Is My Jam Your Jam?
Overheard: “Biz Dev is my jam!” How does that sentence make you feel?
i. Cool! Right. Biz Dev. Jam.
How did the latter phrase – ‘my jam’ – come to represent something the speaker particularly likes?
Being ‘jammed’ can be associated with unpleasantness – in a sweaty, crowded bus, inches from the tunnel in stalled traffic. Or, with that invisible paper that lightning-symbol ‘jams’ the printer at the worst possible moment.
‘Money for jam’ is a phrase said to be rooted in the Army, at a time when jam was plentiful. Money for jam describes easy money, or money for nothing.
Sweet berry jam comes more quickly to mind with the British phrase ‘jam tomorrow’, which alludes to the promise of something delightful, though caution is recommended: said ‘jam’ rarely arrives.
We famously see the phrase referenced in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass – Chapter 5, Wool and Water. Alice is trying to help the White Queen dress..
“It can’t go straight, you know, if you pin it all on one side,” Alice said, as she gently put it right for her; “and, dear me, what a state your hair is in!”
“The brush has got entangled in it!” the Queen said with a sigh. “And I lost the comb yesterday.”
Alice carefully released the brush, and did her best to get the hair into order. “Come, you look rather better now!” she said, after altering most of the pins. “But really you should have a lady’s maid!”
“I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!” the Queen said. “Twopence a week, and jam every other day.”
Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, “I don’t want you to hire me—and I don’t care for jam.”
“It’s very good jam,” said the Queen.
“Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.”
“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday—but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day,’” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”
“That’s the effect of living backwards,” the Queen said kindly: “it always makes one a little giddy at first …”
The use of ‘my jam’ is most closely linked to the idea of ‘jamming’ or being deep into an improvisational ‘jam session’ in jazz. Etymologists disagree over where or when precisely the word ‘jam session’ was first used, but you see ‘jamming’ used throughout jazz classics and biographies.
Over the decades, for instance, you see incredible musicians improvising (usually) in the key of C Major for Duke Ellington’s famous ‘C Jam Blues’, also known as ‘Duke’s Place’. Here are three great examples:
‘My jam’ became more recent slang for a person’s favourite song. And from that point, ‘my jam’ was extended to other things one favours like…Biz Dev.
Header Photo: Marek Studzinski