Ever notice that the term “jerry rig” seems to be used interchangeably to mean either a clever fix using materials on hand or something built shoddily that will never last? There’s a reason: it poorly combines two separate terms that came into being very differently.
- “Jury rigging” is actually a nautical term once used by sailors for using whatever’s on hand to keep the ship in repair, most often a reference to a replacement or makeshift mast – it has nothing to do with jury tampering.
- “Jerry built” is most likely a reference to an actual person at one time, implying a handyman or contractor who builds things on the cheap that either won’t last or will be prone to failure.
The similarity in the terms and likely misunderstanding of their context eventually led to “jerry rigging” (and its more colorful slang bastardizations). Whatever the origin, jerry rigging is now the accepted term that can be used either way, but I wouldn’t trust that unless I jerry riggged it myself.
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