Green’s Dictionary of Slang

jay n.1

also jaybird
[SE jay (Garrulus glandarius), a bird noted, inter alia, for its noisiness and bright colouring, and its boorishness towards other birds]

1. a cheeky chatterer, thus a gossip.

[UK]Skelton Garlande or Chapelet of Laurell 1262: For the gyse nowadays Of sum jangelyng jays Is to discommende That they cannot amende.
[UK]Sam Sly 2 June 4/2: Oh! have you heard the row of late / Between two jays, who could not wait / A reasonable decent time / To get rid of their daughters fine!
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 101: With that Sir Peter [...] cuts adrift on the railroad business. That made the boss kind of sick at first. [...] But there wasn’t any shuttin’ the old jay off.

2. a showy woman, a prostitute [later use is US, mostly black].

[UK]Shakespeare Merry Wives of Windsor III iii: We’ll teach him to know turtles from jays.
[UK]Shakespeare Cymbeline III iv: Some jay of Italy, Whose mother was her painting, hath betray’d him.
Ford Broken Heart II i: How they flutter, Wagtails and jays together.
[UK]Satirist (London) 7 Aug. 141/2: A jay...Lady Gwydyr.
[US]M.G. Hayden ‘Terms Of Disparagement’ in DN IV:iii 197: jay, a simple, frivolous person. ‘Isn’t she a jay? She doesn’t act like a mother at all.’.
[US](con. 1880s) S. Longstreet Pedlocks (1971) 73: No, Madam King, that jaybird, doesn’t give that kind of service.’ ‘Don’t knock. Some of my best friends are madams.’.

3. (US campus) a person who does something disagreeable or foolish.

[US]S. Crane Maggie, a Girl of the Streets (2001) 36: I’ll kill deh jay! Dat’s what I’ll do! I’ll kill deh jay!
[US]E.H. Babbitt ‘College Words and Phrases’ in DN II:i 43: jay, n. A person who does something disagreeable or foolish.
[UK]‘Doss Chiderdoss’ ‘The Sweetshop Girl’ Sporting Times 5 Mar. 1/4: As far as I can size it up, she is no piecan, / It’s the dude who gives her presents who’s the Jay.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 25 May 11/3: He’s a bundle needs some cleanin’ / For he’ dirty anyway, / And he are a lively jay-bird, / Living in a swagger way,.
[US]Coshocton (OH) Trib. 23 Jan. 2/3: Nowadays we all believe in ashooting laws at every ‘jay.’.

4. (orig. US, also J) a rustic, a simpleton, a novice, a newcomer; however note juggins n. (1), esp. for UK cites from late 19C.

