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Highball

Posted by Jim Thomas on March 25, 2009 at 07:47

Highball - - - What is the origin?

I've heard if described as an alcohol drink, and "high" being what you get form it, but it doesn't sound likely.

Railroads have used Highball for years to mean "Take off" or "Go fast" or "Track open ahead". Before the days of hand-held radios, every railroad yard had a tall pole with a rope attached, like the configuration used to raise a flag. When the track was clear, or it was time to move on, they would raise a large red "ball", therefore, 'high ball'.

But what was the first use?
Where does the drink phrase come from?
Did the railroads steal the idea?
How old is the term?