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Jun 3 2013   1:18PM GMT

What does jumping the shark mean? What about jumping guns, brooms and bandwagons?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

interrobang Some people think that Google has jumped the _____ with Google Glass because it’s just too nerdy for the mainstream. On the other hand, some people said pretty much the same thing about mobile phones in the early ’80s.
a. shark
b. gun
c. broom
d. bandwagon

Answer: a or b.

Explanation:
To jump the shark is to do something flashy and perhaps gimmicky that doesn’t have the desired effect but leads to a decline of some sort. The phrase originated with a 1977  episode of the hit series Happy Days, in which Fonzie was waterskiing clad in his trademark leather jacket … and he jumped a shark. Ayyyyy! That stunt was considered too outrageous even for the Fonz, who was supposed to be the epitome of cool. Consensus was that the show went downhill from that point on. The expression has since spread beyond television references to other contexts, such as business, where there are many apt examples.

What about those other jumps?

Jumping the gun is starting something ahead of the official start time, like a runner sprinting ahead before the starter’s pistol. There’s an implication that failure will result, because runners are disqualified for doing that. So if Google Glass was an example of jumping the gun, it would mean that Google went ahead with them before the market was ready and that doing so might doom the product.

Jumping the broom means getting married. Google isn’t getting married to Google Glass, although maybe some of the nerdier employees would if they could.

According to Discovery’s Science Channel:

“Jumping the broom” is an expression meaning “to get married,” and it is an African-American tradition stemming from the days of slavery. African-American slaves were often not permitted to marry, so they had to create their own customs and traditions to mark this special occasion among themselves. Other slaves would lay a broom on the floor, and the new couple would jump over it together, symbolizing the start of their life. This tradition may have originated in Africa, although some Celtic tribes had a similar custom. Some African-Americans today still jump the broom. Read more

Jumping the bandwagon or, more accurately,  jumping on the bandwagon means committing yourself to something or joining some enterprise once it’s well-underway and obviously popular or successful. Depending on how eager you are, you might also hop on the bandwagon or just climb on it. From the Word Origins website:

In 19th and early 20th century America, a bandwagon was exactly what it sounds like, a wagon, usually horse-drawn, which carried a musical band. Bandwagons were used in circuses, to lead parades, and at political rallies. Hence to join or jump on the bandwagon was to follow the crowd, and in a political context with the connotation that one was there for the entertainment and excitement of the event, rather than from deep or firm conviction. Read More

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