A friend and I were discussing the origin of the phrase “gin up,” meaning to concoct, devise, or improvise (a solution to a deficiency or other problem). For example: “We lacked a few ingredients that the recipe called for, so we just ginned up a little something from what we had on hand.”
My friend is hoping that the etymology is related to djinn, suggesting the magical nature of the improvised solution. I speculate that the phrase is related to engine. But I can’t find anything in the OED or the unabridged Webster’s that suggests an etymology – in fact, the expression is conspicuously absent from both references.
I always thought it referred to the idea that in prohibition people made gin often referred to as “bathtub” gin as an alchol to drink. It was made out whatever they could come up with and some outrageous looking distilleries. Think MAS*H
Hawkeye was making gin in the Swamp..
1.) gin, 'gin\ vb. to start again (with a hard G pronunciation) archaic: BEGIN
2.) gin, 'jin\ n. (mechanical device) a. snare or trap, b. a machine for raising heavy objects, c. cotton gin
3.) gin, 'jin\ *n.[/] (short for genever) bitter distilled alcohol origin the Netherlands
The last definition (3) of gin is used in the US to often describe alcohol that is homemade using a concoction of variable sources using often ingenious techniques.
*If the OP was referring to moving or raising an object, he could very well have been referring to the (2)nd definition of gin as I have heard it used this way a few times. I own a wench truck and the cable from the wench travel through a pulley suspended from an A-frame to lift the object. They are called “gin poles”. Usually it’ll be said “to wench something up” but I’ve heard some old timers say “gin it up”.
*The (1)st def. of gin would probably not IMHO be considered related to the OP. Although I have frequently heard folks use the term gin in conversation.
As I have very little experience with the card game gin, I will leave that definition to the experts.
Indeed. Pretty much any relatively complex device, fuel or electric power not required, could be an “engine”. “Engines of war” were catapults, among other things. My favorite example of the earlier meaning of engine is from Gulliver’s Travels, when the Lilliputians, itemizing the contents of his pockets, don’t know what to make of his pocket watch and refer to it as a “great Engine”.
I might have missed it, but I don’t think anyone here has mentioned the cotton gin yet.
Interesting. I’ve never encountered “gen up” that I remember. I imagine that makes it pretty exclusively English. But I don’t see anything in the definitions you cited that would make it a variant of gin up.