What’s the origin of the term "jaywalking"?


According to Adam Ruins Everything, the word “jay” was an offensive pejorative term meaning something like “dirty hillbilly”.

That matches with what I had heard, except that my source (whatever it was :o) didn’t mention the pejorative nature; equating it to “hick” or “country bumpkin.”

Much the way Idaho folks refer to 1J (Jefferson County) drivers. :dubious:

Merriam-Webster is probably the most authoritative.

What? You mean Adam oversimplified and exaggerated the facts in his quest to Ruin Everything? Say it ain’t so!

To be honest, though, I never saw the appeal of the huge chaotic mess of streetcars, pedestrians, and vehicles that occupied city streets before the advent of the motorcar. And most modern automobiles are barely capable of driving slow enough to safely share the road. But maybe that’s just my modern car-centric sensibilities talking.
Powers &8^]

99% Invisible also did an episode and article on this, how the term was coined by the automotive industry to vilify pedestrians as part of the push to making urban areas the congested mess of cars they are today at the expense of mass transit and healthy walking habits.

The term was NOT coined by the automotive industry. Most of the industry made their push in the 1920s.

I know it was just a joke at the end, but it cannot go unchallenged: Horses and buggies in 1927??!?

The way the staff report uses it is really dumb, giving me an image of horses and buggies being backed into a tight parking spot while traffic waits for them. But horses hauling carts lasted for an amazingly long time even in cities. They became increasingly minor, obviously, but a few stayed around for decades. They were brought back in a small way during WWII, when tire and gas rationing limited auto use.

Okay, but … buggies???

And_to_Think_That_I_Saw_It_on_Mulberry_Street Dr Seuss, 1937:

80 years ago now, but the street was so boring that all he saw was a horse and cart.

Personally, the last time I saw a horse and cart in the street (a milk cart) was in the early 1980’s.

Yes, cart. Cart. NOT a buggy.

Does “buggy” simply not conjure up the same image for everyone else that it does for me? :confused:

You mean those things that still are found on roads all over Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. today? Those buggies?

Well, milk wagon, not cart.

And sort of. “Buggy” is an American term (spring cart or wagonette ?), and when I was thinking about horses on the street that I’ve seen, I was thinking of Melbourne, so I was mentally translating, and slipped up (mistranslated.) Melbourne CBD had relatively little horse drawn passenger transport in 1927.

Wikipedia tells me that the last license for a Hansom Cab in London was relinquished in 1947. Probably earlier in NYC, because America took to cars faster.

Not necessarily. I think you could still get horse drawn rides through Central Park in NYC later than that. And, if so, they would have licensed them.

I think the defining element of buggy is “small”. How big are the central-park carriages?

The OED says “[a] light horse-drawn vehicle for one or two people”.

No, no, no. Boston seemed to be meant in the article, and Boston is not Amish country. Nor is it Central Park. He meant two buggies parked on the street as if everyone parked their buggies in the street in 1927. I’m not buying it.