People are often inclined to break silly rules, for a variety of reasons. It is most evident in the case of pedestrians on road, where they tend to ignore traffic regulations for convenience’s sake. It is to mention these people the word jaywalking is used. It is a term that is perhaps not quite popular outside the United States. It is actually a word used to denote a pedestrian crossing the road or street without any regard to the traffic rules. For example, a person is said to be jaywalking if he or she is crossing the road when there is explicitly stated that crossing road is prohibited in that particular area. The term only evolved in the early 20th century, with the introduction of automobiles. It had its first citation in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1917. The promoters of automobile were instrumental in spreading the term widely, as they conceived the roads to be only for vehicles.
The origin of the word Jaywalking was in America. Contrary to a popular misconception, the term was not derived from the letter J, the shape of which jaywalkers were supposed to follow. Actually, jaywalker is a compound word, derived from ‘jay’ and ‘walk’. The term jay is a local slang used by the Americans to mention inexperienced, often stupid, persons. It was in use in late 19th century, mainly to denote the rural residents, who were considered by urban people to be rather dull and naive. With no great knowledge about the automobiles and not used to the traffic system in cities, these people were likely to get in front of a moving vehicle.
In 1910s and 1920s, the term took off as the result of the campaign by the motordom. By then, the roads were public places with right for everyone to walk, but with the increase in number of vehicles, accidents began to mount. It was to put the blame on the pedestrians for the accidents the ‘jaywalking’ campaign began. Motorists widely used the term jaywalker to ridicule inexperienced pedestrians. Even though protests rose against the derogatory reference, they failed to counter the campaign. The pedestrians even called the ridiculing drivers ‘jay-drivers’, but to no effect. Eventually it found its place in popular culture, with regular reference.
Jaywalking is perceived to be one of the major traffic problems in the United States. The newspapers often publish commentaries on the carelessness of the pedestrians in the areas with high motor vehicle density. The police department and others regularly run campaigns to discourage the practice of jaywalking.
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