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Origin and Meaning of “Jawn”

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When Audrey was growing up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the late 1990s, it seemed that everyone around her used the word jawn as an all-purpose substitute for other words, as in I took my jawn to the jawn and we had a bunch of jawns. Philadelphians proudly claim jawn as a local product, but in fact this term originated in New York City in the 1920s as joint, as in “a place where two people come together.” By the 1970s this sense of joint had morphed into “something that people do together,” as in the way movies by Spike Lee are described as a Spike Lee joint. Joint took on a host of other meanings, and, influenced by the local dialect of Philadelphia, morphed into jawn there. This is part of a complete episode.

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