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shameless pleading






Been there, gentrified that.

Dear Word Detective: Jade is a stone that is polished and set in a piece of jewelry. How did it turn into “old hat”? — Mike Henderson.

Good question. But is the expression “old hat” meaning “passé, unfashionable, antiquated” even valid any longer, when every trustafarian hipster infesting Brooklyn is sporting a thrift-store vintage fedora or pork-pie hat? As a former long-term resident of the Borough of Kings, I remember the old saying “Only the dead know Brooklyn.” That never seemed more true than late on a Saturday night when the D Train unexpectedly went express and dumped you in the rain out at Flatbush and Fuhgeddaboudit. Now, of course, there’s an app for that. But I can’t help hoping that someday that majestic, unknowable Brooklyn will rise from the deep like Godzilla and swallow up all those Warby Parker-wearing twerps. That would make a totally awesome Instagram.

Meanwhile, back at your question, the green stone known as “jade” and the world-weariness we call being “jaded” are two separate and completely unrelated words.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), “jade” the stone is actually two different kinds of stone sometimes traveling under the same name. “Jade” is, to quote the OED, “a silicate of lime and magnesia, a hard, translucent stone, in color light green, bluish, or whitish.” The light green variety of jade is of the color we normally call “jade.” The other sort of “jade” is properly called “jadeite,” and is a silica of sodium and aluminum which closely resembles actual jade (and also goes by the names “oriental jade” and “oceanic jade”).

This “jade” stone takes its name from the Latin “ilia,” which means the flanks or areas of the body near the kidneys; jade was, in fact, once thought to cure kidney problems. “Ilia” passed from Latin through the Spanish “ijada” into French, where the result, “l’ejade,” was mistakenly transformed into “le jade.” Voila, “jade.” Jade is also called “nephrite,” from the Greek “nephros,” kidney.

The world-weary kind of “jade” first appeared in English in the 14th century, most likely derived from the Old Norse “jalda,” meaning “mare.” In English, “jade” originally meant a work horse, especially an old, worn out mare. Inevitably, “jade” was eventually extended to people, particularly women of low social status, especially prostitutes (“A lying, prying, jilting, thievish jade.” 1812). The verb “to jade,” appearing in the early 17th century, originally meant to wear out a horse through hard work, but by the late 18th century it, too, was applied to people and the intransitive form came to mean “to become tired, exhausted, dull.”

By association with the use of the noun “jade” to mean “prostitute, underworld denizen,” the modern “jaded” implies that one has seen so many amazing, outrageous or scandalous things that one is no longer capable of taking either offense or excitement from the proceedings (“Call me jaded, but in a year that brings Oblivion, After Earth, World War Z, Pacific Rim, The World’s End and Smurfs 2, not just any old apocalypse will do.” National Post, 2013).

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