About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The use of Jay as a slang for country bumpkin

Blue Jays, like other corvids, are highly curious and are considered intelligent birds. They tend to live socially in large family groups to allow long developmental periods for their young to mature. They also possess large forebrains which may be why they display greater cognitive abilities. That is why I find strange that in the late 1800’s, calling someone a Jay was slang in North America for a gullible, rustic, bumpkin, or provincial person.

There is a Jay in Europe that is just as noisy as our Blue Jay and may be the origin of jay becoming an insulting term for a foolish chattering person back in the 1500s. When slower paced country cousins came to the fast moving big city and gawked and got in the way of other pedestrians when they visited, insults were sometimes thrown.

The use of “jay-walking” as a term of ridicule against pedestrians crossing roads took off in the 1920s when cars increased in numbers. Car companies used campaigns to blame pedestrians for getting in the way of fast moving cars and redefined streets as places where pedestrians did not belong.

According to Wikipedia, the legal rule was originally that "all persons have an equal right in the highway, and that in exercising the right each shall take due care not to injure other users of the way." In time, however, streets became the province of motorized traffic, both practically and legally. Automobile industries in the USA took up the cause of labeling and scorning “jay-walkers” in the 1910s and early 1920s; a counter-campaign to name and disapprove of "jay drivers" failed.

Thank you Lynn for sending this wonderful photo of a clever looking Blue Jay.

Related Articles:
- Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/w4vRPP
- Blue Jays aren't blue http://bit.ly/roVPVX
- What Feeder Do You Recommend for Blue Jays? http://bit.ly/txd8ja
- Blue Jay Fun Facts http://goo.gl/wJgMmJ
- Do birds know winter is coming? http://goo.gl/EilIa6
- Why Blue Jays go bald in the fall http://goo.gl/gAX3x 

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