jaded /’dʒeɪˌdɪd/

Anyone who has taken to checking out this site on a regular basis will have noticed that I haven’t posted in three weeks. With my avowed aim of providing weekly content, that’s what might be termed an “epic fail.” Part of the reason is that I’ve been feeling particularly jaded lately. I know you don’t read The Word Guy to find out what’s happening in my personal life, nor is my personal life interesting enough to warrant any curiosity on your part, but my weekly word of choice is often influenced by my immediate circumstances – consciously and unconsciously.

Jaded: Female metal band

Freud, with whose writings I am passingly familiar, once wrote the following:

He that has eyes to see and ears to hear may convince himself that no mortal can keep a secret. If his lips are silent, he chatters with his fingertips; betrayal oozes out of him at every pore. (Freud, 1905, Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria)

This is the basis behind the popular notion of the Freudian Slip, those little verbal slips-of-the-tongue that tell the hearer more about the speaker than the speaker would want them to know. This notion of the subconscious influencing speech was used by Carl Jung as the basis of his technique of Word Association, where he would say a word and ask his patients to then say the first word that came into their heads.  Armed with his list and a stopwatch, Jung became the darling of Freud until their big fall out in 1912.

Freud and his slip

So in order to spare you the time trying to work out why I chose jaded for this week’s post, I decided to save you the time and come straight out with it: I chose jaded because I am jaded!

The word goes back to the 14th century and is defined by the OED as;

A contemptuous name for a horse; a horse of inferior breed, e.g. a cart- or draught-horse as opposed to a riding horse; a roadster, a hack; a sorry, ill-conditioned, wearied, or worn-out horse; a vicious, worthless, ill-tempered horse; rarely applied to a donkey.

It first appears in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, specifically the Nun’s Priest Prologue, where he writes, “Be blithe though thou ryde vp-on a Iade, What thogh thyn hors be bothe foule and lene.”

Tired, worn out old jade

Although the origin of the word is a little uncertain, it has been thought to be a version of the Scottish dialectal word yaud, a poetic word for “mare.” Old Norse has the word jalda that means the same, and so there does seem to be a link between the words.

By the 16th century, the word had taken on a negative meaning as a term of abuse for a woman, although it also appears to have been used in a more playful sense as in hussy, minx, or dame. In his Diaries, Samuel Pepys wrote, “Mrs. Pierce says she [Miss Davis] is a most homely jade as ever she saw (1668)” and in the Times newspaper of January 14th, 1883, “A procession of scamps and jades, who marched through Paris wearing in mockery vestments robbed from the churches.”

It’s use as a verb is first seen in Shakespeare’s 1606 Anthony and Cleopatra, Act III, Scene I:

I’ll humbly signify what in his name,
That magical word of war, we have effected;
How, with his banners and his well-paid ranks,
The ne’er-yet-beaten horse of Parthia
We have jaded out o’ the field.

The word is being used figuratively to describe the act of turning a horse into a jade by wearing it out and making it tired. In 1620, Bishop Robert Sanderson used it intransitively in one of his Sermons in the sentence, “As an horse that is good at hand, but naught at length, so is the Hypocrite; free and fiery for a spurt, but he jadeth and tyreth in a journey.”

Then, in 1623,  the -ed participle is used to create an adjective by Sir Charles Sidley in a critique of untalented poets and playwright when he said, “But when on spurs their Pegasus they force, their jaded Muse is distanced in the course.” From around the mid-17th century, the word took on the meaning of describing the feeling of being dull or sated by constant use or indulgence, as well as worn out and fatigued. The idea of jaded meaning weariness exists to this day.

Aerosmith gave the word star billing in their 2000 single, Jaded, the video for which was a showcase for actress Mila Kunis, who had already been playing Jackie Burkhart on the hit Fox TV comedy, That 70’s Show.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the word jade as applied to the ornamental stone has a different origin. It comes from the 16th century Spanish phrase piedra de ijada, which means “stone of the side” and canb e traced further back to the Latin ilia, meaning side, flank, or groin. The jade stone was reputed to cure ailments located in these regions.


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Filed under Etymology, Vocabulary, Word Origins

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