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The E-Sylum:  Volume 3, Number 18, April 30, 2000, Article 8

DON'T JOSH ME 

   The recent surveys indicating that many Americans believe that 
   the new "Golden Dollar" actually contains gold is reminiscent of 
   the "Racketeer Nickel", the 1883 five-cent piece without the 
   word "cents", which was sometimes gold-plated and passed off 
   as a five-dollar gold piece. 

   An ANA "Money Talks" transcript by Mark Van Winkle features 
   the best-known of the "racketeers":  "In one famous court case, 
   a deaf-mute named Josh Tatum was accused of passing off 
   many of these gold-plated or "Racketeer" nickels.  But he was 
   able to go free, since no one could ever successfully testify 
   against him.  As a deaf-mute, he never actually called the coins 
   anything . . . he merely gave them to clerks, and politely took 
   whatever change they gave him." 

   Some numismatic references state that the story of Josh Tatum 
   is the origin of the English word "josh", as in "You're joshing 
   me."    But my favorite online dictionary, Merriam-Webster 
   (http://www.m-w.com/)  has this entry for the word: 

      Josh:  Etymology: origin unknown.  Date: 1852 
      transitive senses : to tease good-naturedly : KID 
      intransitive senses : to engage in banter : JOKE 

   Given that this citation predates the 1883 coin by over 30 years, 
   it seems unlikely that Mr. Tatum is actually the original source of 
   the  word. 

   In none of the references I've come across in my library is 
   there a citation for the Boston trial of Mr. Tatum.   How can 
   we verify any of this without consulting original source 
   materials?   Does anyone know of any contemporary 
   newspaper articles discussing the trial? 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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