"Jaywalk" or "Jump the gun" at a crosswalk ?

wanabee

Senior Member
Japanese
Dear all,

If you're waiting at a pedestrian crossing, and witness a man begin crossing before the signal changes to "Walk", how would you describe his behavior?

1. If he has started crossing much earlier than the signal changes, I'd say "He's jaywalking."
2. If he has stepped off the curb right before the signal changes, I guess "He's jumped the gun." might be a suitable expression.

I would appreciate any comments.
 
  • rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    In Britain, pedestrians don't pay much attention to signals so I personally regard jaywalk as rather AE. (In addition, British signals don't say Walk. They show a little green man.)
    But apart from any of that, Jump the gun doesn't sound right in this context. It means, of course, something like take action prematurely. I'd use it in a more important context than crossing the road. And it implies to me that other people may rightly disapprove of the action taken.
    1) He bought 100 bottles of wine for the office party before we'd got approval from the finance department. I'm afraid he rather jumped the gun.
    2) He started work on the project before he'd got authorisation from management. He jumped the gun there.
    I'd probably say something like He started to cross the road before the little green man appeared. I agree this is a bit of a mouthful compared to jaywalked or even jumped the gun.
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    rhitagawr is right. I think jaywalking is mainly AE.

    Interestingly, the OED give the origin as " jay: d. A stupid or silly person; a simpleton. Also attrib. or as adj. , dull, unsophisticated; inferior, poor (U.S. colloq.)."
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, rhitagawr.
    Your detalied explanation about how to use "jump the gun" is very instructive. I'll memorize your sample sentences.
    And I appreciate your later edit too. Yes, that's a little long but describing his action quite well, and I like it.
    By the way, in my country (Japan), we also have just "a green man", not "Walk" sign. :)
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    rhitagawr is right. I think jaywalking is mainly AE.

    Interestingly, the OED give the origin as " jay: d. A stupid or silly person; a simpleton. Also attrib. or as adj. , dull, unsophisticated; inferior, poor (U.S. colloq.)."
    Thank you very much, PaulQ.
    Then would you call it "ignore the red light" or similar, if you had to mention it?

    Jaywalking is something a silly person would do...I see.:)
     

    Yankee_NLPer

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    Jump the gun means starting too soon, to begin an activity too soon.

    Jaywalking is walking in the street, but not at the corner where the crosswalk is. Jaywalkers cross somewhere in the middle of the block, or are walking in the street instead of using the sidewalk. "Jaywalking" is usually used only if there is a sidewalk to walk on... usually in a town or city where there are sidewalks and crosswalks.

    Jaywalking does not apply to crosssing at the corner in a crosswalk.
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, PaulQ and Yankee_NLPer.

    So jaywalkers are those who are not walking on the sidewalk or crosswalk that they must walk on, and it does not mean to cross the street at a pedestrian crossing by ignoring the red light as in my sentence.

    And jump the gun is rejected again. :)
     

    Yankee_NLPer

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    If you're waiting at a pedestrian crossing, and witness a man begin crossing before the signal changes to "Walk", how would you describe his behavior?

    2. If he has stepped off the curb right before the signal changes, I guess "He's jumped the gun." might be a suitable expression.


    People in NYC can be killed if they jump the gun and cross against the light. This sounds like the correct answer to me!
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, Yankee_NLPer.
    I see. Crossing against the light in NYC is serious enough to justify the use of "jump the gun"! I can imagine that.:)
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    If you're waiting at a pedestrian crossing, and witness a man begin crossing before the signal changes to "Walk", how would you describe his behavior?

    2. If he has stepped off the curb right before the signal changes, I guess "He's jumped the gun." might be a suitable expression.


    People in NYC can be killed if they jump the gun and cross against the light. This sounds like the correct answer to me!
    Jump the gun refers to any activity that is started too soon, so crossing before the light changes is just one example of such activity.

    A sidelight: In New York, where people walk much more than elsewhere in the US, we often make this calculation if we are walking on the sidewalk of a street we intend to cross at the next opportunity: the light will have changed by the time we reach the next corner, so it's better to jaywalk (cross in the middle of the block) now, weaving between the standing cars, than to go to the corner and twiddle our thumbs until the light for the cross street changes back to green.
     

    Yankee_NLPer

    Senior Member
    English-USA
    wannabee,

    The term "jump the gun" is from the world of racing, such as a car race, bike race, running race...etc., where a "starter" fires a pistol to signal the start of the race. There is no degree of severity associated to this term. If a person jumps the gun in a race, they are not eliminated from the race. There might be a specific rule, that if they do it more than 3 times they might be eliminated, but usually not.

    I only meant to imply that jumping the gun could have serious implications. Have you ever seen the mess it makes at the start of a bike race?
     

    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'd say jumped the lights - but only when referring to a driver etc. and not to a pedestrian. If I said jaywalk, I'd be referring to a pedestrian on the road generally and not just at the lights.
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, Yankee_NLPer.

    I have not seen the mess of a bike race myself.
    You live in New York, which is undoubtedly the busiest city in the world, and you say "jumping the gun" seems to be a right word for ignoring the red light in NYC.
    On the other hand, rhitagawr from the UK said "jumping the gun" doesn't seem to be suitable for cutting the red light at a crossroad.
    What I meant in post #10 was that although native English speakers appear to agree "jump the gun" should be used for rather serious or important matters, when it comes to crossing against the red light, one native speaker says it's all right to use the phrase, while the other native speaker doesn't.
    Therefore I concluded in my mind that you, a New Yorker, approve the use of jump the gun in cases of pedestrians crossing against the red light, considering the possible serious fatal consequences it could have.

    That regional, and also personal, difference is actually something I find very interesting.

    I think I've understood your messages clearly all the way, and I appreciate your advice so much.
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    A sidelight: In New York, where people walk much more than elsewhere in the US, we often make this calculation if we are walking on the sidewalk of a street we intend to cross at the next opportunity: the light will have changed by the time we reach the next corner, so it's better to jaywalk (cross in the middle of the block) now, weaving between the standing cars, than to go to the corner and twiddle our thumbs until the light for the cross street changes back to green.
    Thank you very much, exgerman.
    Same here.
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    I'd say jumped the lights - but only when referring to a driver etc. and not to a pedestrian. If I said jaywalk, I'd be referring to a pedestrian on the road generally and not just at the lights.
    I see. Thank you very much, rhitagawr.
    I recklessly jumped the lights and finally got caught by the police.
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    When a pedestrian is at a corner, and crosses when the light is red, he is crossing against the light.
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    When a pedestrian is at a corner, and crosses when the light is red, he is crossing against the light.
    Thank you very much, exgerman.

    cross against the light :tick:
    cross against the red light :cross:
    cut the red light :cross:
     
    Last edited:

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Our traffic lights are European style like yours in Japan, wanabee, and I'd say:

    cross on the red man
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Our traffic lights are European style like yours in Japan, wanabee, and I'd say:

    cross on the red man
    Thank you very much, natkretep.
    "Cross on the red man" sounds quite a rude act to the red man, but somehow sounds humourous too.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I suppose it could if you interpret it that way. But the red man is the conventional way of referring to the red man being on at traffic light junctions. Children are told, "Don't cross now - the red man's on!' or 'Don't cross on the red man!'
     

    wanabee

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Yes, I suppose it could if you interpret it that way. But the red man is the conventional way of referring to the red man being on at traffic light junctions. Children are told, "Don't cross now - the red man's on!' or 'Don't cross on the red man!'
    I see. Thank you very much, natkretep.
    I've learned a lot.
     
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