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jury-rig

Printable Version Pronunciation: jU-ri-rig Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, transitive

Meaning: To improvise a temporary repair or substitute, to cobble together something from unlikely parts. (Jury-rigging in the sense of jury tampering is quite a different matter, a rather illegal one.)

Notes: Today's word is a compound verb, a form less prevalent than compound nouns and adjectives, but still a regular tool for creating new words (see also freeze-dry, vacuum-pack, field-test). Under the influence of jerry-build "make shoddily", some speakers are already converting today's word into jerry-rig. This process is called folk etymology, replacing a part of a word that makes no sense with a word that does (more or less).

In Play: Whenever you create something out of materials normally not used in making it, you are jury-rigging in today's sense of the word: "Thousands of Russian farmers jury-rigged satellite antennas out of scrap wood and chicken wire to watch Miss Russia in the Miss Universe Pageant." Yes, I just made that one up. Here is another I made up: "When Feldstein's dog lost his leg in a car accident, Feldstein jury-rigged a wooden leg on casters that works pretty well."

Word History: Today's Good Word was a gift of the British Navy centuries ago. It most probably came from the Old French word ajurie "help, assistance" from the verb aider "help, aid" (also the origin of the distress signal May Day). The original jury-rigging was a jury-mast, a temporary mast erected on a sailing ship when the original mast had broken. Old French aider came from Latin adiuvare "to help", made up of ad "to(ward)" + iuvare "to help". (No, Lew Jury is not the eponym of this word; Lew just suggested we run it in the Good Word series.)

Dr. Goodword, alphaDictionary.com

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