So we were talking in Catalan about something very large, and my son said: “in English you can use jumbo, right? Like a jumbo-sized sandwich or burger or other horrid pile of chemicals masquerading as food. Jumbo screen. Jumbo pack. Jumbo prawn.”

“Jumbo jet!” I yelled.

How on earth could I have missed that one off my ever-growing list of alliterating phrases made in heaven:  pep pills, bum bag, mouse mat, mind map,  plug’n’play, rat race, Disneyland Daddy, Big Bang, world wide web…

A jumbo jet, as we know, is a very large jet plane.

As an interesting snippet, the jumbotron, now defined as a very large video screen, and originally called jumbovision, is actually a trademark owned by the Sony Corporation (JumboTron ®)

Anyway, the story of where the word comes from is rather sad, given our more animal-rights-aware times.

Jumbo (1860-1885), also known as Jumbo the Elephant and Jumbo the Circus Elephant, was, in Wikipedia’s words, “the first international animal superstar, and the first African elephant to reach modern Europe.”

He was born in the Sudan. The largest elephant in captivity, Jumbo was exported to a zoo in Paris and then transferred in 1865 to London Zoo. He was sold to P. T. Barnum, the American showman and businessman, who took him to the US for exhibition in March 1882.

The ultimate origin of the name Jumbo is not clear, although it may be a variation of one of two Swahili words: jambo, which means ‘hello’; or jumbe, meaning ‘chief’.

You can read Jumbo’s story here.

And please do post your favourite alliterations / jumbo words in the comments.


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7 Responses

  1. I always learn new things when I read your posts. Thank you for expanding my knowledge base. I like leaping lizards, Dapper Dan, Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme. Now I want a glazed donut.

  2. Delightful read! In some class ages ago, we had to repeat, “What wit, Walt Whitman.” Perhaps Sister Suzy said that while selling seashells!

  3. I love this series too. It’s great. As for my own alliterations? I can think of brain bucket–but that may be because the kid across the street just fell off his bike and I’m grateful he had one on.

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