• jalopy •
Pronunciation: jê-lah-pee • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A clunker, junker, rattle-trap, a dilapidated car or other vehicle.
Notes: Not much has been done with this word. It was quite popular from the 1930s to 1960s. The Y is replaced by an I (i) in the plural: jalopies. Apparently, many people have driven a dilapidated car at one time, because it has a raft of synonyms. In addition to those in the Meaning above, we also hear hooptie, tin Lizzy, tin can, bucket of bolts, and rust bucket, among others.
In Play: In the 50s and 60s the word was not quite as pejorative because teenagers began buying jalopies and customizing them: "Danny, did you see what Rusty Carr did with his grandma's old jalopy? Wow! He turned it into a mean machine!" Unless they have been severely customized, though, you wouldn't want a jalopy: "Hey, Marvin, when are you going to trade in that old jalopy of yours for a car?"
Word History: Jalopy first made its way into print in a 1929 book by Gordon Hostetter and Thomas Beesley called It's a racket!. In this book Hostetter and Beesley defined jaloppi (as they spelled it) as "a cheap make of automobile; an automobile fit only for junking". Where these authors found the word or how it found its way into the English language remains a mystery. Suggestions that the name might have come from the name of the Mexican city, Jalapa, otherwise famous for its jalapeño peppers, are highly unlikely given the fact that the name of this city is pronounced [ha-la-pa] in Spanish. We simply don't know about this one. (We hope Annie Avery drives something better than a jalopy, because we are very grateful for her suggestion of today's Good Word.)