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Shade tree mechanic

Posted by Jody Dunville on September 30, 2008 at 09:54

I have often heard the phrase "shade tree mechanic" used during my time as an automotive enthusiast. Often it is used to refer to someone who takes unconventional or "trashy" approaches to finding creative solutions to problems. I have also heard it used as a kind of joke; to call someone a "shade tree mechanic" carries a connotation that implies they are somehow lewd or lascivious. Can anyone shed some light on the actual meaning of this phrase by detailing its etymology and explaining to me once and for all why it is such a regularly laughable turn of speech to automotive enthusiasts?