Monday, October 20, 2008

More Field Notes

"I saw my boy on MySpace with a transsexual jawn."

Opening up the mail bag

Our first out-of-region jawn sighting comes from William in Indianapolis:

"i was listening to the russ parr morning show this morning and they were playing clips of john mccain and barack obama from the al smith dinner, which is kind of like a roast from what i can gather. there's a good article about it here:

"at any rate, mr. parr said that mccain and obama were "jawning on each other," or, at least, i thought maybe that's what he said. it sounded more like "joning" to me, but isn't that the way you said it was pronounced? i wouldn't have thought much of it except that i've been waiting to hear an instance of jawn on the show since it's nationally syndicated. i'm not sure, but he was talking to a comedian who was going to be in DC for the weekend and it sounded like he was talking as if the show were based in DC. just a quick bit of research seems to point to that being true and, as we know, jawn is in DC."

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Long Jawns

From Alice:

"The weather is getting chilly, and I think it might be appropriate."

A Jawns Image Search

Schooled on Jawns

If I had any shame, I would probably delete the first post on the Jawns Jawn in which I assume that, because I only began hearing the word jawn at an epidemic rate in the last 9 months, it's a recently-coined term. My roommate (mentioned in the same post) conducted an informal survey at her office last week. How old is the term? Her co-workers' average guess was 10 years. Then, just last night at a party, another friend claimed to have seen a behind-the-scenes documentary on the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in which West Philadelphia's favorite son Will Smith drops jawn--at least 10, if not 15, years ago.

At any rate, even though it's an apparently an old school Philly term, these same Philly natives agree that it's resurged lately. So, the blog is still in business, and the three of us will continue to document our search for as many possible shades of meaning as we can find attributed in actual speech to the word jawn. You can help, too. Please send your overheard conversations to

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Jawnversation

Int. Two guys in a classroom talking about girls

A: [emphatically] You know. You see her all the time. The boney jawn.

B: The dark-skinned boney jawn?

A: You know the jawn.

Might as Well Face It...

I'm addicted to jawns.

More field notes:

I'm 'bouta ace this jawn right here. [English test]

We gotta do these definition jawns on the back? [dangling jawn]

I need my jawn to get to school in. [car]

I got this Family Guy jawn on my phone. [episode]

My jawn was negative. [drug test]

That's the funny jawn... [It's funny when that happens]

I was chilling in the jawn like this, ... [bathroom, receiving oral sex]

I'm 'bouta go back to Disney World, dog. That jawn was poppin'. [place/amusement park]

I got smoking jawn. [smoking cessation classes]

I'm going to kill that jawn. [bug]

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Keeping up with the Jawnses

Here are some field notes from my most recent jawns encounters. Bracketed words are the words (sometimes my best guess) for which "jawn" or "jawns" is the replacement.


“This jawn worked, then I pressed that jawn.” [iPod; button]

“This is a unorganized fire drill jawn.” [superfluous, a dangling jawn?]

“You should have said that before they gave out the jawn.” [student government ballot]

(In this case, our classes were voting for student president, and one of the candidates was in the class making last ditch attempts to convince people to vote for her. The kid who said this got a big laugh. Zing! Or, rather, Jawn!)

“They gave me this little notepad jawn.” [another dangler]

“That was the jawn that I forgot.” [answer or selection on a multiple choice quiz]

“I heard if you go out of state with that jawn, you lose service.” [Metro PCS cell phone]

“What jawn?” [Which one?]

“My little brother got that on the single and jawn. That jawn crazy.” [and stuff; song]

“Just write it on the same jawn so you ain’t waste the pass.” [referring to a hall pass, an instance of replacing a word with jawn and then using the replaced word in the same sentence]

“So, I’d put, like, March jawn.” [filling in a date on a form, March 2008]

“When I’m done with this job jawn, who I turn it in to?” [application]

Jawns 101

I moved to Philadelphia about a year ago, although it wasn’t until the beginning of summer 2008 that I first encountered the word jawn. In June, I started work at a diner/bakery that was staffed mostly with black males, ages about 18-50, who peppered their language with a range of pretty typical urban slang. Gradually, though, this one word was folded in, and by the end of the summer it had reached a point of overuse that approached outbreak level, at times nearly once a sentence.

For months, I heard the word as join’ or jon’. I assumed it was an abbreviation of joint, which we’ve all heard or used to function similarly as a kind of all-purpose pronoun (“that's my joint” or “that's the joint”). It wasn’t until about the billionth time this summer that I heard the word that I was forced to ask someone point blank what the fuck was going on. By the end of the summer, I was working at an inner-city school, and I began hearing it literally three and four times in a single sentence. Hell, three or four times in a sentence fragment.

So, I started to ask my roommate, “Have you heard anyone use this word--” I was cut off, “You mean, ‘jawn?’” Apparently, everybody knew but me. My roommate, who hears the word in her office apparently as much as I do at school, explained that it wasn’t a slurred version of joint but a unique word spelled j-a-w-n that rhymes with prawn or yawn. I didn’t believe her. I understand appropriating existing words (skeet, to use my favorite example of the last five years), but you can’t just invent words, right? I held onto my jon’ theory until the next day when, with a little time left in the hour, I put it to my fifth period class.

“Guys, I have a white question.”


“What is jon’?”

Uproarious laughter.

My spelling and pronunciation were corrected, and the already obviously versatile word was defined for me as, “Anything.”

Last weekend, I was in D.C. for a show, and I had to run the word by my hosts. “Have you ever heard this?” I was assured that it wasn’t used outside Philadelphia, or at least it hadn’t made it to D.C. Then we went to a shoe store, and standing there, holding an Air Force One, one of the friends who I’d just told about jawns overheard the group of kids to our right. “Dem jawns hype. Naw, dese jawns it. Jawns, jawnsing, jawns.” Every fucking shoe in the store was a jawn. They pointed and referred to parts of the shoe. The Nike swoosh was a jawn. The toe box was a jawn. We all conferred. How does a word spread that fast? Why is it used so much? When we were younger, did anybody ever say “fly” or “swass” fucking 15 times in a thirty second period?

We went back to the apartment to consult Urban Dictionary, and it had this to say:

Jawns can mean anything as long as it is used in context. A verb, noun, pronoun, adverb, preposition, or even an exclamation. Jawns emphasizes the significance of the lack of anything else to say. Jawns originates from the word 'jawn' used in Philly.

As a noun:
Bob: Holler
George: Lemme get that jawns

As a verb (and a noun)
History teacher: Hello kids
Kid: If we jawns that jawns can we jawn it?

As an adverb:
Ferdinand: It was done in an extremely jawn fashion.

As an exclamation:

This omni-functionality of jawn raises an interesting question: Could language devolve into nothing but a series of jawnses?