Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In a Jam

Fiona asked about the phrase in a jam, meaning in a predicament, a difficult situation.

It seems pretty straightforward. A jam is the condition of being so tightly squeezed together that movement is impeded. There are traffic jams, log jams, jammed gears in a machine, and so on. The figurative meaning was established in the early 1890s.

Jamming is also used to describe blocking the signal of a communications device so that it ceases to be useful. In addition, it refers to an extemporaneous style of music; jam sessions are a distinctive feature of jazz.

Other words with the same spelling, but little other connection, include a preserve made from whole fruit, an article of clothing for children, and the hereditary title of certain Eastern princes and noblemen.

NOTE: Words to the Wise received a favorable review in Andrea McDougal’s Word Nerds Rejoice: Top 25 Blogs For Editing Geeks.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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