Where does the term deadline come from?

Being a writer, I am constantly reminded about 'deadlines'. I set my status on Gtalk to "Why is it called a deadline?" and a friend of mine went and looked for this. (I'm guessing wikipedia, but still nice to get a response to a status message. Kinda like micro-twitter...


It began as a real line, drawn in the dirt or marked by a fence or rail, restricting prisoners in Civil War camps. They were warned, "If you cross this line, you're dead." To make dead sure this important boundary was not overlooked, guards and prisoners soon were calling it by its own bluntly descriptive name, the dead line. An 1864 congressional report explains the usage in one camp: "A railing around the inside of the stockade, and about twenty feet from it, constitutes the 'dead line,' beyond which the prisoners are not allowed to pass." Nothing could be more emphatic than dead line to designate a limit, so we Americans happily applied the term to other situations with strict boundaries. For example, the storyteller O. Henry wrote in 1909 about crossing "the dead line of good behavior." But it was the newspaper business that made deadline more than just a historical curiosity. To have the latest news and still get a newspaper printed and distributed on time requires strict time limits for those who write it. Yet many are the excuses for writers to go beyond their allotted time: writers' block, writers' perfectionism, or just plain procrastination. (Perhaps the writer is a deadbeat (1863)--another dead word invented by Americans during the Civil War.) Seeking the strongest possible language to counter these temptations, editors set deadlines, with the implication that "Your story is dead--You are dead--if you go beyond this time to finish it.

Views: 3200

Comment

You need to be a member of I Power to add comments!

Join I Power

Latest Activity

Merity posted photos
16 hours ago
Merity posted a blog post
16 hours ago
Shepard of Peace posted a blog post

Undergoing Surgery Next Week

 Next week I will be undergoing surgery.  They’ll be cutting me open on my left and right side and belly button to remove a part of my colon which has been damaged for some time.  Probably for the last 15 years.  I figure it happened when I was a…See More
yesterday
Holleeder updated their profile
yesterday
RIMILITIA posted a status
"" When injustice becomes law. Resistance becomes duty.” — Gav"
Wednesday
RIMILITIA posted a status
Sunday
RIMILITIA posted a status
Feb 28
RIMILITIA posted a status
"“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.” ― R. Tagore"
Feb 27
RIMILITIA posted a status
""Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein"
Feb 27
RIMILITIA posted a status
"Freedom suppressed and again regained bites with keener fangs than freedom never endangered. Marcus T. Cicero"
Feb 25
RIMILITIA posted a status
"If a businessman makes a mistake, he suffers the consequences. If a bureaucrat makes a mistake, you suffer the consequences. - Ayn Rand"
Feb 24
RIMILITIA posted a status
"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.Voltaire"
Feb 23

© 2015   Created by Reese Leysen.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service