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I always thought that this derived from WWII when the Germans (aka Jerrys) were effectively cut off from their supply lines. They had to make due with what they had, hence they Jerry-rigged solutions to problems.

  • No. This is from the OED - That jerry-builder and jerry-built originated in some way from the name Jerry is probable; but the statement made in a letter to the newspapers in Jan. 1884, that they commemorate the name of a building firm on the Mersey, has on investigation not been confirmed. The earliest example yet found is that of jerry-built 1869. SemperBlotto 11:45, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

From entry (anon contributor):

sorry this isn't PC but I grew up in post WWII era of fading anti-Japanese propaganda. I had the sense that "jerry" was slang for "Japanese" as it was general propaganda that "made in Japan" was synonymous with "poorly made, of low quality".

@SemperBlotto: Care to give a citation backing up your claim? Even if "jerry-built" was used to refer to a certain building firm's work, it certainly wouldn't have been intended to imply shoddily made (its current meaning) - quite the opposite, I'd expect. Its etymology should explain how its meaning came to be reversed. The most logical explanation is that the original word never came into common use at all, and the present word is in fact a derivation of the word "jerry-rig".--Clone53421 16:26, 28 October 2009 (UTC)


Here is the source for the new edits: jerry-built: 1869, English dialect jerry "bad, defective," perhaps a pejorative use of the male nickname Jerry (a popular form of Jeremy), or from nautical slang jury "temporary," which came to be used of all sorts of makeshift and inferior objects (see jury (adj.)). Source: 21:12, 10 January 2011 (UTC)