phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at


Posted by ESC on April 09, 2005

In Reply to: Jerry-built posted by Shane on April 07, 2005

: In reply to a really old thread.

: : : I read somewhere that the expression "jerry-built" referred to German (Jerry) products made shortly after WW1 when they were understandably poorly made. I wondered if anyone else had come across this explanation which is evidently incorrect as the expression is known to have been used since 1869 and seems to have other more convincing origins. Comments?
: I had thought it was related to Gerrymandering dating back to the 1812 Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry who crafted political districts to his suiting. So that Gerrymandering was linked to Gerry Rigging. Meaning to rig something to your liking, thought not necessarily correctly, the way the Governor did.

Some more theories, also from the archives:

JERRY-BUILT - "The cheap, flimsy constructs of a Mr. Jerry of the Jerry Bros. of Liverpool may have inspired the word 'jerry-built.' 'Jerry-built' could also be connected with the trembling, crumbling walls of Jerico; the prophet Jeremiah, because he foretold decay; the word 'jelly,' symbolizing the instability of such structures; or the Gypsy word 'gerry,' for 'excrement.' Still another theory suggests a corruption of 'jerry-mast,' a name sailors and shipbuilders gave to makeshift wooden masts midway through the last century. Jerry-masts or rigs derive their name from the French 'jour,' 'day,' indicating their temporary nature." From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

© 1997 – 2024 All rights reserved.