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First crack out of the box

Posted by Dhm on August 03, 2004

In Reply to: First crack out of the box posted by James Briggs on August 03, 2004

: : : : : I had the following request from someone with a US email address. There was no more to the question. I've never heard the expression. Can anyone help?

: : : : : "What is the origin of "first crack out of the box"?"

: : : : I don't know what the origin is. But I found a meaning and similar phrases.

: : : : First crack off the bat.
: : : : First crack/cat out of the box.
: : : : First dash/pop/rattle out of the box.

: : : : They all are 20th century phrases and mean: immediately, at the first attempt.

: : : : From "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green (Wellington House, London, 1998).

: : : The phrase appears in Chapter 31 of Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis, published in 1922. It also pops up all over the internet in a google search, throughout the English-speaking world.

: : : I never heard it before either. Babbitt was one of the many books I didn't read thoroughly enough in high school.

: : Again, I found all these expressions in a reference but it doesn't say what the origin is. It has 1909 as the earliest citation. It also has "first shot out of the box." The reference says "first rattle out of the box" is a cowboy's expression meaning "prompt action." From "Dictionary of American Regional English," Volume II by Frederic G. Cassidy and Joan Houston Hall (1991, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England).

: : Could it be a rodeo term?

: Many thanks,
: James

It seems to me that it might be an amalgamation of two similar cliches; "first crack" meaning "first attempt", and "right out of the box" meaning "from the beginning". "Right out of the box", in addition to the obvious indication of opening a new purchase or gift, has strong baseball associations. A baseball batter must stand in one of two designated chalk-outlined areas called the "batter's box". All base running starts from this box. A runner who can run to first base quickly will often be spoken of as "fast out of the box". The cowboy/rodeo usage would certainly reinforce the "from the beginning" meaning, but baseball slang is much better known in the USA than rodeo jargon.