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Picture of wordmatic
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Hello--new here (OEDILF import.) I have a question about the word "chops." Recently, I've seen it used a lot in the phrase "earning one's chops," in the sense of "paying one's dues" or "learning the ropes." Yet the standard dictionaries all define it as either 1. a cut of meat or 2. particular or expert technique on the part of jazz musicians.

It would appear the secondary definition is migrating from jazz to everything and anything else. One article I saw said, "He earned his political chops in the last election campaign." I was wondering if this is happening only in American newspapers, magazines (and TV scripts), or has anyone in the UK seen it used that way there?
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I'm not form the UK, but I wish to welcome you to Bedlam - er, Wordcraft all the same!

I've heard the expression used in a slightly different way. I've heard one writer in particular say of a student, "she's got the chops, she just needs to..." He follows with what he sees needed to polish a piece. He seems to imply that the style is there, but the technique needs work.
 
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Picture of Richard English
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Welcome from me, too.

I have never heard this expression used in the UK, and, were I to hear it, would assume that it meant the same as "earning a crust" - that is, making a little money. Literally, enough to buy a crust of bread.


Richard English
 
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Another welcome from the UK!

Like RE, I've never heard the expression used here.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Picture of Caterwauller
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Hey! This one I've heard a lot, actually. I used to hang out with Jazz musicians back in my college days. Here is what I found at Big Bands Database which has a Jazz Lexicon:

quote:
Chops Originally, used by Black Hornplayers to describe the state of their false teeth or Lips. Generally speaking, it refers to the musician's technical skill.

Ex: Wow. That Ziggy Elman has great "chops".
Ex: My Chops is "beat" from all those high C's tonight.


*******
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.
~Dalai Lama
 
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Picture of arnie
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I have heard "chops" used to describe the area around person's mouth or jowls, as in "he licked his chops". The connection CW has found with a jazz musician's music and his lips makes a lot of sense. Presumably the use has extended to other instruments than trumpet, etc, as I've heard it used for a guitar riff.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Not to be confused with chophouse, chop logic, or muttonchops. Seems to be a term for the mouth, jowls, or jaws, and the skill set of a jazz musician.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Picture of jerry thomas
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Some folks say that in Chinese internet cafes you can get chop-sue-e-mail.
 
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I gather that one's "chops" is coming to mean one's credentials

I get several hundred hits on exprs like "earn your chops," "earn his chops", earning..." etc
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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quote:
Hello--new here (OEDILF import.)

Welcome, Wordmatic! Big Grin As I try to do with all wordcrafters on OEDILF, I will look at some of your limericks there.

I'm only familiar with the mouth references, like, "I'm going to hit you in the chops!"

[I don't really hear that too often. Wink]
 
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Thanks to all for your comments and kind words of welcome. DH, I also got as many hits when I Googled the phrase, and used in all sorts of places that had nothing to do with mouths, meat, or music.

Kalleh, she said, smiling sheepishly, if you look through my lims, you'll see that the reason I asked was that I had just used the term in a new submission (rhymes with "fops") and knew I was probably going to be challenged on it by all those WEs who are also musicians--even moreso if this usage didn't exist in the UK! So, I think I feel a rewrite coming on.

Wink
 
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quote: So, I think I feel a rewrite coming on.

Nah, spend the time here instead! Great to have you with us.
 
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quote:
I've seen it used a lot in the phrase "earning one's chops"
I recently saw a playbill in which the bio of one acteress said "she quickly learned her chops."

Is that a normal usage, or is the phrase supposed to be "earned one's chops"?
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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I thought it must have been a mistake until I googled "learned her chops." Then I came up with some sites that use the phrase (which I realize can mean nothing!), but this site made me wonder: "Davis is a true jazz vocalist who displays chops with pleasing vocal quality. Jenny learned her chops under the tutelage of renowned jazz vocalist, Beth Winter,..."

I suppose the site could have made the same mistake, but maybe people earn or learn their chops?
 
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An instrument is sometimes called an "ax", so it makes sense to call what musicians do with it "chops."

I'm pretty sure the term comes out of American jazz, but I don't know whether the most porper useage is one "earns" "learns" "flexes" "exercises" "develops" "practices" (or anything else) one's chops.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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quote:
Originally posted by jomercer:
An instrument is sometimes called an "ax",

So is this guy! http://www.emanuelax.com/
 
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Welcome, jomercer! See your PMs.
 
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quote:
An instrument is sometimes called an "ax",

An ax or an axe?


Richard English
 
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Picture of arnie
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quote:
An instrument is sometimes called an "ax"

I've only heard that term applied to guitars. Is it used for other instruments as well? Indeed, I've only heard it used for (electric) guitars used in rock and jazz. Would a Flamenco player or folk singer also refer to his guitar thusly?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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