumbled upon during my current Jones search:
<1978 “Jones deeded the site of the street to the city and demanded it be named for him. But the city already had a Jones Street, named for Dr. Gardiner Jones, husband of Mrs. Samuel Jones’s sister, and for a time there were two Jones Streets. Neither brother-in-law would defer to the other to end the resulting confusion and Samuel Jones finally ended the argument by suggesting ‘Then make mine Great Jones Street.’”—‘The Street Book’ by Henry Moscow>
Ken – March 24, 2007

jones / jonesing

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 8:47 pm
by minjeff
Erik, I am sure that I wasn't thinking of "joshing" because I suggested this to the speaker when I first encountered "jonesing". He was confused. While I stick with my original assessment I would like to clarify that this meaning is probably very, very new and perhaps may even be unique to the Bronx.

As I think about it more: most New Yorkers (who I know who use slang) more frequently use "gasing" or "gasing you up" instead of "jonesing", but still it's there.

jones / jonesing

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:41 pm
by Wizard of Oz
.. in light of the above discussion I now have an entirely different view as to what may have been wrong with the famous Jones boy that the Mills Brothers sang about in the 1950's ..
The Mills Bros. - 1954

The whole town's talking about the Jones Boy
The Jones Boy
The Jones Boy
The whole town's talking about the Jones Boy
He acts mighty peculiar now

The whole town's saying he was a good boy
a nice boy
a swell boy
The whole town's saying he's not a well boy
He just isn't the same somehow

he hops
he jumps
so merrily over the water pumps
he stops and then
he comes to a pump and he'll jump again

the buzz is over the fences
that he's going out of his senses

The whole town's talking about the Jones boy
the poor boy
the Jones boy

But I just happen to be the Jones boy
and I happen to be in love
.. the question now is, In love with what? ..

WoZ of Aus 26/03/07

jones / jonesing

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 6:48 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Wiz, Perhaps he's developed an Oedipus complex!

Ken - March 26, 2007

jones / jonesing

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:35 pm
by Shelley
You mean he had "a thing going on" for Mrs. Jones?

jones / jonesing

Posted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 1:30 am
by Ken Greenwald
Shelley, Exactly! Invoking Freud and Occam's razor, it's the simplest explanation.

Ken - March 26, 2007