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Which is the Calamity Jane: the Jane who causes the calamity or the Jane who predicts it?

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Answer: the Jane who predicts it

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a prophet of disaster is a Calamity Jane. The name was coined as a nickname for Martha Jane Burke, an American marksperson.

According to the Life and Adventures of Calamity Jane (By Herself)

"After that campaign I returned to Fort Sanders, Wyoming, [and] remained there until spring of 1872, when we were ordered out to the Muscle Shell or Nursey Pursey Indian outbreak.

In that war, Generals Custer, Miles, Terry and Crook were all engaged. This campaign lasted until fall of 1873. It was during this campaign that I was christened Calamity Jane.

It was on Goose Creek, Wyoming, where the town of Sheridan is now located. Capt. Egan was in command of the Post. We were ordered out to quell an uprising of the Indians, and were out for several days, had numerous skirmishes during which six of the soldiers were killed and several severely wounded.

When on returning to the Post we were ambushed about a mile and a half from our destination. When fired upon Capt. Egan was shot.

I was riding in advance and on hearing the firing turned in my saddle and saw the Captain reeling in his saddle as though about to fall.

I turned my horse and galloped back with all haste to his side and got there in time to catch him as he was falling.

I lifted him onto my horse in front of me and succeeded in getting him safely to the Fort. Capt. Egan on recovering, laughingly said: "I name you Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains."

I have borne that name up to the present time."

[Mootguy: I have no idea and have been able to find no source that explains or tries to explain how the denotation "prophet of disaster" eventually became attached to Calamity Jane's name. Perhaps the "Calamity" part led English speakers to naturally gravitate towards a usage that made the phrase more meaningful.]


My Webster's New World Dictionary lists only the proper name, with no denotation or connotation. I've never heard it used as a synonym for "Cassandra," which I thought had held that ground unchallenged for a few thousand years. So I wonder how widespread the usage you report is.

[Mootguy: All MooT questions are base on definitions derived from the Concise Oxford Dictionary.]
dassori at

You might want to check into the history of the old west as well; while your rendition of the coining of "Calamity Jane" may have substance, [Mootguy: The passage was written by Calamity Jane herself - have you got a better source?] it is equally true that Calamity Jane was a diseased carrying woman that infected many men in her day; it was my understanding from historical texts and references to such, that that was inasmuch a reason for being called Calamity Jane as her wild west adventures. [Mootguy: What is your source?] I urge you to check some of the historical facts. There was also a show on A&E or history channel recently that subordinated these thoughts; something to do with the Wild West and sexual practices of the women there.
willisl at

Hmmm! I don't know about this suspiciously folky etymology. [Mootguy: It was written by Calamity Jane. She IS the authority on this etymology.] I'm almost old enough to have ridden with Calamity Jane, and for as long as I've been aware of the term, a Calamity Jane is someone who is attended or accompanied by... calamity, whether causing it or not.
jffriesen at

In reference to Willis's letter about Calamity Jane being so-named because she "was a disease-carrying woman that infected many men": I believe he's getting her confused with Chlamydia Jane.

Her presence at high-school parties in my neck of the woods was indeed both an accurate predictor AND a cause of calamity.
jacko at

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