Saturday, May 26, 2012

What a Jerk!

Jerks have been around a very long time. So has the word for them.

A “jerk” meant the stroke of a whip in the mid 1500s, and the term for the kind of rapid flick has stayed with us ever since. A Soda Jerk was so-named due to the fast pulling motion required to work the machine.

An involuntary spasmodic shudder became known as a jerk in the 1880s, leading to “jerky” movements. To employ such movements deliberately is to “jerk off,” especially if you are a man.

To be a jerk — a tedious person — comes from the implication that you are the kind of guy who masturbates a lot. One presumes the idea is that such a person is self-obsessed to the point of social ignorance. (In Great Britain, there is a direct correlation with the words “wank,” and “wanker,” although the insult is far greater.)

Jerky, on the other hand, also refers to thin slices of dried, often seasoned, preserved red meat. The word comes from the Quechua (Incan) word “charqui,” dried flesh.

A “jock” is an athletic man, from “jockstrap,” a protective supporter for the genitals often worn by athletes. Although jocks have long existed, the terminology is surprisingly recent — dating from the 1950s.

Jokes have been played for as long as people have had a sense of humor, which might go all the way back to the time when proto-humans were puddles of slime wobbling with laughter. The Romans called a joke a “iocus,” which became, via the French in the 1660s, a “joque,” a jest.

It is possible, then, for a jock who is a jerk to be jerkily jerking jocularly off while wearing a jockstrap, thinking about being jerked and eating jerky, as a joke.

 Backpacker’s Cookbook, Margaret Cross and Jean Fiske, 1974

 Also from this book: Date Bombs
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