Linked from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep
There are many stories about where the name "jeep" came from. These,
although they make for interesting and memorable stories, are not quite
* Probably the most popular notion has it that the vehicle bore
the designation "GP" (for "General Purpose"), which was phonetically
slurred into the word jeep. R. Lee Ermey, on his television series Mail
Call, disputes this, saying that the vehicle was designed for specific
duties, was never referred to as "General Purpose," and that the name
may have been derived from Ford's nomenclature referring to the vehicle
as GP (G for government-use, and P to designate its 80-inch-wheelbase).
"General purpose" does appear in connection with the vehicle in the WW2
TM 9-803 manual, which describes the vehicle as "... a general purpose,
personnel, or cargo carrier especially adaptable for reconnaissance or
command, and designated as ¼-ton 4x4 Truck", and the vehicle is
designated a "GP" in TM 9-2800, Standard Military Motor Vehicles, 1
September 1943, but whether the average jeep-driving GI would have been
familiar with either of these manuals is open to debate.
This version of the story may be complicated by the name of another
series of vehicles with the GP designation. The Electro-Motive Division
of General Motors, a maker of railroad locomotives, introduced its
"General Purpose" line in 1949, using the GP tag. These locomotives are
commonly referred to as Geeps, pronounced the same way as "Jeep".
* Many, including Ermey, claim that the likelier origin refers to
the character Eugene the Jeep in the Thimble Theater (Popeye) comic
strip. Eugene the Jeep was dog-like and could walk through walls and
ceilings, climb trees, fly, and just about go anywhere it wanted; it is
thought that soldiers at the time were so impressed with the new
vehicle's versatility that they informally named it after the
character. The character "Eugene the Jeep" was created in 1936.
* The term "jeep" was first commonly used during World War I
(1914-1918) by soldiers as a slang word for new recruits and for new
unproven vehicles. This is according to a history of the vehicle for an
issue of the U.S. Army magazine, Quartermaster Review, which was
written by Maj. E. P. Hogan. He went on to say that the slang word
"jeep" had these definitions as late as the start of World War II.
* "Jeep" had been used as the name of a small tractor made by Modine.
The term "jeep" would eventually be used as slang to refer to an
airplane, a tractor used for hauling heavy equipment, and an autogyro.
When the first models of the jeep came to Camp Holabird for tests, the
vehicle did not have a name yet. Therefore the soldiers on the test
project called it a jeep. Civilian engineers and test drivers who were
at the camp during this time were not aware of the military slang term.
They most likely were familiar with the character Eugene the Jeep and
thought that Eugene was the origin of the name. The vehicle had many
other nicknames at this time such as Peep and Pygmy and Blitz-Buggy,
although because of the Eugene association, Jeep stuck in people's
minds better than any other term.
Words of the Fighting Forces by Clinton A. Sanders, a dictionary of
military slang, published in 1942, in the library at The Pentagon gives
Jeep: A four-wheel drive car 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
car. Also referred to as "any small plane, helicopter, or gadget."
Early in 1941, Willys-Overland demonstrated the vehicle's ability by
having it drive up the U.S. Capitol steps, driven by Willy's test
driver Irving "Red" Haussman, who had recently heard soldiers at Fort
Holabird calling it a "jeep". When asked by syndicated columnist
Katherine Hillyer for the Washington Daily News (or by a bystander,
according to another account) what it was called, Irving answered "It's
Katherine Hillyer's article was published on 20 February 1941 around
the nation and included a picture of the vehicle with the caption:-
LAWMAKERS TAKE A RIDE- With Senator Meade, of New York, at the
wheel, and Representative Thomas, of New Jersey, sitting beside him,
one of the Army's new scout cars, known as "jeeps" or "quads," climbs
up the Capitol steps in a demonstration yesterday. Soldiers in the rear
seat for gunners were unperturbed.
This exposure caused all other jeep references to fade, leaving the 4x4 truck with the name.
Willys-Overland Inc. was later awarded the sole privilege of owning the
name "Jeep" as registered trademark, by extension, merely because it
originally had offered the most powerful engine.