A quick dispatch from the British Matchplay Scrabble Championships in Staffordshire. (Don't ask me how I'm faring.)

In the pub last night, it was said of someone "Oh, she's a really jammy player." I've heard jammy used in this way before, but this time I just had to swallow my pride and ask Just what does jammy mean, anyway? Turns out it means 'lucky', or as the OED puts it: 'very lucky or profitable'. General consensus was that the word is used a lot more in the Scrabble world than in everyday life (but of course we have a lot of reason to talk about luck in the Scrabble world), and that it might be a little old-fashioned.

It puts a new spin for me on the biscuit name Jammie Dodgers, which I had not heretofore reali{s/z}ed could be a pun. The alternative spelling of jammy could be for trademarking reasons. One also sees the spelling jammy dodger for ones that are not made by Burton's Foods. There is a far-fetched etymology here (search down the page for 'name' to get to it). The writer claims the name goes back to the 1500s [from French jamais de guerre]. But (a) the name works as a literal name--it has jam and dodger is a dialectal word (now used in Australian military, apparently) for sandwich--and this is what we'd call in the US a sandwich cookie, and (b) Burton's Foods has only been making them since 1960. While the biscuit could go back a lot further than that, the story has the hallmarks of folk etymology. Does anyone out there know more about the history of jammie/jammy dodgers? (I've written to Burton's and will update if there's any news.)

See the etymology link if you want to see a photo of a Jammie Dodger--and reviews of Jammie Dodgers. The computer I'm at won't allow me to upload one.


  1. I must firstly admit I'm not a native french speaker, but to me "Jamais de Guerre" is ungrammatical. If it is grammatical then certainly there is no future or subjunctive that would justify "Never shall there be war" as the english gloss.

    I think you're right, it's got to be a folk etymology.

  2. It´s heard a lot in pub games such as pool, usually in conjunction with the insult, git, when someone flukes a shot in you´ll invariably hear "You jammy git!"

  3. I agree with gwyn, usually it's 'jammy git' (often pronounced more-or-less like 'get'), or 'jammy bugger'.. Though I should possibly bow to the greater knowledge of the people at the OED, it doesn't really just mean lucky: i'd say it would only be undeserved luck that you'd (or that I'd) call 'jammy'. There can also be a connotation of smarmy-ness - like if you got a job that you weren't perhaps the most qualified candidate for, but you chatted up your interviewer or something. That'd be dead jammy.

  4. I think we can say that the French etymology is a bit of dodgy jam.

    Ally and Gwyn have
    finessed the definition.

  5. My family doesn't say 'jammy' that often but we do say 'Oooh, you've more jam than Hartleys!' (Hartleys being a big producer of jam, of course). This is often said when we're playing cards and someone takes an unexpected hand....

  6. See the website of Nicey and Wifey - www.anicecupofteaandasitdown,com
    featuring 'biscuit of the week' and all you ever wanted to know about every biscuit ever enjoyed with a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

  7. That's the very website on which the dodgy jammie dodger etymology is posted. You can get to it through the post above.

  8. OK...I'm compelled to ask...how ARE you doing in the tournament????


  9. There was a warm-up tournament, which I led for the first 2 games, but ended up with 3 out of 6. The main tournament was 18 games, of which I won only 8. However, in my own defen{c/s}e, I had opted to 'play up'--i.e. I was in the highest division rather than the second-highest, where my rating would have put me. I did play stupidly on Saturday, though. No room for that!

    I stopped studying for Scrabble when I started studying Swedish, so I don't expect to improve my rating anyhow...

  10. Burton's Foods (AmE) has/ (BrE) have got(ten) back to me. It seems that they've changed ownership so often that there's no one around from the 'old days' to talk about the Jammie Dodgers name, though the rep has said she'll try asking around a bit more.

  11. hehe real nice...

    someone called me a jammy grit at the online poker table...

    I'm dutch so I had to find out about this odd saying...

  12. We rarely say 'jammy', I think, because 'jam' is shorter and punchier.
    I most often hear 'Pure jam' for unwarranted luck.

  13. I think I'm increasingly hearing 'spawny' rather than 'jammy' in a sporting context. No idea what the derivation is...

  14. The current Burton's website says the 'Jammie' part is because it has jam inside, and the 'Dodger' part is named after a cartoon character named 'Roger the Dodger'.

  15. To my ears, jammy implies underserved luck (as enjoyed by Roger the Dodger) or luck that compensates for lack of skill (as with those Scrabble players.

    I immediately think of the expression You jammy bugger! This looks downright hostile when written down,

    [at least when my spellchecker doesn't insist on bigger]

    but is actually a rather affectionate taunt approximating to 'Well that turned out well for you, but you know you didn't deserve it.'

  16. What a lovely feed to scroll through. Thank you everyone. I hope you're still enjoying Scrabble Lynne!

  17. One subtle aspect of jammy is that it isn't just lucky but, more often than not,
    undeservingly lucky. I favour the etymology from the British in the Far East where jam was a rare luxury commodity so the boy who got the jam was a lucky boy indeed.

  18. "You jammy bastard" is the version I'm more familiar with. It's often bowdlerised to "jammy dodger" around sensitive ears, though this is probably taken from the name of the biscuit rather than vice versa. "Dodger" is also a very old slang term for a ducking-and-diving sort of trickster.

    I agree with David Crosbie that being "jammy" usually refers to a sort of falling into a pile of good luck that's utterly undeserved, and probably gets you out of trouble as well.

    Have always assumed the name of the biscuit is an intentional nod-and-wink pun. If you're old enough to be aware of the phrase "jammy bastard/bugger", well and good. If not, well, you'll just think it's a funny name for a biscuit.


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)