Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jury-rig or Jerry-rig?

A jury-rigged modern ocean racer
Jury rigging refers to makeshift repairs or temporary contrivances, made with only the tools and materials that happen to be on hand.  Originally a nautical term, on sailing ships a jury rig is a replacement mast and yards improvised in case of damage or loss of the original mast.  The phrase "jury rigged" has been in use since at least 1788.  There are several theories about the origin of this usage of "jury": 1) from the Latin adjutare ("to aid") via Old French ajurie ("help or relief"), 2) a corruption of joury mast—i.e. a mast for the day, a temporary mast, being a spare used for the nonce when the mast has been carried away, and 3) a contraction in the nautical tradition for injury.  While ships typically carried a number of spare parts (e.g., items such as topmasts), the lower masts, at up to one meter in diameter, were too large to carry spares.  So a jury mast could be various things.  Ships always carried a variety of spare sails, so rigging the jury mast once erected was mostly a matter of selecting appropriate size.  Contemporary drawings and paintings show a wide variety of jury rigs, attesting to the creativity of sailors faced with the need to save their ships.  Although ships were observed to perform reasonably well under jury rig, the rig was quite a bit weaker than the original, and the ship's first priority was normally to steer for the nearest friendly port and get replacement masts.  Another source of this term comes from WWII; in this case, a pun-like play on words. Advancing Allied forces plundering abandoned German bases found a use for emptied metal gasoline cans, nicknamed "Jerry Cans" after the slang term for German. Engineers and mechanics, enduring major supply shortages to the front lines, would jerry-rig the metal from the canisters for use in repairing a damaged hull, fuselage, or any easily fabricated equipment part.  A false etymology is that "Jerry-rigged" was employed by World War II British troops to refer to the German use of scavenged parts to keep vehicles and weapons functional, from the use of "Jerry" as a pejorative term for German soldiers.  The phrase "jerry-built" has a separate origin and implies shoddy workmanship not necessarily of a temporary nature.  "Jiggered" is derived from "jerry-rigged". Although this has come into more common usage, it is still a pejorative term used to denote a poor quality short-lasting fix.  To "MacGyver" something is to rig up something in a hurry to make an item work, from the U.S. television show of the same name and its title character, who would often use such homemade rigs. (Wikipedia)

The Good News:  Stephane, a French sailing ace friend of mine actually jury-rigged a mast for our little sailboat and sailed home after the original broke in a gail!