‘queue-jump’, ‘to jump the queue’: meanings and early occurrences

Of British-English origin, the nouns queue-jumper and queue-jumping, the verb and noun queue-jump and the phrase to jump the queue have especially been used since the 1930s in relation to compulsory queueing schemes implemented by public-transport authorities.

Such a scheme was described in a letter to the Editor, published in The Croydon Advertiser and Surrey County Reporter (London, England) of Friday 17th February 1939:

Dear Sir,—[…]
Before the War the queue was practically unknown, and you could floor ninety-nine men out of every hundred by asking them to spell it. Now, the queue, like the poor, is always with us. And not only that, but Londoners like it. So at all events says London Passenger Transport Board, in one of its publicity sheets which tells of the number of people who have written to thank the Board for its decision to extend the queue system for road vehicles.
Extension of System
“The policy of London Transport,” says this statement, “is to extend the queue system as and where it is practicable to do so. There can be no broad rules governing the extension of queueing. Each stopping place must be considered on its merits.” Perhaps that is why such close attention has been paid this week to the stopping place on East Croydon bridge. In the discussion of the grievances of passengers in the columns of your paper, the suggestion has been made that waiting passengers should be made to form in a queue at this point. But as is evident there are difficulties in carrying out the suggestion at this point.
It should be pointed out that the regulation under which queues are formed is duly legalised, and provides a penalty for anyone who disobeys the rule of the queue. Jumping a bus before it arrives at the recognised stopping place is not allowed.
In a few instances, London Transport adds, queues have been abandoned after experience has shown them to be disadvantageous. But in view of the almost unanimous public demand, queues will be introduced wherever London Transport is satisfied that they are needed and can be worked.

 

QUEUE-JUMPER (noun)

 

The noun queue-jumper denotes:
– literally: a person who pushes forward out of turn in a queue;
– figuratively: a person who obtains unfair priority over others.

However, in the text containing the earliest occurrence of this noun that I have found, the plural queue-jumpers is not applied to persons but to ships—this text is Grimsby’s Congestion, published in the Fleetwood Chronicle (Fleetwood, Lancashire, England) of Friday 8th October 1920:

It is authoritatively reported that owing to the congestion of traffic in the Grimsby fish docks and the lack of adequate facilities to cope with the floating trade of the port, damage to the extent of £100,000 per year is done to the fishing fleet. Much of this damage is believed to be preventable, and many schemes have been tried to bring about a better regulation of the traffic. The latest—that of entering ships on a queue system from the Humber—has had beneficial results, but trawler-owners have had to deal with the “queue jumpers,” who, failing to keep the line, have been responsible for serious collisions and damage. For breaking the queue to enter dock early three skippers were fined three guineas each on Wednesday at the local police court.

In the text containing the second-earliest occurrence of queue-jumper that I have found, the noun denotes a person who pushes forward out of turn in a queue—this text is Meet the queue-jumper, published in the Sunday Pictorial (London, England) of Sunday 23rd February 1936:

To-day, in this series of “Grievances,” James Ford deals with the queue-jumper. […]
“They also serve,” said Milton, “who only stand and wait.” They also get served who are content to stand and wait their turn.
The queue system is a remarkable manifestation of the traditional patience and self-control of the British people. Looking at the vast queues which stand outside our cinemas, theatres, football grounds and booking offices, one marvels at the innate orderliness of the English.
This orderliness, however, depends entirely on the sense of fair play of each member of the queue, and just as every rose must have its thorn every queue must have its queue-jumper.
It is a nasty, sneaking little vice, and the man who indulges in it is the sort of worm who pinched his brother’s sweets in the nursery, cribbed off his neighbour at school, and finishes your beer in the bar if you look the other way.
There Are Many Types of This Pest
There are many types of queue-jumper. There is the large, overbearing man, the bully, who finds in this sport an outlet for his bullying; there is the ferrety little beast who does it merely from habit because he prefers to do things in an underhand way; then there is that champion of all queue-jumpers, the woman who cannot or will not understand that the proper place to enter a queue is at the tail.
How often have you stood in one of those notoriously understaffed places, the bar at the theatre? The time is short and your need is great. The staff seems to consist of one barmaid and the girl from the cloakroom who never knows where the whisky is.
You patiently wait while the man-mountain in front of you orders one port, one gin-and-lime, two beers and a double Scotch. After he is served the maiden naturally departs to the other end of the bar.
You, who are a hardened frequenter of theatre bars, are prepared for this. It is part of the game, but what makes you thirst for blood as well as whisky is the pest who cracks you in the ribs with his elbow, treads smartly on your toes, and shoving his loathsome back in front of you gets his order in before you when the maiden returns to your end. One can only hope that there will be chips of glass in his beer. For yourself, it is improbable that there will be any beer at all.
The queue-jumper may be seen at his work every day, pushing and trampling on his neighbours, sneaking in half-way up a queue, jumping on to buses before the passengers have alighted, elbowing his way into tubes; and with him may be seen his staunch ally, the inconsiderate idiot who wastes time at the head of the queue by giving complicated orders, searching for change, and arguing with the girl in the box-office.
We give them dirty looks and occasionally a piece of our mind, but mostly we suffer in silence—which is why queues continue to be patient and orderly.

