The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I finally remembered to look up something that has bugged me literally for years.

What is the actual expression designating an improvised solution? If you've used scraps of electrical wire to strap down your latest IKEA purchase, have you jerry-rigged it? Jury-rigged it? Or, as I've heard from less-progressive workmen, have you n_-rigged it?

I always figured the second option was just an odd misuse of a known phrase to stand in for something misheard. And I feared that the first was a bowdlerization of the third, original term. Either way, I was always leery of the expression, however worded.

Well, apparently it's all OK. According to (citing a few other sites and the OED2), the middle phrase is the correct one. And it's nothing to do with how Mafioso get out of jail time - it's a nautical term, with the jury being a mast. The first one is, in fact, a deterioration of another expression, jerry-built, meaning shoddy construction (origins English, and unclear, but ca. 1865). And the last one is apparently wholly disreputable, yet another example of the poisonous legacy of race in America.

So: jury-rig a solution. Avoid that jerry-built house from Maronda Homes. And wash your mouth out with soap if something else slips your lips.


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