Jacks of all trades, new or newly noted:
“A website dedicated to curating cool crowdfunded projects” – TechCrunch, January 15, 2014.
“Your premium online menswear shop, offering a curated selection of guy gear & gadgets”—including Beardos. Founded in 2008; acquired in 2010 by daily-deals site Thrillist.
Retail store, 2355 Broadway, Oakland.
From the Two Jacks Denim website:
Our inspiration is two distinctly American writers known for their rugged individualism, sense of adventure and wild prose, Jack London, born in Oakland, and Jack Kerouac, native of Lowell, Mass., home to many of America textile mills during the Industrial Revolution.
Minor correction: Jack London spent his childhood in Oakland, but he was born (in 1876, as John Griffith London) across the bay in San Francisco.
Most jacks derive from the English proper name Jack, including the first one, jakke, “a mechanical device,” which first appeared in the late 14th century. The Online Etymology Dictionary has an extensive entry on jack and its variations. Here’s an excerpt:
The proper name was used in Middle English for “any common fellow” (mid-14c.), and thereafter extended to various appliances replacing servants (1570s). Used generically of men (jack-of-all-trades, 1610s), male animals (1620s, see jackass, jackdaw, etc.), and male personifications (1520s, e.g. Jack Frost, 1826).
As the name of a device for pulling off boots, from 1670s. The jack in a pack of playing cards (1670s) is in German Bauer “peasant.”* Jack shit “nothing at all” is attested by 1968, U.S. slang. The plant jack-in-the-pulpit is attested by 1837. Jack the Ripper was active in London 1888. The jack of Union Jack is a nautical term for “small flag at the bow of a ship” (1630s).
The verb sense—to hoist, to raise—was originally an Americanism from the mid-19th century, as was the figurative sense—“to increase prices, etc.” (1904). The Online Etymology Dictionary again:
Jack off (v.) “to masturbate” is attested from 1916, probably from jack (n.) in the sense of “penis.”
Also covered in the jack entry: Jack o’ lantern, jackknife, jackhammer, jackboot, crackerjack, jackanapes, and jack-in-the-box.
The Oxford English Dictionary has many additional entries for jack. Monterey Jack cheese is named for David Jacks (originally David Jack), a Scottish-born dairy rancher who first made the cheese in Monterey County, California, in the 1880s. Jack as a slang term for money is an Americanism from the late 19th century. And since at least 1930, the verb to jack has meant “to take illegally, to steal”; this jack is a shortening of the earlier hijack (origin unknown).
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the children’s game known as jacks comes from jack-stones, originally check-stones, “a small smooth round pebble.”
Jacks game from How Retro, which also gives the game’s history and rules.
* Fans of the television show 24 (2001-2010) will recognize this juxtaposition.