TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida is infamous for having some of the craziest events and stories, but one of the strangest things to come from the state might be its slang.
While some states around the country have their own variations of strange phrases, like a “tavern” in South Dakota is a sloppy joe, not a bar. In Mississippi, to “carry” doesn’t mean having a gun on you; it means driving someone.
But this Florida phrase, created in and around the Jacksonville area, seemed to stump respondents on a recent survey that sought to find the “hardest to understand states” by measuring how confused the rest of the country was by the states’ phrases.
According to a survey conducted by the language learning app Preply, the Sunshine State ranked in the top 20 states with the hardest-to-understand slang with the phrase “jiffy feet.”
Do you recognize this phrase? If you don’t, you’re not alone, as 43% of respondents who took the survey thought “jiffy feet” meant that you have talented dance moves. However, that’s not the case.
What does jiffy feet mean?
The phrase “jiffy feet” is used to describe the black layer of dirt and dust that accumulates on the bottom of one’s feet after walking around driveways, streets, dirt roads or really anywhere barefoot.
For example, if you’ve ever spent a summer’s day walking around barefoot – as when you’re making a trip to your neighborhood convenience store – you’ve probably had jiffy feet by the time you got home.
Where did the phrase jiffy feet come from?
Jacksonville locals suggest the term originated from the area around the 1970s when the Huntley’s Jiffy chain was at its height. According to writer Bill Delaney, the Orange Park-based business grew to have 342 stores, with a bulk of its locations in the Jacksonville metropolitan area.
A “jiffy” or “jiffy store” refers to gas stations or grocery stores.
“By the 80’s and 90’s, the term was in use in other parts of Florida as well, including Daytona, Ocala, and the Panhandle as far as Pensacola, and even in some other Southern states,” Bill Delaney explained in an article for The Jaxson on the history of jiffy feet. “At least initially, the term’s geographical range likely correlated with the presence of stores named ‘Jiffy.’ Other colloquial or regional names for the concept exist; elsewhere and at other times, dirty feet have been known as “Kmart feet”, “grocery store feet”, “Winn-Dixie feet”, and “gypsy feet.”
The chain was bought out twice, and any store that used to be a Huntley’s Jiffy is now a Circle K, Delaney reported.
While there haven’t been any Jiffy stores around in years, the quick-stop shop’s legacy lives on through jiffy feet.