[ENG] The 1000 Names of the Jew’s harp
Nomenclature of over thousand proper names for the Jew’s harp from all over the world
… mainly arisen between 1986 and 1992, while the author studied
and wrote about the Jew’s harp, grown out to a knick-knack
and is supposed to be a unique study matter for Jew’s harp lovers.
lay-out: Phons Bakx / linguistic corrections: emer. prof. Frederick Crane
Who has helped this list growing:
Lindsay Porteous [Scotland], emer. prof. Frederick Crane [Iowa, USA], Tapani Varis [Finnland], Henk van der Zee [Netherlands], Georg Decristel [Austria], Dr. Fred Gerrits [Australia], Steev Kindwald [Far East/USA], Tran Quang Hai [Vietnam/France], Walter Maioli [Italy], Daniel Roy [Quebec, Canada], Michael Wright [Oxford, England], Pat Missin [Jackson, USA], Aksenty Beskrovny [Siberia], Mathias Esnault [France], Bernhard Folkestad [Norway] Étienne Rouleau-Mailloux [Quebec], Daniel Roy [Canada], Dr. Brian Diettrich [Aotearoa/New Zealand] and others.
In the period that I studied the cultural anthropology of the Jew’s harp, many times the different proper names for this instrument came across my way. At first I had no intention to collect them, but later, when I noticed the expansion of it, I start to find pleasure in collecting them, and wrote down the names in an exercise-book. When possible I have annotated their meaning or the material from which the Jew’s harp is made, as well as some of the geographical or ethnographical data concerning their place of finding.
Most European Jew’s harp names have a designation of pre-industrial origin. Then, before the popular rise of the industrial mouth-harmonica in the nineteenth century, the Jew’s harp was reputed as folk instrument in general. A lot of its names originated in the time-layers of rural culture. In practice they were compared with names of musical instruments that already had found their way to several European language groups during the early days. In this context we find name-adoptions with words as fiddle, bell, drum, trumpet, horn, harp, organ, string, hurdy-gurdy, rattle or guitar, often accompanied by the word ‘mouth’. From these linguistic roots a group of names for the Jew’s harp was derived, in which the embouchure of mouth-instruments is indicated. Very near to this group are the name-adoptions that associate the part of the head which is concerned to the Jew’s harp playing: mouth, lips, teeth, throat, tongue and jaw.
Another type of name for the Jew’s harp is the linguistic association with the physical or mechanical movement of the material of the instrument, for instance as the Hungarian word doromb, meaning ‘vibrate’.
Because of the growing clerical nomenclatures of latin synonyms for musical instruments, it occurred that the Jew’s harp received official [associative] names such as trombola, crembalum, cymbalum orale, aura or tremolo. Jew’s harp names also appeared as a variant on classical names, e.g. the Greek/Latin symfonia [sumfonia], the Vulgar Latin harmonica and arganum, and the old Mid-Greek organon [organon].
A very few contemporary names are spent on industrial trade.
Most of the names are collected by fieldwork. Ethno-linguistic studies on the
names of the Jew’s harp already have been made. Among them we find very comprehensive
ones, like the study who was made all over
Another interesting study concerns the
Jew’s harp as it is originated and written in different English ways, like
Jew’s trump, Jaw’s harp, jaw harp,
et cetera. It was done by emer. prof.
Frederick Crane (1927-2011)
Of importance was the linguistic
fieldwork over the small
A brief study about the Jew’s harp on
In ‘primitive’ culture we often find the Jew’s harp downright as an instrument of pre-musicality, that’s to say, no other musical intention will be aimed than intoning rhythms and timbres of spoken words through the Jew’s harp. Many Asiatic names may be bound to this principle, but a lot of it is still unknown about it.
Another section to give a name to the Jew’s harp is based on the ritual context in which the instrument is used. In ‘primitive’ societies of the eastern world we find different ritual contexts: soundsignals for courtship, initiations of manhood, soundsignals for protection spirits, shamanistic healing practices, soundcalls for bird spirits, sounds for funerals et cetera. But again, in these cases many of the designations for the instrument are still unknown.
Among the group of wooden Jew’s harps and the very primitive parallel-instruments of the Jew’s harp, we may find name-adoptions from the grassy microcosmos of nature. The names than often are associated with the glossary of insects and with the sound they make. Very near to this are the name-adoptions of onomatopoeia: giving a name to an object by imitating the sound [the object is making] in verbal forms. For example: the Malaysian djing-gong.
The question how does it come that there are so many names for the Jew’s harp? is difficult to answer, and obviously more than òne answer may fit. From my own opinion, one of the answers should be that the Jew’s harp is definitely an instrument of language itself. Musical instruments may find a primary example in the capability of the human Physique to produce sounds, and the Jew’s harp refers specific to the speaking voice, maybe the most
because of the presence of a glottis in the instrument. And it was exactly the human voice itself that has expressed the names to designate the objects.
It’s my intention that this nomenclature of Jew’s harp names is valuable for everyone who wants to know about it. And in case when it seems as incomplete, I hope someone will still feel its value as an excentric knick-knack. Here below you will find the main references for all the proper names that I’ve found in literature.
Phons Bakx [3rd edition]
References in Literature
1. Vertkov, Konstantin et alii 1975. The Jew’s
harp in the
2. Crane, Frederick 1982. Jew’s [Jaw’s? Jeu? Jeugd? Gewgaw? Juice?] Harp. In: VIM 1.
3. Boone, Hubert 1986. De Mondtrom. De Volksmuziekinstrumenten in België en Nederland. Brussel. p. 9-11, 51;
4. Plate, Regina 1992. Bezeichnungen
für die Maultrommel. In: Kulturgeschichte
5. Chenoweth, Vida 1976. Musical Instruments of
6. Marcuse, Sibyl 1964. Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary. Garden City. p. 264-265, s.v. Jew’s harp
7. Wright, John/McLean, Mervyn 1984. The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments.
8. Dournon-Taurelle, Geneviève/Wright, John 1978. Les Guimbardes du Musée de l’Homme [Catalogue]. Institut d’Ethnologie. Paris. Passim p.
9. Ypey, Jaap 1976. Mondharpen. Amersfoort. uitg.: Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundige Bodemonderzoek [R.O.B.] - p. 209-231, in: Antiek, nr. 11 [1976/1977] - UFSIA: MAG – T 277:87
10. V.I.M.-Volumes, editor Frederick Crane – for overview click here: http://www.antropodium.nl/allVIMs.htm#oversightvim
11. Bachmann-Geiser, Brigitte 1981. Die Volksmusikinstrumente der Schweiz. Zürich. p. 38-40