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The Enduring Mystery Of Jawn, Philadelphia's All-Purpose Noun

The Enduring Mystery Of 'Jawn', Philadelphia's All-Purpose Noun | Atlas Obscura

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It is a word without boundaries or limits. Growing up in the suburbs just west of the city, I heard it used mostly to refer to objects and to events. In the new movie Creed, a character asks a sandwich maker to “put some onions on that jawn.” But it can get much more complex; it can refer to abstract nouns like theories; a colleague of Jones routinely refers to “Marxist jawn.” It can also refer to people or groups of people. “Side-jawn,” meaning a someone the speaker cheats on his or her significant other with, “is a uniquely Philly thing as far as I can tell,” says Jones.

“And not something you want to be,” he adds.

Jawn can be singular; “pass me that jawn.” It can be plural, and in a couple of different ways. “Jawns” is fine, but you can also modify “jawn” elsewhere. “You can say ‘jawns,’ but more often it’s going to be, like, ‘where’d you get them jawn,’” says Jones. It can be negative or positive or neutral depending on context.

It is a magical word, and did not come about in a vacuum. The rise of jawn dovetails with breakthroughs in the study of American linguistics itself; what we know about our ever-evolving speech patterns can, in part, be seen through this one weird word.

The question is whether Jawn will spread to other cities too.

It will if I have jawn to do with it!

This is a jawn of a new era?

Jawn straight!

Just as long as we are not seeing the world through jawn diced eyes. 

Bravo! Jawn on, bro!

Jawn on! Jawn of the dead!

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