10th Dec 2016
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Do you ‘jump the gun’? Here’s the origin to this phrase
Do you ‘jump the gun’? Here’s the origin to this phrase

Do you sometimes anticipate an occasion so highly that you act on it before it is time? Maybe you interrupt someone while they’re speaking or go ahead and book your friend a movie ticket before they’ve confirmed they’re coming. This is what’s colloquially called ‘jumping the gun’ and here’s how this particular idiom originated.

It’s fairly straightforward. Basically, from as early as the 20th century, ‘jump the gun’ (or ‘beat the gun’) was used in relation to competitors in track and field races who were in such a state of expectation before the race that they leapt into action before the starting pistol was fired.

One early reference comes from Crowther and Ruhl’s 1905 text Rowing and Track Athletics:

“False starts were rarely penalised, the pistol generally followed immediately on the signal ‘Get set!’ and so shiftless were the starters and officials that ‘beating the pistol’ was one of the tricks which less sportsmanlike runners constantly practised.”

The earliest citation of ‘jump the gun’ isn’t related directly to athletics but is used in a manner that most closely reflects how we use the phrase today. It can be found in the newspaper The Iowa Homestead from November 1921:

“Give the pigs a good start; jump the gun, so to speak, and get them on a grain ration before weaning time.”

In both examples, the phrase was used to describe a sudden or unexpected movement. Other, earlier phrases to parallel this one are ‘jump someone’s claim’, ‘jump ship’ and the more contemporary ‘jump the queue’.

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    COMMENTS

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    MICK
    30th Dec 2016
    10:56am
    Had a daughter who false started occasionally. That is what happens with athletes who are on a fine wire where a split second is the difference between first and second.
    The term pretty well applies to a lot of things in life. ANybody ever locked in an interest rate and 6 months later found a much better one?
    Batara
    30th Dec 2016
    11:08am
    Does anyone know the origin of this one?
    "Thought it was going to be a smooth transition - NOT."
    No - not The Donald. We know where that came from. I mean the awkward construction of a positive statement followed by "Not".
    Annoys me, but perhaps I am too change averse.
    MICK
    30th Dec 2016
    11:16am
    Oxymoron?
    Batara
    30th Dec 2016
    11:25am
    Possibly Mick, but an oxymoron should be smarter than that. Example from on line dictionary: "faith unfaithful kept him falsely true."
    Hasbeen
    30th Dec 2016
    3:05pm
    Jump ship is an entirely different idea.

    It was applied to ship crew, usually from England or Europe, "jumping" off the ship usually in the a desirable port, often in the US, Canada or Australia, & remaining hidden until the ship sailed. Quite a lot of early Australian free settlers arrived that way.
    particolor
    30th Dec 2016
    4:01pm
    Ay ? They're still doing it ! :-(
    Tom Tank
    30th Dec 2016
    10:27pm
    Crew on British ships signed a binding contract, know as "Articles" , which were, and still are, very tight.
    In order to leave a ship before those "Articles" expired, 2 years was the length signed on for, either the shipping company "paid off" the crew, normally in their home port, or a crew member had to desert the ship, in nautical terms "jump ship".
    If a crew member jumped ship it meant they broke their contract and would, in modern times i e in the last century, never get another berth with a shipping company.
    particolor
    30th Dec 2016
    4:08pm
    I stopped Jumping the Gun when they Elected a Liberal Government !! I never plan anything ahead now, as I know I wont be able to follow it up at Pension Adjustment Time :-( :-( :-(


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