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Highball

Posted by ESC on March 25, 2009 at 12:35

In Reply to: 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?

"When the word "highball" appeared in 1898 ("ball" was a bartenders' slang for a glass in the 1890s, a "high ball," a tall glass) it meant a Scotch and soda...but soon "highball" meant any kind of whiskey and soda." "

"Herb's Hot Box of Railroad Slang" by J. Herbert Lund (1975, Jay Herbert Publishing Co., Chicago) says, "In the early days a ball was raised on a trackside staff as a signal to 'proceed." Today , the signal is given by waving a hand or lamp in a high, wide semicircle." Page 16.