Let's get cracking!

Posted by TheFallen on November 19, 2004

In Reply to: Let's get cracking! posted by James Briggs on November 19, 2004

: : : : I just said this to some students and, thanks to the PF, found myself asking,"What is the origin of this phrase?"
: : : : Any ideas? SR

: : : I can't help you with the origin of the phrase, but here's what the OED says. "b. Colloq. phr. to get cracking: to get started; to 'get a move on'. Cf. GET v. 32b. Also with noun or pronoun (or other object) interposed between get and cracking. 1937 PARTRIDGE Dict. Slang 324/1 Get cracking, to begin work.
: : :
: : : c. to get going: to begin; to start talking, acting, etc., vigorously; to get into full swing; to 'get a move on'. Also trans., to start; to render (someone) excited, talkative, etc. See also to get cracking s.v. CRACK v. 22b.
: : :
: : : 1897 O. W. HOLMES Pollock-Holmes Lett. I. 77 He is really fine when he gets going on the Church of England." SS

: : I imagine it's related to the expresions, "To crack on more sail" or "to crack on more speed", maybe even "the crack of dawn". However, I draw the line short of "Cracking good toast, Grommet"!

: Why is this not related to cracking a whip in order to get a horse to go faster?

I'm rather drawn to the whip theory. "Let's get cracking" is, I am entirely sure, of British origin. There is a very similar verbal usage, namely "to crack on" - "How's he doing with that presentation?" "Oh, he's really cracking on with it", meaning he's well into his stride and fast on the way to completing the task. I'm faintly suspicious that "to crack on" is of nautical origins, as per above.