Date: Fri, 9 Jan 1998 04:31:10 EST


Subject: Kazoo

Before you throw this stupid little thing out (the connection of New

Year's and "zoo" is purely serendipitous), here are two items. The DICTIONARY

OF AMERICANISMS has 31 October 1884 and states "origin obscure."

This is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 26 September 1884, pg. 2, col. 3:

A Republican editor in announcing the invention of a new musical

instrument says it is called the "zazoo" because "it sounds like a

zazoological garden when all the animals are howling." If this comparison is

just we suppose the sessions of Mr. Clapp's assessment committee would remind

the editor of somebody playing on the zazoo.

This is from the Chicago Express, 4 September 1886, pg. 5, col. 6:

Smith, the "Kazoo" Inventor.

There is an enviable example of prosperity up in Union square. His name

is Smith, and he is getting rich rapidly out of a big restaurant called the

"Dairy Kitchen." It is conducted on the temperance plan, and a band of

skillful musicians discourses good light music during the afternoon and

evening. The place caught the tide of favor from the start. Smith made his

money to establish the business in a curious way. He is an inventive genius,

with a fondness for music. The latter element should have prevented his

creating the masterpiece of his life, but it did not.

Invention triumphed, and the result was the "kazoo," a musical

monstrosity that sounds somewhat like the song of a petulant tom cat. Smith

looked after its introduction to the world personally, and as he is expert in

advertising resources, he suceeded almost beyond belief. He took his horror

to Baltimore, and within a week the town was wild. The street boys were

blowing kazoos; of course, that would be expected; but the hotel clerks, the

dry goods clerks, the young men about town, and even the banjo-loving girls,

took the craze, and the sound of kazoos rent the air. They organized kazoo

bands, had kazoo excursions and kazoo dinner parties. It came near getting

into politics, and might have if Smith had stayed another week, He made

$11,000 clear within a year, and then settled down to be a caterer. Perhaps

his conscience smote him, and perhaps the craze ran out. If the latter, the

inventor wisely stood from under and escaped with his profits.--"Uncle Bill's"

New York Letter.

Kazoo web sites--none of which gives the etymology nor identifies