Juju. It seems to have inserted itself violently into my current working vocabulary sometime in the last year or so. "Weird juju" or "bad juju" seem to be the sole phrases in which it's used. And I'm not the only one; it pops up everywhere in conversation. I got to wondering what it meant really (I know that in my mind it means sort of like voodoo or some hint of dire magic, but really what did it mean) and where did it come from and how long has it been a current slang?
I had an odd experience about 10 years ago where I encountered the phrase "sea change." Wow, thought I, what a lovely and creative way to express something that has altered profoundly. What a unique, original way to express it! And then--I encountered the phrase somewhere else. And somewhere else again. And in yet another place. And I heard it on the radio. And someone used it at work. And it was in magazines, fiction, newspapers. Everywhere. As if the world had undergone a sea change in its vocabulary overnight. But, in fact, I learned, the phrase had been in common use for a very, very long time, and most anyone I asked was familiar with it. Somehow for 40 years I had managed to completely avoid noticing a phrase that probably appears at least once in every novel or magazine ever published.
I tell you that story to tell you that juju has not only been around for longer than the last year or so, and that it is in fact in the dictionary, and to boot dates back to at least 1894 in American English. It originated in the languages of west Africa, probably related to the Hausa word jùju meaning fetish--as in the charm type of fetish. Its modern meaning is synonymous with charm, voodoo, fetish, or the supernatural power ascribed to such things.
Sooooo has the word been in hiding for all these years and is just coming into popular use? Or have I been sea changed again?