• jack •
jŠk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A common man or a knave. 2. A mechanical device for lifting a heavy object from below. 3. An electronic receptacle 4. A union flag (e.g. the Union Jack of Great Britain) 5. (Many, many more.)
Notes: This word has so many meanings, let's just focus on the first. John Bunyan wrote in Holy War (1682): "But Mr. Unbelief was a nimble Jack; him they never could lay hold of." So the word simply refers to an ordinary man in lumberjack, jack of all trades, and steeplejack. Elsewhere the meaning varies only slightly: cracker-jack "a first-rate jack", jumping jack, jack-in-the-box, jack-o'-lantern (originally, a night watchman), and jack-in-the-pulpit. This brings us to the phrase 'every man jack of them', which is simply an emphatic way to say, "every one of them".
In Play: Today's Good Word is still around in some dialects, so feel free to use it in yours: "You don't have to buy something from every jack who knocks on the door." You may, of course, use it as an emphatic referring to people: "Every man jack of them was huddled around the TV set watching the Super Bowl."
Word History: Today's Good Word in Middle English Jakke, borrowed from Old French Jacques, a term also used colloquially to refer to a peasant. The word is a reflex of Late Latin Iacobus, taken from Greek Iakob. The Greek word comes from Hebrew ya'aqob "(God-)protected" from an earlier yacqub, a form of 'aqaba "to follow, protect". Jacket may be of the same origin. It does come from Old French jaquet, the diminutive of jaque "a short jacket", which might come from Jacques "peasant", mentioned above. Somehow along the way Jack was associated with John and became a nickname for John.
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