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Why do we call a coin-operated machine that plays music a jukebox?

We're about to get a bit gamey. No offense is intended to anyone.

"Juke" derives from Gullah dialect, spoken by people of African descent living in the Southeastern United States. "Juke joints" [slang], were originally "disorderly" houses, places of ill repute, a characterization that had nothing to do with the quality of their housekeeping. Eventually the term also applied to roadhouses that just served liquor.

In the roadhouses juke organs, coin-operated hurdy-gurdies, played music when you deposited a nickel. When similar machines playing records for a nickel were introduced during the swing era, they were called jukeboxes for their resemblance to the juke organs. But try to operate them today with a nickel and the juke will be on you.

(Source: A DICTIONARY OF AMERICANISMS edited by Mitford M. Mathews)

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A Jukebox Saturday Night Production 1998-2008
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