huh, Slylee might actually be right.
|Keeping up with the Jones.|
Dear Word Detective: We were walking through the mall and the smell of cinnamon accosted my senses, so naturally I said, "I am jonesing for one of those cinnathingys." My friend turned to me and said, "You're jonesing? What the heck does that mean?" So after I explained to her what I have always thought was the definition, "really craving, wanting something really badly," she said, "Yeah, whatever." I wasn't sure if I was more flabbergasted that she questioned my use of the word "jonesing" or that she didn't question me on the use of the word "cinnathingys." I would love to know if "jonesing" exists and if I am using it correctly. -- Lee Ana, via the internet.
"Jonesing" certainly does exist, but the sense in which you were using "jones" as a verb meaning "to crave, to desire strongly" is a broadening and softening of what was originally a very grim term. When "jones" first appeared in African-American slang in the early 1960s, it was as a noun meaning "a drug addiction, especially to heroin."
The proper name "Jones" is, of course, very common in the US and Britain (in fact, I am named after my great-grandfather, Col. Evan Nathanael Jones). But research since the 1960s into why "jones" took on the slang connotation of "a drug habit" has, unfortunately, run aground on lack of evidence. It may be that there once was an infamous drug dealer by that name, of course, or that "Mister Jones" was a common euphemism for one's local heroin pusher. "Mister Jones" did serve in mid-20th century slang as a personification of a powerful and insular social elite (as in Bob Dylan's song "Ballad of a Thin Man" with its refrain of "Because something is happening here, But you don't know what it is, Do you, Mister Jones?"), making it the rough equivalent of "The Man." It may be that "jones" in the drug sense thus arose as a reference to powers outside the community's control that were considered responsible for the oppression and devastation caused by drug addiction. This interpretation is reinforced by the fact that "jones" in the drug addiction sense has always been used negatively. Whoever this "Jones" was, he was nobody's friend.
In any case, by about 1970, "jones" had percolated into more widespread slang use in its modern "gotta have it" sense.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.