souped up jitney

yunker

New Member
English Australian
Hi
Does anyone know what Chuck Berry was referring to as a Jitney in the songs "You Cant Catch Me" and "Goes To Show You Never Can Tell"? All I can find is that its a bus I doubt he meant that.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Welcome, yunker. :)

    We'll need more context to give you an answer. I'll give it this time; you can the next time you post. ;)

    You Can't Catch Me is a song about someone who is driving a brand new car. He is very proud of it.
    Here is are the lines relevant to your question:

    New Jersey Turnpike in the wee wee hours
    I was rollin' slowly 'cause of drizzlin' showers
    Here come a flat-top, he was movin' up with me
    Then come wavin' by me in a little' old souped-up jitney.​

    Then he speeds up and the police catch him for speeding.

    In this context, jitney does mean a small bus. Our dictionary gives this meaning for jitney:

    N. Amer. informal a small bus carrying passengers for a low fare.

    Sometimes a jitney is a well-equipped small bus. However, at other times a jitney is a van that is being used as a small bus, and is not in very good shape.

    As this thread says, (souped-up)
    "Souped up" means modified and enhanced to make it more powerful.
    So a shabby little jitney that has been modified for speed passes him in his fancy new car.

    Added: Cross-posted with JulianStuart.
     

    yunker

    New Member
    English Australian
    Thanks
    but I am looking for what he meant by a "jitney". I have looked the word up and everything I found refers to a small type of bus. I think Chuck Berry would not be referring to a bus but some other type of vehicle probably a hot rod of some type.
     

    yunker

    New Member
    English Australian
    Thanks that is a big help. I thought it may be a hot rod but you have explained it very well many thanks again
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    The new-car driver is annoyed because he's being passed by a small bus. That's the point.

    Edit: Posted seconds after you were satisfied with Cagey's Comprehensive Answer. So, as an added benefit, I'll show you a Philippines jeepney (their version of a jitney). They're really quite elaborate and every one different.
     
    Last edited:

    DPJ

    New Member
    UK
    English- UK
    Thanks
    but I am looking for what he meant by a "jitney". I have looked the word up and everything I found refers to a small type of bus. I think Chuck Berry would not be referring to a bus but some other type of vehicle probably a hot rod of some type.
    I am inclined to agree with this, although I have no evidence to back it up.

    In You Never Can Tell ('C'est La Vie' ) Chuck Berry sings

    They bought a souped-up jitney, it was a cherry red `53
    And drove it down to New Orleans to celebrate their anniversary

    I feel the cherry red '53 was a Chevrolet series 3100 half-ton truck. As a new member I can't post links - but it's not hard to find pictures of cherry red '53 3100s.

    I can't see why, from the song context it would have been a share taxi, so I feel the term 'jitney' may have also been used in the past to refer to a pick-up truck.
     
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    pwmeek

    Senior Member
    English - American
    From the OED:

    Jitney was originally slang for a nickel or 5-cent piece.

    THe first use for a vehicle was jitney bus or jitney omnubus a small bus, which carried passengers for hire with a 5 cent fare. By association with the low fare and poor condition of these busses it came to mean anything cheap or dilapidated.

    Jitney (or jitney-bus) later came to mean unlicensed and following no formal route, but going where the current passengers wish to go. This use is still common in less-developed countries, probably introduced by American soldiers.

    It was, at one time (maybe 1940s to 1950s), also used to describe an inexpensive or dilapidated car which a teen-ager or young person might drive, perhaps in modified condition. It did NOT mean a pickup truck. This slang usage had nearly faded when I was a teenager (1956 et seq.), but perhaps held on a bit longer in the American South. A souped-up jitney would be an older car into which a much larger motor had been installed. For similar, see lyrics or youtube for "Hot Rod Lincoln". (I especially like the version by Commander Cody.)
     

    Rikohio

    New Member
    English
    Hi
    Does anyone know what Chuck Berry was referring to as a Jitney in the songs "You Cant Catch Me" and "Goes To Show You Never Can Tell"? All I can find is that its a bus I doubt he meant that.
    Jitney as I understand it from my grandfather refers to a vehicle that transports people for a low cost, like a taxi or a bus. Or just a low cost vehicle.
     
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