Posted: 20 February 2011 05:16 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  3133
Joined  2007-01-30

Little did I know when I was firing these (long ago, on manouevres with the British Army) that the term originally meant a sort of Heath Robinson-type (Americans, please substitute Rube Goldberg) musical instrument.

OED takes up the tale.

bazooka, n.

Etymology:  apparently < bazoo n.

orig. U.S.

1. (See quot. 1935.)

1935 News-week 14 Dec. 29/2 Burns peps up his lengthy yarns with periodic outbursts on his own invention, the bazooka, a trombone-like instrument confected of two gas-pipes and a whisky funnel.
1945 N. & Q. 19 May 215/2 Each broadcast Mr. Burns renders a bazooka solo.
1956 R. Nettel Seven Cent. Pop. Song xiv. 229 During the troubles of 1926 a group of miners‥formed themselves into a band. The instruments they used were called in the musical trade ‘kazoos’ and by the miners themselves ‘bazoukas’.

2. A tubular anti-tank rocket-launcher.

1943 War Illustr. 15 Oct. 297 (caption) American anti-tank rocket thrower‥, known as the ‘bazooka’.

And bazoo?

bazoo, n.

Etymology:  Origin unknown; compare Dutch bazuin trumpet.

U.S. slang.

= kazoo n.; also transf., mouth.

1877 J. R. Bartlett Dict. Americanisms (ed. 4) 49 Blowin’ his bazoo, gasconade; braggadocio. Tennessee.

And on to:

kazoo, n.

Forms:  Also gazoo, gazooka

Etymology:  Of U.S. origin; apparently with some reference to the sound

(See quot. 1938) Now also made of plastic or metal and played as a jazz instrument.

1884 in Lisbon (Dakota) Star 31 Oct., A kazoo is an instrument invented to give pleasure and satisfaction to the small boy.

1938 Oxf. Compan. Music 583/2 Mirliton, the French name for what English children call (or used to call) ‘Tommy Talker’, or ‘kazoo’. It is a tube with a membrane at each end and two holes in the side, near the two ends, into one of which holes one sings in one’s natural voice, the tone issuing in a caricatural fashion.

I know of the kazoo but had no idea it was perhaps a cater-cousin of bazooka. I’ll end with this wonderful 1927 cite for kazoo.

1927 Bulletin 24 Aug., A new musical atrocity is reported to be coming to Scotland. It is the Gazoo. This instrument of ear-torture is simply an adaptation of the primitive ‘comb and tissue paper’.