[US]Daily L.A. Herald 13 Aug. 2/3: He would with the peerless pair by calling them ‘jays’ [...] or ‘ranks,’ or perhaps ‘hams’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 Feb. 22/3: The Jay selected should, if possible, be a stout, prosperous, credulous old buck, with two or more chins, and a rich, jingling walk.
[UK] ‘’Arry on His Critics’ in Punch 17 Dec. 280/1: He isn’t no J, that’s a moral.
[UK]Shields Dly Gaz. 24 Dec. 6/5: You are a nice old jay to talk about telling the truth, you are.
[UK]‘Dagonet’ ‘The Rondeau of the Knock’ in Referee 20 Apr. 7: Stripped of his plumes a poor denuded J / He took the knock!
[UK]Sporting Times 7 Mar. 1/3: But I happened to meet with a first class J / [...] / I was on him at easy range.
[UK]E.E. Rogers [perf. Marie Lloyd] G’arn Away 🎵 Just because I’m a flimy girl yer takes me for a Jay.
[US]St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) 3 Dec. 17/7: [A] ‘jay’ [is] synonymous with farmer and ‘gilly’ .
[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 18 Jan. 4/1: Lord Arthur is a howling jay / So say all of us / And in that hat he looks as if / He’s just fell off a bus.
[UK]Binstead & Wells Pink ’Un and Pelican 192: Certainly he threw one instantaneous glance at The Partner [...] but it was all too quick for the ‘jay’s’ eyes.
[UK]H.B. Norris [perf. Vesta Tilley] Burlington Bertie 🎵 Burlington Bertie’s the latest young jay.
[US]Ade Forty Modern Fables 226: [The] City Grafter decided that he would go out among the Jays and try to scare up two or three Green Wrappers for his rapidly diminishing Roll.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 25 Sept. 4/7: And hopes the chorus clyners who attract the gilded jay / Will find the steps to Sheol steep and greasy.
[UK]Illus. Police News 30 Dec. 6/4: I’m sorry to say, I’ve been had for a ‘jay,’ / Which, translated, would signify fool.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 18 Feb. 8/6: Well, this Jay I was remarking, / He do make the money move.
[UK]E. Pugh City Of The World 238: When I’m there I can’t think straight, and that makes me look a jay.
[US]Van Loan ‘Easy Picking’ in Taking the Count 298: It was hard work to conceal his contempt for these ‘small-town jays.’.
[US]F.P. Adams So Much Velvet 55: ‘I think you’re a hick and a jay!’ I don’t care a cuss what you think.
[US]R.F. Adams Cowboy Lingo 197: A rustic was referred to as a ‘sunpecked jay’.
[US]W.E. Wilson Wabash 187: Dunn, the historian [...] says that ‘hoosier’ was a slang word once used in the South to denote a ‘jay’ or ‘hayseed’.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 110/1: Jay. [...] 2. Variant of John or Square-John.
[US](con. 1930s) N. Algren ‘The Last Carousel’ from Playboy in Texas Stories (1995) 139: That’s the way we flap the jays.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 193: Unintelligent synonyms for hick include: booby, clown, jay, loon, lout, swede, and yokel.

In compounds

jay town (n.) (also jayville) [sense 4 above + SE town/-ville sfx1 ]

(US) a small town; also attrib.

Fort Wayne Sentinel (IN) 13 Nov. 3/4: A insolent Hebrew individual who contemptuously spoke of ‘this Jay town’.
[US]Sun (NY) 27Mar. 7/1: In a poker game I sat one night and thought I had a cinch / With a countryman who lives at Jayville.
[UK]Referee 25 Nov. in Ware (1909) 159/2: A brother-journalist who has spent some years in the United States has written explaining to me the meaning of a ‘jay town’ – term alleged to have been used by Mrs Kendal in describing San Francisco. A jay town is a country town. A ‘jay’ or a ‘yapp’ is the American equivalent of an English yokel or country bumpkin.
[US]J. London ‘And ’Frisco Kid Came Back’ in High School Aegis X (4 Nov.) 2–4: I struck a jay town on de C.B. and Q. jerk an’ got hoodooed.
[US]Ade Fables in Sl. (1902) 14: Moral: Never Live in a Jay Town.
[US]R. McCardell Conversations of a Chorus Girl 25: [Ch. heading] An Experience With a Jay-Town Mayor.
[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) (1906) 191: After a vision of appealing to anyone in a ‘jay’ town for aid Flossie hailed him as an angel.
[US]‘O. Henry’ ‘Babes in the Jungle’ in Strictly Business (1915) 38: I’ve got this Jay-ville-near-Tarrytown correctly estimated.
[US]S. Lewis Our Mr Wrenn (1936) 35: Two confidence men fooled one of those terrible little jay towns.
[US]S. Ford Torchy, Private Sec. 225: It’s no trick at all to go into the average Rube village [...] and get ’em thrilled with the notion of being connected by trolley with Jaytown.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 287: At present, they are visiting the Son back in the Jay Town which gave them a Start.
[US]O.O. McIntyre White Light Nights 9: This is hard-boiled New York. In truth, as soft as soap; [...] It is ‘Jaytown-on-the-Hudson’.
[US]Wood & Goddard Dict. Amer. Sl.