I’m no etymologist, but I’ve always been intrigued by the origin of words – especially as it applies to cars. There are, after all, a number of terms that we use every day in our industry that make no sense at all. That is, of course, until you understand where they come from.
To satisfy my own curiosity, as well as to give everyone some fun facts to share with customers, I’ll be doing a little bit of research on the origin of industry terms and posting my findings here from time to time.
To start off, let’s take a look at where the terms “glove box” and “jockey box” come from.
Of course, I’m referring to that large lockable compartment automakers build into the dashboard. But the terms used to describe it are odd. After all, neither gloves nor jockeys have anything to do with driving a car.
So where did the terms come from? Popular education website eHow.com explains:
In the early days of the automobile the use of gloves was considered essential, not only as a style statement for the discriminating, often wealthy driver wearing a pair of white, gauntlet gloves, but also for utility reasons to keep the hands warm. Many early automobiles didn’t come with heaters, and driver and occupants were forced to dawn heavy gloves to protect their hands. [...]
Many early vehicles did not have enclosed cabs and driving to church with the family on those cold Sunday mornings required everyone to wear a pair of gloves. It just makes sense to keep the gloves in a special compartment in the car so they would always be handy.
In England, and in certain areas of the northwest United States, glove boxes are still referred to as “jockey boxes”. The World Detective website is one of few that offers a plausible explanation for this term. A jockey, of course, is a person who works with horses, and according to this site, the term jockey carried over to include one who works on horseless carriages. A bit of a stretch, possibly, but it’s the only explanation available. [more]
So there you have it. The next time a customer asks you to take a look at a glove box’s broken lock or peeling trim, you can drop a little knowledge that’s sure to impress.