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  • I visited Australia in Nov. I found many references to Snazzy Snazelle in the public libraries in Melbourne and Sydney, including a cover story in "Life" Magazine from 28 March 1891. With the permission of Melbourne Public Library Staff I photographed the magazine cover which featured a caricature watercolour drawing of GH Snazelle. For a term like 'snazzy' a picture way well be worth a 1000 words and so I thought it was something the Wordnik community might find interesting. Judge for yourself whether ‘snazzy’ is another of the slang terms that relates to a famous person and whether it is likely, based on the circumstantial evidence, that that person was GH Snazelle. Here is the link to the photo of the cover I took and which I now, finally, figured out how to upload to the internet: http://imageshack.us/a/img207/8108/p1010470y.jpg Wish I could figure out how to paste the photo onto the visuals portion of this site but that is beyond my computer skills. Perhaps someone else can help with that.

    September 27, 2012

  • Alright Bilby, you make some good points which prompted me to dig deeper. As G.H. Snazelle seems to have been more revered in Australia than elsewhere I decided to check the Australia Trove Digitized Newspapers in addition to those from New Zealand previously mentioned. I discovered some 1481 Newspaper references to the man in the press 'down under' starting in 1881 and continuing until 1946, long after his death. There were at least 18 that also used the word "Snazzy" to describe him in the years 1894 to 1937.

    I discovered a much longer obituary in the Adelaide Register 2 July 1912 that addresses the question of his physical appearance you raise and is I believe a complete answer to your most valid observation. Here is the relevant extract:

    'He was very handsome in those days, with a splendidly shaped head, striking features, black hair and moustache, and tall, commanding figure; and a more genial, manly, and in every way attractive gentleman never stepped into flannels."


    Elsewhere he is described as all "dash and ginger".

    However his performances were equally visually striking, clever and fashionably cutting edge in their use of the latest moving picture technology:

    "The illustrations were of such a character as to captivate the beholder, and, though it was but an experiment to fix the forms, Ac., the beauty of the pictures was well demonstrated. The old-fashioned magic lantern has seen its day, and those who witness the softness of color and the invisibility of change from tint to tint, as shown by Mr. Snazelle's new apparatus, will be more than surprised, not only at the rapidity of the metamorphia, but will be struck by the apparent ease with which they are effected." http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/44082811?searchTerm=Snazelle&searchLimits=

    The abundant press references suggest G.H. was remembered in Australia well into the 1930s and 40s, just as the word snazzy was starting to appear in print in Australia. This article from 21 Feb 1937 is representative of these reminiscent-style articles: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/58780892?searchTerm=Snazelle&searchLimits=sortby=dateDesc

    Some dictionaries suggest the adj. snazzy originated in Australia and was brought back to the US by servicemen about 1943. See for example A dictionary of slang and unconventional English ://www.searchdictionaries.com/?q=snazzy

    Interestingly, some of the earliest "other" Australian examples of the use of snazzy are in an entertainment context: For example, see this one from 1941: "he used to sing quite a snazzy alto to- her soprano". http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/44082811?searchTerm=Snazelle&searchLimits=

    One last observation is that I see there are many examples in the English language of rhyming slang terms that relate to famous persons: "Many rhyming slang terms that refer to names derive from real people - the celebrities of their day. A recent (1980s) example is a 'desmond' (a second-class degree - a 2:2, derived from Desmond Tutu). From the late 19th century we have 'on your tod', which refers to the American jockey 'Tod' (James) Sloan." (The Phrase Finder http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/211900.html). I have also learned a new word - "Berk" - meaning a fool. "It is another rhyming slang word that many people don't even realise is short for "Berkeley-Hunt", who was an 1890s stage idiot." http://www.effingpot.com/people.shtml

    Whilst not everyone will be convinced, there seems to now be some fairly strong circumstantial evidence for this origin for the word snazzy and I would be interested in hearing from any Australian scholars on the subject.

    September 28, 2011

  • Yes, some have suggested the snappy jazzy comination theory as an explanation but it is just supposition. The concern over the gap between his death and the first appearance in a publication is noted but a slang term may not have appeared in print right away (some editors frowned on the use of slang terms in print form), besides it's really only 20 years after his death not 31 and I now see there are many press reference to the nickname in the NZ and Australian press, not just the one I first noticed. Also apart from his dapper appearance, his use of the Kinetoscope (an improvement on the magic lantern) in his performances was described as very clever and ingenous which are terms that also feature in the definition. A contemporary of Sarah Bernhardt, he was a well known actor-entertainer-operetic performer in England, Scotland, Australia, South Africa, NZ, Canada and the US where he debuted in New York in 1894. He made early gramaphone recordings, published and even appeared in an early film (Dawn, UK, 1917) completed after his death. Below, I have included three other links to quotes about him using the term Snazzy that I now see go back as far as 1893, as well as his obituary. The point is it that whether a nickname or not it is to my knowledge the first four in print examples of the use of the word snazzy to describe a person meeting the very definition of the word as it is now come to be used.

    • 9 December 1893, the New Zealand Observer, referencing a performance given in Johannesburg South Africa) . http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=TO18931209.2.19

    • 10 March 1894, The New Zealand Observer, "the only original Snazzy" http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=TO18940310.2.22

    • 3 April 1901, the Otago Witness, http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=TO18940310.2.22

    • His obituary in The Evening Post, Wellington http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=EP19120520.2.29&e=-------10--1----0--

    September 27, 2011

  • I believe the origin is known! I had been told it was a nickname ascribed to a distant relative - operetic actor George H. Snazelle. I have since researched this and discovered that the earliest use is not 1932 as some dictionaries suggest but 1901 and it is in relation to him and that the origin is British/Australian/New Zealand and not US. See pg 3 of the 30 March 1901 edition of the The Evening Post, Wellington, New Zealand. The Reference was to "'Snazzy,' otherwise G.H. Snazelle ." George H. Snazelle was a noted English vocalist, entertainer and actor who was born George Snazel in 1848, and who died in 1912. It is probable that the word was coined to describe this stylish, well-traveled celebrity of the age. For proof of earliest known use see : http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/cgi-bin/paperspast?a=d&d=EP19010330.2.50&l=mi&e=-------10--1----2-- Thanks. John Maguire, Ottawa, Canada

    September 25, 2011

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