The Trombone

On July 4th I attended a neighborhood house party in Leesburg, Va. It was a festive gathering made even more festive by the presence of the Jefferson Street Strutters, an ensemble of folks who play New Orleans jazz in the style of the 1910s-1930s. While listening I began to wonder how a slide trombone works. Mobile phone in hand my question was quickly answered with a search. Later on, chatting with the trombone player, I got an even more detailed answer. Along the way, my etymological interests were also entertained. The word “trombone” comes to us via the Italian: trumpa – trumpet and one – large. Basically it means a large trumpet. It is good that our word comes from the Italian and not the middle English. Until the early 18th century, the English word for trombone was “sackbut.” It has its own linguistic evolution from the French, but it is just an unfortunate rendering in English.

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