Posted by Masakim on September 18, 2003
In Reply to: Jimmy the lock posted by James Briggs on September 18, 2003
: : : : We were watching a crime thriller, when one of the clues was that the 'perp' 'jimmied the lock'. OK, I know what that means, but when I asked my partner how the term originated, he knowledgeably informed me that the 'perp' use a 'jimmy bar' to break in.
: : : : Fine. So I asked him what a 'jimmy bar' was and why it was so named - and he gave me that embarrassed, drop kick, oops - wish I'd never spoken look, and I realised he had no idea what the term meant or where it came from.
: : : : So does anyone know, either how the term 'jimmy the lock' originated, or what a 'jimmy bar' is?
: : : : Thanks for any answers.
: : : Over here in the UK it's jemmy rather than jimmy. A jemmy/jimmy is a short crowbar. That's just their name - don't know why, although I expect there was a real or imaginary bad guy called Jimmy involved.
: : My book of Etymology says 'Jemmy: burglar's crowbar. XIX. dim. name of James'
: : Thus, Gerry was right.
: Whoops! Gary -- sory, sorry. Mea Culpa.
JEMMY. A crow. This instrument is much used by housebreakers. Sometimes called Jemmy Rook.
From _Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue_ by Captain Grose et al.
*jemmy* or *jimmy* is a burglar's small crowbar; in the British Empire, both forms are used, in the U.S.A. only the latter. But 'the States' also has the verb _jimmy_, 'to open (esp. a door) with such a crowbar'. Whether _jemmy_ or _jimmy_, noun or verb, these terms originally belonged to the language of the underworld; they are still slang. / From the pet-form of _James_; cf. the remarks at *billy*.
*billy* .... All the commonest font-names have, by their predominance, generated several common nouns; cf. bob, charley, cuthbert, doll, jack (also john), jane, jimmy, moll, nanny, tom, will.
From _Name into Word: Proper Names that Have Become Common Property_ by Eric Partridge