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Jury rigging

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Model showing a method for jury-rigging a rudder

In maritime transport and sailing, jury rigging[1] is making temporary makeshift running repairs with only the tools and materials on board. It originates from sail-powered boats and ships. Jury-rigging can be applied to any part of a ship; be it its super-structure (hull, decks), propulsion systems (mast, sails, rigging, engine, transmission, propeller), or controls (helm, rudder, centreboard, daggerboards, rigging).

Similarly, a jury mast is a replacement mast after a dismasting.[2] If necessary, a yard would also be fashioned and stayed to allow a watercraft to resume making way.


Three variations of the jury mast knot.

A sail-powered boat may carry a limited amount of repair materials, from which some form of jury-rig can be fashioned. Additionally, anything salvageable, such as a spar or spinnaker pole, could be adapted to carry a makeshift sail.

Ships typically carried a selection of spare parts such as topmasts. However, due to their much larger size, at up to 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) in diameter, the lower masts were too large to carry as spares. Example jury-rig configurations include:

  • A spare topmast
  • The main boom of a brig
  • Replacing the foremast with the mizzenmast (mentioned in William N. Brady's The Kedge Anchor, or Young Sailors' Assistant, 1852)
  • The bowsprit set upright and tied to the stump of the original mast.

The jury mast knot may provide anchor points for securing makeshift stays and shrouds to support a jury mast, although there is differing evidence of the knot's actual historical use.[3][4][5]

Jury-rigs are not limited to sail-powered boats. Any unpowered watercraft can carry jury sail. A rudder, tiller, or any other component can be jury-rigged by improvising a repair out of materials at hand.[1]

Similar terms[edit]

  • Jerry-built things, which are things 'built unsubstantially of bad materials', has a separate unknown etymology. It is probably linked to earlier pejorative uses of the word jerry, attested as early as 1721, and may have been influenced by jury-rigged.[6][7][8] The blended terms jerry rigging and jerry-rigged are also common.[9]
  • Afro engineering (short for African engineering)[10] or nigger-rigging[11] is a fix that is temporary, done quickly, technically improperly, or without attention to or care for detail. It can also be shoddy, second-rate workmanship, with whatever available materials.[12] Nigger-rigging originated in the 1950s United States;[10] the term was euphemized as afro engineering in the 1970s[11][13] and later again as ghetto rigging. The terms have been used in the U.S. auto mechanic industry to describe quick makeshift repairs.[14] These phrases have largely fallen out of common usage due to their colloquial nature, but are occasionally used within the African-American community.[15][16][17][18]
  • Another American expression is redneck technology.[19]
  • To MacGyver (or MacGyverize) something is to rig up something in a hurry using materials at hand, from the title character of the American television show of the same name, who specialized in such improvisation stunts.[20]
  • In New Zealand, having a Number 8 wire mentality means to have the ability to make or repair something using any materials at hand, such as standard farm fencing wire.[21]
  • In British slang, bodge and bodging refer to doing a job serviceably but inelegantly using whatever tools and materials are at hand; the term derives from bodging, for expedient woodturning using unseasoned, green wood (especially branches recently removed from a nearby tree).
  • The chiefly American term do-it-yourself (DIY) relatedly refers to creating, repairing, or modifying things without professional or expert assistance.
  • Similar concepts in other languages include: jugaad in Hindi and jugaar in Urdu, urawaza (裏技) in Japanese, tapullo in Genoese dialect, tǔ fǎ (土法) in Chinese, Trick 17 in German, desenrascar in Portuguese an gambiarra in Brazilian Portuguese, système D in French, jua kali in Swahili. Several equivalent terms in South Africa are n boer maak 'n plan in Afrikaans, izenzele in Zulu, iketsetse in Sotho, and itirele in Tswana.[22]

See also[edit]

  • Kludge – Umaintainable solution
  • Repurposing – Using object intended for one purpose in alternative way


