Jonesin for Great Jones Street

Posted on: January 7th, 2010 at 6:18 am by

Pinpointing the exact etymology of certain words or phrases in the parlance of our time (to quote Big Lebowski) is a difficult task.  Indeed, much like a complicated game of telephone, explanations often change over time.  But some stick.  Take, for instance, the use of the verb “Jonesin.”  According to Urban Dictionary, Jonesin is  “a word used to describe an intense craving for a drug. Comes from Great Jones Street in New York City, between Broadway and Lafayette Street Bowery, a former junkie hangout.”

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While Urban Dictionary is by no means gospel on the matter, their definition does spark an interesting debate.

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Great Jones Street was named for Samuel Jones, a Tory lawyer who served as the city’s first comptroller.  In 1789, he and Richard Varick (yes, that Varick) helped revise New York State’s statutes, which led to his nickname as “Father of the New York Bar.”  According to Songlines, Jones then “gave land to the city to complete Third Street under the condition that the connecting section be named after himself.”  However, his brother-in-law, Dr. Gardiner Jones, already had claim on the Jones Street moniker in Greenwich Village, and neither was willing to budge.  The “Great” prefix was added to settle the matter amicably.

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