Week of December 5, 2021

The Post About Nothing


That squarish, handled container used to carry gasoline and other liquids is called a “jerry can” because it was first designed in Germany, and “Jerry” was WWI British slang for German.


“Gerrymandering,” the practice of creating political districts which benefit one party, combines the last name of former Massachusetts Governor (and founding father and fifth Vice President) Elbridge Gerry and the word salamander. In 1812, Governor Gerry signed a bill creating an irregular Boston-area district that favored his own party, and which also had a shape that reminded observers of a dragon or mythical salamander. Shortly after, the term “gerrymander” was born, and this political practice has been debated and litigated ever since.


To “jerry-rig” means to build or repair something in an improvised, makeshift fashion. The term seems to be a variation of “jury-rig,” derived from the sailing term “jury-mast,” meaning “a temporary mast to replace one that has broken off.”


Long before the names were attached to classic cartoon characters, “Tom and Jerry” was a spiced and foamy cognac and rum drink, which itself was likely named after characters in an 1823 book by Pierce Egan.


“Jerry” can be short for an impressive number of names, including Jeremiah, Jerome, Jeremy, Gerald or (-eld), Jared, George, Jermaine, Jerrod, or Geraldine.


In the original “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, the mouse was unnamed or was named “Jinx,” according to co-creator William Hanna (the cat was “Jasper”). Only after a naming contest did they get to be “Tom and Jerry.”


One original Jerry (or close enough) got some large alcohol vessels named for him. Jeroboam was a biblical king of northern Israel, and the namesake of a Jeroboam, which is a bottle that can hold the volume of 4 regular wine bottles.