Word Of The Week: Jackleg

This week’s word is “jackleg.”

When I hear a brand new word, I try to guess its meaning. Sometimes, more often than I’d care to admit, the results are hilarious.

The first thing that popped into my brain on hearing jackleg? “Jackass.” Then, I think “bootleg.” After finding out the meaning I sort of see a connection between the three. Do you?

Jackleg (jak-leg):
1. Lacking skill or training; incompetent. Used especially of lawyers or preachers.
2. Unscrupulous or dishonest.
3. Makeshift; temporary.
1. An unskilled or unscrupulous itinerant worker.
2. A strikebreaker.

The Oxford English Dictionary pegs the term as a US invention, dates its first appearance in print to 1850. It has been suggested that “jackleg” might be related to the 18th century British term “jack-a-legs,” meaning a simple folding knife with a broad, square blade of the sort used by unskilled carpenters who lacked sophisticated tools. In extended use, “jack-a-legs” appeared in the US as the adjective “jack-legged” or “jakeleg,” meaning “unskilled.”

SYNONYMS: primitive, self-taught; amateurish, dilettante, inexperienced, inexpert, unprofessional, unskilled; uninitiated, unprepared, unqualified, unschooled, untaught, untrained, untutored

From Urban Dictionary:

Half assed or unprofessional. Not authorized or done while drunk. Someone who does a jack-leg job is called a jack.
Usage: Look at that jack-leg job he did fixing the washing machine. The pipes aren’t even screwed in all the way.

Know a strange word? Let’s hear it.

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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Posted in Fun with words, trivia

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