Jitney is probably a word few New Orleanians are familiar with, although historians believe that the work may have originated here.
Back in the early 20th century, systems of shared taxis, appeared in cities throughout America. The cost for using one of these shared cabs was usually a nickel, or jitney. The French Creole term “jeton,” which refers to a small coin or token, is widely believed to have been the inspiration for the word “jitney.” Accordingly, the word probably came from New Orleans.
The basic scheme behind jitneys was simple: An ordinary citizen could buy a used car or bus and run passengers around, usually far more cheaply and quickly than streetcars could. Eventually, some jitney operators formed jitney companies and even jitney drivers’ unions. Continue reading »