  1. ^ a b "jury-rigged". www.Lexico.com. Oxford English Dictionary. 2022. Archived from the original on 23 January 2022. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  2. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary, Volume V, H-K. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1933. p. 637, corrected reprinting 1966.
  3. ^ Hamel, Charles (August 2006) [September 2005]. "Investigations – nœud de capelage or jury rig knot". Charles.Hamel.free.fr. Charles Hamel. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  4. ^ Hamel, Charles (August 2006) [September 2005]. "Jury rig investigation – nœud de capelage jury rig mast knot is it only ornamental or utilitarian (with secondary evolution to ornamental)?". Charles.Hamel.free.fr. Charles Hamel. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  5. ^ Hamel, Charles (August 2006) [September 2005]. "Jury rig investigation 2 – nœud de capelage jury rig mast knot is it only ornamental or utilitarian (with secondary evolution to ornamental)?". Charles.Hamel.free.fr. Charles Hamel. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  6. ^ Israel, Mark (29 September 1997). "jerry-built" / "jury-rigged". www.Yaelf.com. alt.usage.english Word Origins FAQ. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  7. ^ William Morris; Mary Morris (1988). Morris Dictionary of Words and Phrase Origins, 2nd Edition. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 321–322.
  8. ^ Wilton, Dave. "jerry-built / jury rig". www.WordOrigins.org. Word Origins.org. Archived from the original on 19 September 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  9. ^ "'Jury-rigged' vs. 'jerry-rigged'". Dictionary.com. 2017. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  10. ^ a b Green, Jonathan (2005). Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (2 ed.). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 10, African engineering. ISBN 978-0-304-36636-1 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ a b Green, Jonathan (2005). Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (2 ed.). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 1003, nigger rig n.; nigger rig v.; nigger rigged. ISBN 978-0-304-36636-1 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Partridge, Eric (2006). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English: J-Z. Taylor & Francis. p. 1370, nigger-rig. ISBN 978-0-415-25938-5 – via Google Books.
  13. ^ Jackson, Shirley A. (2015). Routledge International Handbook of Race, Class, and Gender. Routledge. Intersections of discourse: Racetalk and class talk. ISBN 978-0-415-63271-3 – via Google Books. 'I can't even nigger-rig it.' ... 'The proper terminology is Afro-engineering.' Here, blackness is demarcated in a classed way. 'Nigger-rigging' is a quick, temporary fix to a problem, but it is a solution that is second rate to the 'right' way. ... declares that this type of knowledge is racialized and classed in a way that deems it inherently inferior. ... implies that black ingenuity and innovation as sub-par and second rate to white ingenuity and innovation. ... By responding indirectly ... consents to this classed usage of the word 'nigger'. Not only does this trivialize whether the slur's usage is inappropriate in the first place, but it equates 'nigger-rigging' with 'Afro-engineering'. ... denotes these terms as synonymous, thus imposing an even more classed meaning to this racial slur.
  14. ^ Poteet, Jim; Poteet, Lewis (1992). Car & Motorcycle Slang. toExcel an imprint of iUniverse.com Inc. p. 14, Afro engineering. ISBN 978-0-595-01080-6 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Eisiminger, Sterling K. (1991). The Consequence of Error and Other Language Essays. P. Lang. p. 327. ISBN 978-0-82041-472-0 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Eisiminger, Sterling (1979). Aman, Reinhold (ed.). "A Glossary of Ethnic Slurs in American English". Maledicta. 3 (2). Maledicta Press: 167. Afro engineering
  17. ^ Green, Jonathon (1996). Words Apart: The Language of Prejudice. Kyle Cathie. pp. 59. ISBN 978-1-85626-216-3.
  18. ^ Droney, Damien (2014). "Ironies of Laboratory Work during Ghana's Second Age of Optimism". Cultural Anthropology. 29 (2). p. 363–384, Ironic Africa. doi:10.14506/ca29.2.10.
  19. ^ See, e.g.: Kelly, Kevin (2 August 2006). "Street Use: Redneck Technology". KK.org. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  20. ^ Rich, John (2006). Warm Up the Snake: a Hollywood Memoir. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. p. 167. ISBN 9780472115785. OCLC 67240539.
  21. ^ "Time to 'break free' of No 8 wire mentality". www.Stuff.co.nz. New Zealand: Stuff. 26 July 2012.
  22. ^ Campbell, Angus Donald (2017). "Lay Designers: Grassroots Innovation for Appropriate Change" (PDF). Massachusetts Institute of Technology – via AngusDonaldCampbell.com.

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