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Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases

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jalopy [Mar. 10th, 2008|10:55 pm]
Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases

word_ancestry

[gwoman]
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jalopy, n. [juh-lop-ee, jə-lŏp-ē]
-A lovely word to describe an old, run-down automobile, this word first appeared in the United States in the 1920's. Some early variants were gillopy, jaloppi, and jaloupy. Researchers have not been able to determine the precise origins of this word, but a theory is that it is derived from a non-Spanish pronunciation of Jalapa, Mexico. It seems that, during the 1920's, many decrepit automobiles were shipped from New Orleans to scrapyards in Jalapa. The theory is that some of the dock hands or crew members who did not speak English began naming these broken-down autos after their destination and the name eventually morphed into our current jalopy. During the 1950's, however, jalopy became a slang term equivalent to 'hot rod,' meaning a stylish and hip automobile.



Side note:
To the member who requested they got along swimmingly, I'm sorry but I can't find anything on it. I looked it up as a phrase as well as the adverb swimmingly and didn't find anything credible. I'm thinking maybe it has something to do with the fluidity a swimmer has in water relating to how easy it was for the people to get along. But that's just my hypothesis.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: kycoo
2008-03-11 07:39 am (UTC)
Ooh, I recently learned about this word in my US History class! I love it when things like this happen. :)

It's interesting how it meant a "stylish and hip automobile" in the 50's...
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 08:02 am (UTC)
how timely! and isn't it strange how a word's meaning can do a complete 180 in a matter of a few decades?
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[User Picture]From: namfle
2008-03-11 01:13 pm (UTC)
The power of sarcasm. I point to the word "bad" as a classic example. ;D

-elf-
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 05:29 pm (UTC)
excellent point! i never thought of it in that way before.
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From: (Anonymous)
2014-06-17 01:52 pm (UTC)

Kerouac and jalopy

In the novel "On the Road" (I'm reading right now) jalopy is mentioned at the beginning and as the story is set in the late 1940s (I think) I wonder if its hip car or running wreck in the book..., so I go on reading will maybe find out...
(I know a little late...)
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[User Picture]From: alex_askew
2008-03-11 01:20 pm (UTC)
I'm the one who requested "swimmingly." Thanks for looking!
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[User Picture]From: sonneta
2008-03-11 02:55 pm (UTC)
Online OED says: "Swimmingly" means "With easy smooth progress; smoothly and without impediment; with uninterrupted success or prosperity." It dates this adverb back to circa 1622.

However, the "get along (with)" part of the phrase, meaning "To agree, act, or live harmoniously together" dates back only to 1875.

As for putting the two together, OED does not have a reference (that I can find).
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[User Picture]From: omnipredation
2008-03-11 03:41 pm (UTC)
i guess this is a case of language and allegory doing that evolving-thing... i can basically understand how the phrase "got along swimmingly" came into being with the OED entry as a reference. it makes sense generally, but it's good to know the origin... smooth and easy progress!

too bad we don't have so much of that nowadays 'n stuff... heh. :)
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 05:33 pm (UTC)
it does make sense if you picture it, i agree. :)
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From: (Anonymous)
2017-06-13 11:43 pm (UTC)
It may be a variation of "going along swimmingly."
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 05:32 pm (UTC)
i knew you would come to the rescue with your OED subscription! thank you very much :) i'm so jealous. though i am seriously considering subscribing myself.
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[User Picture]From: sonneta
2008-03-11 06:29 pm (UTC)
I'm lucky, I get access through my grad school. You're welcome.
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[User Picture]From: booksaboutdrugs
2008-03-11 02:13 pm (UTC)
what about the word "reality"? I know I can look it up myself in the OED but i figured everyone else may get a kick out of it too.
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 05:33 pm (UTC)
haha added!
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[User Picture]From: omnipredation
2008-03-11 03:38 pm (UTC)
jalopy has always been one of those weird words that plagues me even in usage, since i had no idea whatsoever regarding its origins, but have employed it in its present context. it makes me think of "dilapidated," which seems to have gone out of fashion recently (having used it in papers and creative writing, i've been questioned several times as to its meaning and usage and am now curious as to how the term originated...)

but regarding swimmingly, sonneta seems to have it covered. it makes sense in context, even if the idea of how the phrase came into being may be considered questionable. :)


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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 05:35 pm (UTC)
they questioned you on the meaning of dilapidated? i'm really surprised. but i'll definitely add it our list :)
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From: (Anonymous)
2016-05-14 07:12 pm (UTC)

Jalopy Meaning Change

In the late 1940's and early '50's we retrieved old "jalopies" from junk yards, typically a 1932 Ford coupe, and rebuilt it with the latest 8 cylinder engine, new drive line, a newer (1950's) chassis and slick tires, etc. Even though it was now a new creation, it was still considered a "jalopy" by most of the folks because it had that old 1930's body.
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[User Picture]From: evrythgcnhapn
2008-03-11 07:11 pm (UTC)
i got a little reindeer for christmas one year and named him Jalopy coz it was such a neat word:P i did know what it was, bnut it was just too good not to use:P I think i got it from an Archie comic:P
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 07:31 pm (UTC)
that's where i first heard the word too! i was a huge fan of archie comics when i was younger. gosh, i think i still have drawers full of them.
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[User Picture]From: satora_chan
2008-03-11 09:02 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, I like how the word suddenly meant the exact opposite. Must've caused some cross-generational confusion.
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-11 11:59 pm (UTC)
right? like how some people in the states say "ill" to mean "awesome."
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[User Picture]From: shoshanaruth
2008-03-11 09:03 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I don't know that I've ever heard of jalopy before. But it is fun. :)
Can I request a word? I was wondering if there was a connection between the Latin per fidem(by my faith) and perfidy (treachery).
:(?
Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-12 12:00 am (UTC)
ooh good question. added!
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[User Picture]From: theidolhands
2008-03-12 02:14 am (UTC)
I love this group. Had to say that and also, that's one of my favorite words.

P.S. Your icon has also grown on me. :)
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[User Picture]From: gwoman
2008-03-12 06:01 am (UTC)
thank you!

has it really? i feel like it embodies me, if i were male and 2-d...
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[User Picture]From: theidolhands
2008-03-12 06:13 am (UTC)
Exactly. And yes it really has. That's officially my image of you and the comm, one that brings a smile.
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