Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I recently learned about the origin of the name for an object familiar to most of us.

Jerry cans.

First, a quick side trip to acknowledge that The Jerry Cans are a band from Iqaluit. There is a link below if you are curious. I’ve heard they don’t bite.

The jerry cans I was referring to are the ubiquitous plastic gas containers. The kind I carry from the gas station down the road to my car, awaiting a fill-up to get me on my way again.

The Germans had stockpiled thousands of such metal cans in preparation for World War II. The British Army then captured some of these cans in North Africa from troops led by Field Marshal Rommel.

The British troops, so impressed with the usefulness of the cans, sent them back to England. They quickly started up production to meet their own war needs. The Brits started calling the tin cans Jerry cans, referring to the Allied name for German soldiers.

There is still more fun that I can wring from this adventure with words. A US division used 90,000 gallons each day. So recycling them became a big thing. Prisoners of war were used along with school children to get the empties back to the refuelling stations. The children were rewarded with a certificate signed by the Supreme Commander, Eisenhower.  Well done, kids. Now we give you a few cents for each beverage bottle you return.

Please give this a bit of a think. Do you secretly know the origin of certain words or expressions? To start us off, I’ll share my favourite. I watch movies produced all over the world. Netflix spends billions producing many of these. They have targeted audiences. A worldwide practice is that folks clink their glasses or touch the neck of their beer bottle with their drinking companions. This seems to cross nationalities and cultures. I was curious after seeing this pattern repeated so universally.

I learned from my search that the answer depends on where you are from. I should have guessed.

Here are a couple of the reasons. In Ireland, it’s to dispel evil spirits hidden in the drink. I love the play on words for that one.

Another is that pirates would try to poison their shipmates to have a smaller number to share the loot with. In those days, wooden mugs were used, and the clinking was outright banging, purposefully meant to slosh drink from one mug into the other. This would deter the sailors from poisoning any mug for fear of killing themselves.

Please share your favourites or start a new background story for a favoured word or saying.

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think below.

My thanks to Joel Stoppels for telling me about this bit of history.

Check out these Jerry Cans:

Photo by Hector Periquin on Unsplash

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2 thoughts on “Give Credit Where Credit is Due

  1. Patti+Dolman says:

    I enjoyed learning about the origin of the Jerry cans. The first saying that came to my mind was “knock on wood” but I had to look up the origin. It seems the pagans held a special relationship to trees as they believed they contained spirits. To knock on the tree would provide protection against evil spirits. I personally don’t use this phrase but I’ve heard it used many times by people who hope nothing bad comes from a situation.

    • glenn says:

      Interesting. Thanks. Coincidentally I was doing a bit of background work for a future Blog about trees. “Knock on Wood’ might just be the title I was looking for.

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