Posted by Bob on January 26, 2000
In Reply to: Dry Run posted by Gary Martin on January 26, 2000
: : : What is the origin of this phrase? I've looked high and low on the net and can't find a thing. . . Any thoughts?
: : "Dry run - The very first dry runs were creeks ('cricks' in many parts of the country) that had dried up in the summer's drought. As long ago as 1845 explorers of the Rocky Mountains wrote of following up a 'dry run' for a couple of miles until, over a ridge, it 'turned into a running branch.' Another kind of dry run was originally a theatrical expression and meant a rehearsal. In 1941, 'American Speech' magazine defined 'dry run' as 'practice, a dress rehearsal.' ." From the "Morris Dictionary of Words and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1977).
: In the theatrical usage of the phrase, why 'dry'?
I haven't found anything either, so this is pure speculation: a 'dry run' was applied less to a full dress rehearsal than to a run-through, or technical rehearsal. (Of course this was back when I was directing plays, during the last ice age.) A full dress rehearsal was an attempt to simulate opening-night conditions. Whether it's a technical rehearsal (where you stop to correct problems) or a full dress rehearsal (where you carry on as if there were an audience) ... a "dry run" is still not the same as interacting with a responsive audience. It is, from a performer's perspective, a little bloodless. Unfulfilling. No laughter, no applause. Could this be the origin of "dry"? Just guessin'.