On the fly

Posted by ESC on January 14, 2005

In Reply to: Think on your feet /multi-tasking posted by SR on January 14, 2005

: : : : Can anyone explain the meaning of this phrase to me?
: : : : ("you have to think on your feet"). I can't seem to find a simple explanation (neither in Oxford nor in Webster)
: : : : thanx

: : : It means to solve problems spontaneously, immediately, without time for contemplation. The imagery is that of a person in action, versus one sitting and planning. Imagine a tennis player having to make split-second decisions, or a lawyer questioning a witness. (Come to think of it, the witness has to "think on his feet" even though he's sitting down. (!) You may have made careful preparation and planned for most contingencies, but when the action starts, there will always be surprises you must react to on the spur of the moment.

: : thanx!!

: The above explanation would be preferred and leads to 'multi-tasking,' a very popular term presently, or being able to perform two or more tasks well simultaneously.

: SR

It's similar to "on the fly." We had to do that assignment on the fly.

From Merriam-Webster online:
on the fly 1 : in motion : BUSY 2 : while still in the air : without the ball bouncing. "The home run carried 450 feet on the fly."