Jalopy, such a funny word, a word you don’t hear much any more. Jalopy is defined as an old, dilapidated motor vehicle, especially an automobile. The word jalopy was once common but is now somewhat archaic. Jalopy seems to have replaced flivver (1910), which in the early decades of the twentieth century also simply meant “a failure”. A 1929 definition of jalopy reads as follows: “a cheap make of automobile; an automobile fit only for junking”.
While we were returning from a quick trip to New York we stopped at the above antique shop on the main street through Downsville. After perusing the front of the shop which has mostly furniture and other vintage household items the owner told us to tour around the back and in the next building.
Much to our surprise we found some jalopies in various states of ill-repair.
In the next building were a few more vintage autos. In British slang, the terms clunker, old rust bucket or simply bucket are used to refer to decrepit cars but the favored term is old banger, often shortened to banger. The origin of the word is unknown, but could refer to the older poorly maintained vehicles’ tendency to back-fire.
Then we came upon my favorite: a turquoise farm truck. I don’t know the make or model. The way I tell cars apart is by their color or shape. I’m not very good at makes and models especially since new cars often have nondescript colors like tannish-pewter, etc.
In America we have more slang words for all-but-junked autos: clunker, old rust bucket, bucket, beater and the more urban hooptie, which gained some popularity from the humorous song My hooptie by Sir Mix-a-Lot. (I’ve never heard of a hooptie but I like it and might start using it.) Other early terms for a wreck of a car included heap, tin Lizzy (1915) and crate (1927), which probably derived from the WWI pilots’ slang for an old, slow and unreliable airplane.
Our friends have a motor car that has been fully refurbished: a 1926 Isotta Fraschini handmade limousine which was originally owned by their grandparents. This car could hardly be called a jalopy.
The case on the back is a fully fitted
picnic déjeuner sur l’herbe trunk with porcelain dinnerware and fine silver flatware.
Would you care to go motoring?
Sidebar: Remembering these old cars have no air conditioning I think I’ll stick with my 2006 red hatchback.