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Under starter's orders

Posted by TheFallen on June 11, 2003

In Reply to: Meaning of sentence possibly spy posted by Mage Warrior on June 11, 2003

: Hi all,
: I came across the sentence '...under starters orders...'
: What exactly does that mean? It comes from the novel 'Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy' from LeCarré, so it might have a relation to the intelligence community.
: If anyone can help...
: Thanks
: MW

Nope, it's from the world of athletics. Before the start of a race, an official called the starter brings the field of competitors to order, preparing them for the imminent start of the race. The traditional phrase then used is "On your marks... get set... go!", except a shot from a starting-pistol will substitute for the word "go" in any serious event. Starter's orders also apply to horse-racing, especially when a track-wide raisable tape is used instead of mechanical stalls.

So, the phrase "under starter's orders" simply means being prepared and waiting for imminent action.