In early 20th Century Midwest slang, a “jay” was a “rube”, meaning either an unintelligent person or someone who was inexperienced and naive. When a pedestrian ignored street signs, he was referred to as a ‘jaywalker.’ The idea behind this was that someone from the country who was unfamiliar with urban life (along with cars and traffic) didn’t understand how not to get in the way of traffic. So it used to be that calling someone a jaywalker was akin to calling them a hick or a country bumpkin.
When cars were still new, pedestrians had the right of way all the time on the streets; there were no jaywalking laws. Automobile enthusiasts hoped to change that by spreading the term “jaywalking” as a way to shame pedestrians who got in their way when they were driving.
19 Interesting Facts