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Posted by ESC on January 20, 2001

In Reply to: Jaywalking posted by R. Berg on January 19, 2001

: : I'm wondering what the origin of the phrase J-walking is. Can anyone tell me.

: American Heritage Dictionary defines "jaywalk" as "To cross a street illegally or recklessly" and says it comes from "jay" (newcomer). "Jay" is traced back through Middle English to Old French to Late Latin "gaius" and "gaia."

JAYWALKING - "dates back to the early part of the century, when 'jay' was a popular slang term meaning 'countrified' or 'rustic.' A 'jay' was pretty much the same as a 'rube' and was so used by George M. Cohan in the lyrics of one of his most famous songs, 'Forty-five Minutes from Broadway.' A farmer, strange to the ways of the city and perhaps frightened by the newfangled automobiles churning down the streets at fantastic speeds up to fifteen or twenty miles an hour, might have been expected to cross the street in an erratic fashion, without paying too much attention to signals. Hence, 'jaywalking.'" From the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).