What the heck’s a Jeep?

Where did the word Jeep come from?

In my search I found a myriad of different theories. The explanation I enjoyed the most was that it came from Eugene the Jeep, a strange creature that appeared in E.C. Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theater, best known for its character Popeye, the Sailor. Eugene the Jeep first appeared in March 1936 and was named for the only sound he made “jeep,” which was apparently a play on “cheep” used by cartoonists to represent a bird’s call. Eugene the Jeep was Popeye’s “jungle pet” and was “small, able to move between dimensions and could solve seemingly impossible problems.”

The most widely held theory is that the military designation GP (for Government Purposes or General Purpose) was slurred into the word Jeep in the same way that the contemporary HMMWV (for High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle) has become known as the Humvee.

Words of the Fighting Forces by Clinton A. Sanders, a dictionary of military slang, published in 1942, in the library at The Pentagon gives this definition:

Jeep: A four-wheel drive vehicle of one-half- to one-and-one-half-ton capacity for reconnaissance or other army duty. A term applied to the bantam-cars, and occasionally to other motor vehicles (U.S.A.) in the Air Corps, the Link Trainer; in the armored forces, the ½-ton command vehicle. Also referred to as “any small plane, helicopter, or gadget.”

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