Posted by Bob on May 01, 2006
In Reply to: a real cracker jack posted by Bob on April 30, 2006
: : : : When someone says WOw he/she is a real cracker jack! What exactly does that mean.
: : : I was surprised to find that crackerjack is not Australian in origin. It's listed on a number of Australian slang sites as Aussie - but Baker's entry in the Australian Language has it as a US import. He says: "It matters not one whit that Australia should hear and absorb American slang ... but it is .. fundamental ... that children [should not] befoul every precept of grammar with slovenly distortions." Gosh. The Collins Australian Dictionary lists it meaning 1.excellent 2. A person or thing of exceptional quality or ability. They have the origin as C20 "From CRACK (first-class) + jack (man)". Real means genuine, but, if the person speaking was Australian, it would be more likely that "real" was being used as an intensifier i.e. the person is not just a crackerjack, but is very much a crackerjack. Pamela
: : For some reason I thought that the "wow" in your question might have implied sexual appreciation, so I did a search of Australian sites, and the most common use is referring to occasions rather than people (e.g. the upcoming game is sure to be a real crackerjack). I looked at some of the sites and didn't find it used to mean attractive. Also, "crackerjack" is commonly one word here, but sometimes written as two. As I said, its US in origin, so I'll leave the final word to the "befoulers" of our pure tongue. pamela
: As American as the Ferris Wheel, both of which were introduced at the Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. For a brief history of the confection, see http://www.crackerjack.com/history.php
: If, by the way, you ever want to read a real crackerjack page-turner of a history book, read "Devil in the White City." It intermingles the history of the Columbian exposition and the story of a serial killer who had a Sweeney Todd-like operation working down the street from it. Great read.
Since the Crackerjack history site admits that the confection was admired as a "real crackerjack," then the word is older that the junk food. One dictionary speculates that it's from "crack" "expert," as in a crack shot, and "jack" as in "a man," "every man jack," "jack of all trades," etc. Sounds credible.