Posted by Marian on January 19, 2002 at
In Reply to: Jump the gun posted by Sauerkraut on January 19, 2002
: : : : a class assignment is to find the origin of the phrase of "jump the gun." Hope you can help. I have searched and can't seem to narrow down my search. Thanks
: : :
: : : Guns (shooting blanks, fortunately) are tradionally used to start races. To leave the starting blocks before the signal, to "jump the gun," is to start prematurely. No fair.
: : JUMP THE GUN -- "?an expression about 50 years old that derives from both foot racing and hunting. An anxious runner often jumps the gun, that is, starts before the starter fires his pistol in a track event, and a startled pheasant will frequently take flight before a hunter can fire his gun, both situations responsible for our figurative use of the phrase -- to begin something before preparations for it are complete." From "The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson, Page 285, (Facts on File, New York, 1997).
: Although the venerable Mr. Hendrickson is usually right on with his explanations, the second half of his explanation of the subject expression is WRONG!
: No ethical hunter would shoot a pheasant before it took flight, nor would that usually be possible, since a concealed bird is difficult to see. The whole idea of pheasant hunting is to flush the birds into flight so that they become visible and thus are available targets.
: A related expression in our language is "shooting ducks in (on) a pond." In this case, the targets would be very visible and very vulnerable - literally "sitting ducks". Again, no ethical hunter would shoot them in this situation.
: FINAL NOTE: Please do not turn this thread into a debate on fire-arms, gun regulation, hunting or any such topics. I offer my comments only to explain the origin of phrases we use.
I see to recall the similar phrase "Shooting fish in a barrel."