How Did "Jones" Come to Mean "Craving"?

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Have you ever had a "Love Jones," or even a "Basketball Jones"? Do you occasionally jones for a “hot now” Krispy Kreme donut (only to find that store closed)? Did you know that when you use that terminology you are actually indulging in some (gasp) drug slang?

In the early 1960s, a “jones” was a craving, all right, but strictly a craving for heroin. Clever junkies had been using “Mr. Jones” as a code name for the drug since it became popular with Beatniks in the late 1950s. “I’m looking for Mr. Jones” was a subtle way to score when you were new in town and didn’t yet have a regular dealer. The term evolved in the next few years so that eventually when an addict was alternately sweating and shivering while in need of a fix, he was described as “jonesing.” In the early 1970s, “jones” had expanded to describe any sort of severe longing or craving, whether for food or a relationship or a shiny new sports car.

This isn’t the first time narcotics addiction terminology has entered our everyday jargon; the word “yen” (as in “She has a real yen for men”) started out as a corruption of the 1920s-era Cantonese phrase “yin-yan,” or “opium craving.”

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March 26, 2013 - 9:30am
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