 

QUEUE-JUMPING (noun)

 

The noun queue-jumping denotes:
– literally: the action or practice of pushing forward out of turn in a queue;
– figuratively: the action or an act of obtaining unfair priority over others.

The earliest occurrence of this noun that I have found is from the Birmingham Gazette (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) of Monday 11th March 1929:

Shortly Available.
It is now predicted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have a surplus of about £11,000,000 to utilise next month.
Applicants are warned that there must be positively no queue-jumping.

 

QUEUE-JUMP (verb)

 

The verb queue-jump means:
– literally: to push forward out of turn in a queue;
– figuratively: to obtain unfair priority over others.

The earliest occurrence of the verb queue-jump that I have found is from Bus Passengers Behave, published in the Manchester Evening News (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Wednesday 18th November 1942:

Though transport undertakings in some parts of the country are receiving complaints from conductresses that passengers are overcrowding buses, Manchester conductresses report that most members of the travelling public are orderly.
[…]
Transport officials in most Lancashire and Cheshire towns report that the compulsory queueing scheme is working satisfactorily.
“It is only occasionally that we receive complaints of people ‘queue jumping’,” an official said. “Inspectors are on duty at most of the points and it is part of their duty to see that passengers board buses and trams in proper order.
“Queues are broken occasionally at tram stops in the outlying districts of towns but at that time there is plenty of room for everyone.”

The verb queue-jump is used transitively and in the passive in the following from the column City and County, by ‘The Gossiper’, published in the Lincolnshire Echo (Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England) of Thursday 23rd February 1950:

While waiting for a Corporation ’bus, I was amused by the conversation of three women who complained that people always seemed to “jump the queue” and board the ’bus ahead of them. I was not surprised—for these women were queueing on what is generally accepted to be the wrong side of the bus stop sign. Although the only official indication we have in Lincoln concerning this point is the placing of the ’bus shelters in High-street, it seems obvious that queues should be formed with the passengers facing the direction from which the bus is travelling, in other words, on the left-hand side of the ’bus stop sign.
In many places a small white line is painted on the pavement to give this indication, and if this could be done in Lincoln it would prevent frayed tempers, scathing remarks, and even worse, glares on the part of people who wrongly imagine they have been “queue jumped!”

 

QUEUE-JUMP (noun)

 

The noun queue-jump denotes:
– literally: the action or practice of pushing forward out of turn in a queue;
– figuratively: the action or an act of obtaining unfair priority over others.

These are, in chronological order, the earliest occurrences of the noun queue-jump that I have found:

1-: From the Northern Daily Mail (Hartlepool, Durham, England) of Tuesday 21st July 1942:

£3 “QUEUE JUMP”

For contravening the Queues Order, Ian Carmichael, Carron View, Stenhousemuir, was fined £3 at Falkirk, yesterday.
Forty people were waiting in a bus queue when he ran past them and jumped on to the platform.

2-: From the Manchester Evening News (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Thursday 20th October 1949:

POLICE DENY QUEUE ‘JUMP’

Allegations that police were trying to “jump” the housing queue were denied by the Chief Constable (Mr. W. E. Schofield) at a meeting of Oldham Watch Committee.
But, said Mr. Schofield, homes for policemen were a recognised spur to recruiting.
Of 12 houses allocated to the force, eight were still to be handed over. Originally it was intended to provide 12 houses on the Limeside Estate, but the Watch Committee had decided to have one officer living on each of the town’s new estates.

