"Other terms commonly associated with the jook house or juke joint include 'roadhouse,' 'honky-tonk,' 'hole in the wall' and 'chock house'- which refers to a very potent form of home brew. Barrelhouse, defined as a 'cheap drinking house,' refers to serving liquor out of barrels and selling it by the cup and to a type of makeshift bar with a plank set across two barrels" (Juke Joints and Jubilee5).

Linguistic scholars have made attempts to trace the derivation of the term "jook" or "juke." Interestingly enough, there may be some evidence that this etymology parallels the outlaw reputation jook joints acquired in "good society." Lorenzo Turner identifies the roots of the term in the Gullah word "juk," which means infamous and disorderly. He traces the Gullah from its West African roots, in a Wolof word "jug," meaning to lead a disorderly life, and a Banbara word "jugu" meaning a wicked, violent, or naughty person (195). Scholars have also suggested several European lineages for the term "jook" or "juke," though this theory is generally less accepted than the theory of West African derivation: "a quick survey of European terms yields the French word "jouer" meaning to play, and several Scottish terms: "jouk" meaning either to hide, evade and play truant, or a place of retreat or shelter and "jookerie" which means to trick or swindle" (Juke Joints and Jubilee5-6).

Will McGuire's "Note on Jook," mentions the possibility of a Bahamian or Haitian root for the word. The Haitian, he argues, would have derived from the Old French, as later scholars have also suggested. He considers the possibility of the term being a survival from Old or Middle English as well, and then identifies the modern Scotch term "jouk," as did the authors of Juke Joints and Jubilee, published in the 1990s. His publication predates Lorenzo Turner's book by more than 10 years. Other than a reference to the article in the Oxford English Dictionary definition of jook, I have found no reference to McGuire's theory on the etymology of the word. Though this is not surprising, (in the sense that the Florida Review, where the article was published, was a student publication), it does leave one guessing as to where he got his sources on the roots of the term, especially when major works like Turner's had not yet been published. His Scottish theory does have a reference to a work from American Speech, but his theories on creole dialects have no citations.

The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition, 1989), which attributes the etymology of the term to both the Gullah and Wolof roots, defines the term as a "roadhouse or brothel; spec. a cheap roadside establishment providing food and drinks, and music for dancing." It attributes the reference to prostitution in part to a passage from a 1956 publication called Real Jazz, by S. Longstreet (xviii. 151); "Juke from juke box came from juke joint- which was once a whorehouse." Evidentally, jook (or juke) joints are still conceived of as transgressive or marginal spaces.


Juliet Gorman, May 2001


You have two choices in moving on:

Have you read up  on the history of  how jooks have  been talked about  in public discourse yet?

If you have, then you might want to figure out how all this translates into Marion Post Wolcott's photos of Florida jook joints?


Keep in mind:

Have you familiarized yourself with Belle Glade, the area where Marion Post Wolcott took the jook photos?