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John Larrysson's Column:The Prefix Jack

【明報專訊】Normally, Jack is an old Anglo-French boy's name. However in England, jack became a general label meaning any common man. In this way it loses its capitalisation. This use of jack is similar to the use of the name Tommy for a British soldier and a Joe or GI Joe for an American soldier. The phrase every man jack means everyone who is an ordinary working class man. The common man in a deck of playing cards is called a jack.

Food associated with working class men can be named jack. Examples include jack or applejack, which is apple brandy and is cheaper and more lower class than French grape brandy and so suitable for the common man. Flapjacks are a workman's pancakes. Usually flapjacks are flat, round and made of wheat flour, milk and eggs; in some places they are made with oats and butter. Some dried fish and dried cheeses are also called jack.

Certain plants and animals use the jack- prefix. These include the jackass, jack-rabbit, jacks (UK male hares — females are jills), jackdaw and so on. Plants include jack-in-the-pulpit, jackpine and jackfruit. There are too many other less common examples to list here.

Tools normally used by common male servants are often called jacks, such as electrical connections, a soldier's jackboot, a powered hammer or hydraulic jack. Other examples include tools for lifting a car or removing work boots. A workman's pocket knife is a jackknife, instead of the smaller simple penknife carried by gentlemen. A short flag pole is a jackstaff and flags flown from them are jacks. There are many historical uses of jack for certain jobs and tools no longer in use, or just used in some areas. There are far too many to list here.

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