All I did was ask him if he wanted me to jerry rig his shower curtain, but he looked at me like I’d asked him something really inappropriate. It’s not the first time I’ve gotten confused or blank looks when I’ve used the term “jerry rig”, which is a shame, because I’m a very good jerry rigger.
I can fashion a rain jacket out of a cereal box or repair my car engine with a paperclip and a piece of used chewing gum. That’s what jerry rigging is, making makeshift repairs or creating contraptions out of whatever materials you have on hand. MacGyver was also a very good jerry rigger.
The origins of jerry rigging are debated. The term could could be a mutation of jury rigging, which in today’s lexicon, can be used with jerry rigging interchangeably. Jury rig has roots as a nautical term, referring to the replacement mast and yards used in an emergency. The term has been used since at least 1788. It is probable that jury comes from the Old French, “ajurie”, meaning relief or help.
Another theory is that the term jerry rigging is separate from jury rigging and actually comes from World War II. Apparently, American troops adopted the term to describe machines that were repaired with salvaged parts, left behind by retreating German soldiers (jerry being a pejorative term for Germans).
In any case, you should use it, to make MacGyver proud or just to see the looks on people’s faces.
Should you need inspiration, here are a few examples of jerry rigging as demonstrated by Angus MacGyver, fictional star of the action/adventure series, Macgyver:
- Plug a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate
- Fix a water pump with two half dollars
- Make a telescope out of a newspaper and a magnifying glass