jute box

Another find by David Fenton, very different in character from the last one I posted about: jute box ‘juke box’ and related items. From e-mail to a Wurlitzer site, passed on by Fenton:

what, approximately is a 30 year old wurlitzer (45rpm) jute box in excellent cond. with the records worth?

A couple more hits for jute box, and a couple for jute joint ‘juke joint’:

[on auction site] 1954 Wurlitzer Jute Box 1600 series 48 selection 78 records (link)

jute box stamps by Dennis Holmes (link) [there are shirts with juke boxes on them as well]

Often times my father would take me with him to this jute joint called the Sugar Shack where he sometimes moonlighted as a bouncer. (link)

A show woman sings and dances in a jute joint for people while she wears a revealing red flashy dress. (link)

Certainly non-standard, but where might it have come from?

[The Wurltizer word is various spelled solid, hyphenated (as in OED2), or separated (as above), with no difference in meaning.]

Jute box has one lexical element, jute, where another, juke, is standard, so it could be seen as a re-shaping of juke box, in which case it looks sort of eggcornish.

But only sort of. Yes, juke is really frequent only in the combination juke box, though it also occurs in juke joint and juke house, and in plain juke referring to a juke box or a juke joint. But jute is scarcely common either. In eggcorns, less familiar material is generally replaced by more familiar material, but jute box for juke box would go in the wrong direction.

Worse, replacing juke by jute doesn’t produce a result that makes at least a bit more sense than the original, as classic eggcorns do. At best, jute box would be a “demi-eggcorn“.

In this case, I think something quite different is going on, something phonological.

Some background …  Final voiceless stops in American English are often glottalized, especially before consonants (stops, in particular), especially in “close construction” with following material(in the first elements of compounds, in particular). The stops /t/ and /k/ are then often pronounced as phonetically very similar segments, and in fact both [t’] and [k’] not infrequently have [ʔ] as a variant in the relevant contexts.

That is, juke box and a hypothetical jute box are likely to have phonetically very similar realizations, as very short glottalized segments, or indeed identical realizations, as [ʔ]. The way is then open for hearers to identify such a pronunciation of juke as an instance of the element jute (unlikely as this might seem on semantic grounds). These hearers will then reproduce the element as jute in both pronunciation and spelling.

My suggestion is then that the spelling JUTE is an “ear spelling”. It would make a nice small project to search for similar cases. Well, WikiAnswers has been faced with the question “What is pot mark skin?”, with POT MARK for pockmark (which is doubly nice, since it also has “final t/d deletion” in MARK for marked), and there are occurrences of RITSHAW for rickshaw as well, and there may be others out there.

[A side note on juke (also spelled jook or jouk). The word is probably from the American creole Gullah word juke or joog ‘disorderly, wicked’, with an origin in a West African language. OED2’s first cites are in juke-house/juke-joint (in 1935 — Zora Neale Hurston) and in juke-box (in 1937), though earlier uses have probably been found by now.]

6 Responses to “jute box”

  1. The Ridger Says:

    I love reading stuff like this. Without your explanation I’d probably have just rolled my eyes and moved on, but I was moved to say the phrases out loud. They do sound very similar unless I’m being very elocutionary… Wow.


  2. Kikipotamus the Hobo Says:

    I totally agree with your “ear spelling” theory. That’s what I’ve always assumed accounted for the error.

  3. Jonathan Lundell Says:

    Sadly, I don’t have the episode. I remember hearing it on the radio, though. The premise is that Wally Ballou goes out to do an interview of the owner of a juke box factory. About halfway through, it develops that it’s a jute box factory, literally. Rope, gunny sacks, like that.

    Vintage Bob & Ray: Volume 1
    The CBS Years, Part 1
    (4 CDs, $36.95, Catalog No. RACD 4011-4)

    DISC 1 (55:40)

    Bob & Ray’s First Show on CBS June 29, 1959: Bob & Ray Arrive at CBS; Introducing Wally Ballou; Wally Interviews a Member of the Studio Audience; Help Bob & Ray to Fame and Fortune and Worry-Free Old Age Kit; Close; Charles the Poet; Ace Willoughby, International Detective (The Marrakech Affair); Mary McGoon (society items); Bob & Ray Wonderland of Knowledge; Wally Ballou (jute box factory); Testimonial Time (“two New York doctors”)

  4. Rick S Says:

    Thank you! I was wondering where glottalization of t-stops came from, while thinking about a post on Separated by a Common Language” a couple of days ago. The subject there is “bad mitten” (for badminton), and the /n/-deletion only made sense if the /t/ was glottalized. While thinking about it, I realized that final /mit/ (e.g. in “catcher’s mitt”) will often or even usually be pronounced as a glottal, not alveolar, stop.

  5. Rick S Says:

    Oops! Sorry about forgetting to close the anchor tag!

  6. Valentime’s Day « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] jute box for juke box, jute joint for juke joint (link) […]

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