[APG Public List] "jug distemper"

LBoswell laboswell at rogers.com
Mon Oct 4 21:10:52 MDT 2010

One slang use of jug is for 'jail or prison'.  Distempers were any disease 
condition, including mental "derangement".  Distempers also were rather 
toxic paint mixtures with lead and lime in them (though also referred to a 
type of milk paint).

I'd lean towards something related to alcohol.

Wonder if it could refer to a death from drinking a bad batch of homemade 
alcohol.  Home stills were still the more common source of whiskey in that 
period, and what killed people wasn't the whiskey itself, but other things 
in the still itself that got into the 'brew'.  Or what was added to the mix. 
Such whiskey was commonly stored in jugs, 'jug of whiskey'.  And given the 
use of the term distemper to refer to mental derangement, which probably 
would be a symptom of a poisoning resulting from drinking a contaminated, 
homemade product...


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Ray Beere Johnson II
  To: APG Posting
  Sent: Monday, October 04, 2010 9:55 PM
  Subject: Re: [APG Public List] "jug distemper"

  On Oct 4, 2010, at 1:19 PM, Maria Hopper wrote:

  > Anyone ever hear of "Jug distemper" listed as a cause of death in an
  > 1836 NJ diary? Couldn't find in in the archaic medical terms sights. Ree

       I'm not sure if I've run across this exact term before. I certainly 
don't have a source and am too rushed to hunt one down. (I got two different 
results - four total - for "jug distemper" - all in Google Books - and 
neither of these results offered any hint of a meaning, even in context.)
       But, if I were reading a diary from this period, and read the term 
"jug distemper", in the context of a cause of death, my working assumption 
would be that the person "drank themselves to death". However, I don't think 
this is a medical term, or suggests a precise medical cause. It would be 
more colloquial in nature, I think. That assumption is borne out by the fact 
it only appears in Google Books four times - three of those being duplicated 
_and_ an obvious list of colloquialisms,  and the additional hit including 
"jug, distemper" is clearly not using this phrase.
       Of course, a careful reading of the diary may reveal previous entries 
which state _or suggest_ this person was drinking or drunk on various 
occasions. Or it might not, depending on how important the individual was in 
the life of the diarist, or how circumspect they usually tended to be.
                          Ray Beere Johnson II

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