The original meaning of Jack-o’-Lantern was night watchman. "Jack" was a term for any guy or fellow. A night watchman was a guy who would walk around carrying a lantern making sure all was safe. He was a Jack with a lantern. They were also called "Jack-a-lantern" and "Jack-with-the-Lantern".
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has the earliest written use of Jack-o’-Lantern in 1663:
"I am an Evening dark as Night, Jack-with-the-Lantern, bring a Light."
The current meaning of Jack-o-Lantern is: "A lantern made of the rind of a large turnip or a pumpkin, in which holes are cut to represent eyes, nose, and mouth; a turnip- or (in U.S.) pumpkin-lantern." (North England, Scotland, and U.S.) -From the OED
The earliest written usage of Jack-o-Lantern in its pumpkin/turnip form is from 1837 in Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales:
"Hide it (the red gemstone) under thy cloak, say’st thou? Why, it will gleam through the holes, and make thee look like a jack-o’lantern!"
Most places nowadays no longer have guys who go around with lanterns watching over a community. So we consider a Jack-o’-Lantern to be a pumpkin with a face cut out and a candle put inside it to light it up. In the US, we make them for Halloween.
This article was posted on Monday, November 1st, 2010 at 6:11 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Customs and Traditions, England, English, Halloween, Holidays Around the World, Jack-o'-Lantern, Languages, Scotland, United Kingdom, USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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