3-: From The Nottingham Journal (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England) of Thursday 27th October 1949:

Queue “Jump” Prevented

When Harold Woolley, of 35, Regent-street, Beeston, stepped in front of another passenger in a queue for the 10.50 p.m. Beeston bus in Old Market Square on Saturday, 17 September, the passenger put his arm out to stop him and boarded the bus himself first.
At Abbey-bridge the passenger rose to leave, and Woolley struck him several times.
The story was told by Insp. E. W. Colson at Nottingham Summons Court yesterday when Woolley was fined £3 and ordered to pay £1 10s. costs for disorderly conduct. He pleaded “Guilty,” but denied that he pushed in front of the queue.
The incident at Abbey-bridge caused considerable alarm among the other passengers, said Inspector Colson. The bus was held while the police were summoned.
Woolley made no attempt to leave but went upstairs for a smoke.

 

TO JUMP THE QUEUE (phrase)

 

The phrase to jump the queue means:
– literally: to push forward out of turn in a queue;
– figuratively: to obtain unfair priority over others.

These are, in chronological order, the earliest occurrences of the phrase to jump the queue that I have found:

1-: From the Daily Independent (Sheffield, Yorkshire, England) of Saturday 27th May 1933:

TRAM QUEUES
What Sheffield thinks to-day Manchester will think to-morrow. For instance, Manchester has decided that all this egotistical talk about the Englishman and the Englishwoman being so conscious of the necessity of order and fairness in his or her everyday life that he or she will line up in any queue is all bunkum.
They have found that the Englishman or the Englishwoman will not automatically form a queue when necessary and strictly observe the rights of the first-comers. Indeed, Manchester has found, as every city and town finds, that there are numerous scramblers or hogs (I use the descriptions of a Lancashire writer), who jump tram and ’bus queues.
So now the ill-mannered Mancunians are to be put in their right places by being compelled to queue up two by two for trams and ’buses—and woe betide the man or woman (the fair sex are really the unfair sex in this connection) who jumps the queue.
But Manchester might have learnt from Sheffield all about this trouble and the way to correct it many moons ago.

2-: From this letter to the Editor, published in The Hendon Times and Borough Guardian (London, England) of Friday 22nd February 1935:

Sir,—May I, although a mere provincial with only two years standing as a resident of this district, be permitted to air a grievance which I feel must have been dealt with many times before in your columns—surely no one is contented with things as they stand!
The grievance has to do with the arrangements at the north-bound tram-stop opposite Golders Green Station, which seem to me, and to a number of people with whom I have discussed the matter, to be both elementary and unsatisfactory in the extreme. I have always had a great admiration for London Transport facilities, but a study of the conditions at this spot on any week-day at rush hours makes me wonder whether the authorities are really aware that Golders Green is an important focal point for the interchange of traffic.
May I, therefore, ask the following questions (with appropriate comments):
(a) Why no effective queue system is in operation? There is, admittedly, a rough and ready attempt at such a system, but numbers of people who, perhaps unintentionally and perhaps not, “jump” the queue the moment the inspector’s back is turned, would be inviting lynching in any self-respecting provincial town.
(b) Why, to further the end of developing an efficient first-come, first-served queue system, and, moreover, to protect patrons of the queue from massacre beneath the wheels of passing cars, a length of railing could not be erected at the edge of the pavement, say 30 or 40 feet long.
(c) Why the transport authorities could not elaborate this idea, as has been done in the provinces, and construct a “gangway” between two lengths of railing, sufficiently apart to permit of people passing along it two abreast, covered over with a glass shelter? I mean a really substantial shelter to cover the queue, and not one of the summer-arbours such as that at the corner of Regents Park-road and the North Circular-road.
(d) Why the simple provincial rule of “left for inside right for on top” should not be applied to those entering vehicles as an inflexible rule? This would save a great deal of time.
(e) Why the traffic controllers at Golders Green are permitted to send more than half empty trams past the stop when there is a large queue and a torrent of rain falling. It is most unpleasant.

3-: From this advertisement, published in the Evening Standard (London, England) of Monday 2nd January 1939:

Please Q

At any stopping-place for buses, trolleybuses, trams and Green Line coaches where there is a PLEASE QUEUE sign, or where a uniformed official says PLEASE QUEUE, passengers are asked if they will

Please Q

Londoners accept the queue. They ask for queues to be organised. The queue makes for a quicker getaway; it allows 274 trams to leave Blackfriars in one hour: a tram every 13 seconds. The queue gives everybody an equal chance. ‘First come first served’ is a popular motto. It is only another way of saying

Please Q

Londoners approve of the queue, but they do not approve of the man or woman who tries to jump the queue. Because the new byelaw will stop this abuse, Londoners will welcome it and listen gladly to the New Year cry

Please Q

LONDON TRANSPORT