Sep 28, 2013

Wordology, Jaywalking

 For those not familiar with this term, such as many people outside of the United States, jaywalking means a pedestrian crosses a street without regard to traffic regulations.

For instance, depending on where one lives, it may be against the law to cross a street where there is a crosswalk nearby, but the person chooses not to use it. Alternatively even at a crosswalk, it is often illegal to cross if there is a “Don’t Walk” signal flashing.

Contrary to popular belief, the term jaywalking does not derive from the shape of the letter J. It comes from the fact that “Jay” used to be a generic term for someone who was dull, rube, unsophisticated, poor, or a simpleton.

To Jaywalk was to be stupid by crossing the street in an unsafe place or way, or some person visiting the city who was not familiar with the rules of the road for pedestrians in an urban environment. As stated in the January 25, 1937 New York Times, “In many streets like Oxford Street, for instance, the jaywalker wanders complacently in the very middle of the roadway as if it was a country lane.”