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Re: It don't mean jack

Posted by Smokey Stover on December 20, 2008 at 08:44

In Reply to: Re: It don't mean jack posted by ESC on December 19, 2008 at 22:47:

: : : I wonder what does "it don't mean jack" means? There are a lot of phrases with "jack" word, Is there any specific meaning of jack?

: : You're right. In one of my references, there are pages and pages of phrases with jack. And there are dozens of meanings of the word jack. For example, jack meaning a very small amount (16th century) and a farthing (17 to 18th century) and money (U.S., late 19th century). In the 20th century jack came to mean "nothing." "Jacksh*t" means worthless, useless, negligible (1990s). Various meanings for jack are: a man, the anus, horseflesh, hidden notes (cheat-sheets), a country man or rustic, syphilis, a fool, a native soldier. And on and on. "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green (Wellington House, London, 1998). Page 647-651.

: JACK - Money since 1859. But at first used to mean only a small coin or a small amount of money. English slang for a farthing since 1700. Page 103. Jock and jack have meant the penis since the 16th century (from the familiar names for John). Page 377. "Speaking Freely: A Guided Tour of American English from Plymouth Rock to Silicon Valley" by Stuart Berg Flexner and Anne H. Soukhanov (Oxford University Press, New York, 1997).

It seems to me that the phrase "it don't mean jack" is best translated as "it doesn't mean anything." The word "don't" should be taken as indicating the modern and somewhat low-class population in which the phrase does not sound ungrammatical. The word "jack" still often refers to money, but has also moved on to mean "anything," or occasionally "nothing," just as the genre in which it's heard has moved from "street talk" to literary forms like short stories and movies, which sometimes like to imitate street talk.