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What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts 2024?

What is the origin of the expression "flank speed"? 13 facts?

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

Alec Cawley, Software Engineer

Answered July 5, 2017

The term “flank speed” comes from the battleship period before and during WW1. The fleet consisted of battleships that steamed in a straight line ahead, flanked on either side by a screen of “torpedo boat destroyers” or just destroyers. The line would normally cruise at “full speed” – the speed that all the ships could maintain. When the line turned, which they would do in succession, the battleships would maintain full speed. So, the flanking destroyers would have to speed up to maintain their positions on the outside of the curve. So they would go to “flank speed” for the duration of the turn. Obviously, when attacking an enemy, they would charge as fast as possible, so they would again go at flank speed. Full speed is the fastest speed that can be maintained all day. Flank speed is the sprint speed, which may not be able to be maintained for a long time but is useful in emergencies and combat. All ahead refers to ships with multiple propellers when it just means using them all, which would be a normal case.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”?

This question was answered in 2017 & yes, the answer they gave was true, updated to this day:-

The term`s origin is difficult to verify but likely comes from simplifying the term “Flanking Speed,” in which naval vessels would attempt to get around the sides or “Flanks” of another vessel`s vulnerable locations:-

The term “Flank Speed” comes from the Battleship period and was used during W.W.1;- The fleet consisted of battleships that steamed in a straight line ahead. Flanked on either side by a screen of torpedo boat destroyers or just destroyers:-

Flank speed is a nautical term referring to a ship’s true maximum speed, but it is not equivalent to the term full speed ahead. Flank speed is reserved for situations in which a ship finds itself in imminent danger.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

What is the origin of the expression “bear with me?”

The “bear” here is the old verb “to carry”. You are asking someone to carry a burden along with you until you both get to the destination.

In the case of a long and rambling story, one must carry (or bear) the tedious ins and outs and continue to pay attention until the storyteller gets to the punch line.

A related use of bear means “to endure,” as in “Grin and bear it.” This is the same thing: to suffer through a painful experience until you reach the end.

What is the origin of the expression ‘to go haywire’?

Back in the late 19th Century New England, with logging a good industry, companies “penny-pinching” would repair machinery with light baling wire instead of paying the price of a correct repair. Quite often, the machines would explode. In fact, as I recall, back in 1905, The US Forestry Bureau Bulletin described “a haywire outfit” as a contemptuous term for loggers with poor logging equipment.

What is the origin of the expression “to touch base with someone”?

I actually think it makes more sense as originating from the game “tag.” In baseball, as the runner rounds the bases and touches them, he is usually not stopping and not meeting anyone (other than the opponent, perhaps violently and briefly). So, that doesn’t seem to fit the usage of the phrase. However, in “tag,” “base” is a safe zone where participants who are not “it” can take a brief refuge from the frenzy of not getting tagged and can chat with other “refugees” before departing again on their merry way into the frenzy.

What is the origin of the expression “Captain Obvious”?

The following testimony is anecdotal, and I can’t verify it by reasonable means (since videotape and published works from that era do not exist to corroborate). Still, I wholly believe the following to be the origin story of Captain Obvious. There is always the possible chance that this now-famous moniker originated from different sources (by way of parallel thinking), but I am somewhat skeptical of this possibility.

Here’s the story, as I believe it.

At a high school in Millbrae, California, circa 1983, a teenager whose interests included the Beatles, Monty Python, and European art history by the name of Thomas Richard Harris (i.e., Tom Dick Harry) came up with an improv character that he named Ron Obvious.

His version of “Ron” was a cluelessly pompous British television host based on historian Sir Kenneth Clark who would stand in front of iconic landmarks, famous artifacts, or everyday objects while telling you what they were as though you might be an idiot.

Tom had seen Terry Jones portraying a character named Ron Obvious on television reruns and made some modifications — as Terry’s creation was of a thrill-seeking idiot who attempted to do impossible things (i.e., jumping the English Channel, eating a cathedral, etc…….)

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

His classmate and friend Chris Ritter (me) had only seen Tom’s modified version and took that stuffy British character over into the drama department, renamed him Captain Obvious, and evolved him into being more of a clueless and macho first responder who would over-narrate his heroism during situations that a 7-year old would have handled just as easily.

This zany Captain Obvious character made its way into a Palo Alto-based improv group of teenagers (i.e., Creative Mayhem), where I would perform variations on this Reagan-era idiot/hero alongside a performer by the name of Jimmy Gunn as my foil. Gunn would go on to not only be a stand-up comic of some note within the San Francisco comedy scene, but he would also perform improv during the late 1980s and early 1990s at the Punch Line alongside a well-established comedy headliner by the name of Greg Proops.

Proops, during their improv shows, would not only interact with Gunn’s significantly less macho version of Captain Obvious every once in a while, but Proops would sometimes call back the name of the character in a sneering tone during latter portions of their performances together — making the moniker into a playfully passive-aggressive insult of some note against Gunn–(whose schtick was often to come off as an inept and brow beaten comedian anyway.)

Eventually, Proops would become a regular on the globally broadcast improv-comedy show “Whose Line Is it Anyway” (starting in 1989), where Proops would, sometimes with his trademark eye-rolling sarcasm, refer to a castmate out of nowhere as “Captain Obvious.” The reference, now abstract, would get very strong audience reactions even though the character Proops was mocking no longer had any relationship with being any sort of Captain.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

Therefore, I wholly believe Proops was the performer who not only popularized the phrase but that it was his delivery and usage of it that led the way to so many others using it in that same vein.

Somewhat poetically, Captain Obvious eventually returned from being used simply as a verbal or literary aside and once again became an actual three-dimensional goofball character complete with a look and a costume that makes fun of pompous authority figures.

If I had to guess, I believe Tom Harris’ inspiration for coming up with the genesis of this character came not only from watching Sir Clark’s travel films but also might have come in part from the Graham Chapman authority figures from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

As for what led me to rename Tom’s character as a Captain, I can’t be sure, but I think I not only liked the way it sounded but that I may have been, in a way, subtly mocking William Shatner’s version of Captain Kirk (even though I never performed the Captain Obvious character with all of those iconic Shatner mannerisms.)

It can be a bit dicey to take claim as being the guy who coined the phrase Captain Obvious since I can’t prove it. Still, I thought I would throw it out there into the literary universe anyway for anybody who might be curious as to how the good Captain came into being.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

As for Greg Proops, although I have met him twice, sixteen years apart, we have never discussed the subject.

He might have a different recollection as to how Captain Obvious entered the lexicon and whether or not he was the first person to say the phrase on television (as I believe him to be).

There is always the possibility that he either came up with the term in a completely original fashion himself (by way of parallel thinking) or, if not, that he may have first heard the term from someone other than our mutual friend, Jimmy Gunn.

Where does the phrase “Thank you, Captain Obvious!” come from?

The oldest print source Google seems to know about is Drummer Girl by L. E. Blair (Girl Talk series, vol. 12), published in 1994. There, the following quote appears:

“But you’re a girl,” the guy said in surprise. This guy was getting on my nerves. “You are Captain Obvious, aren’t you?” I shot back.

The phrase didn’t pick up steam in print until around 2000. However, I can find a few older references on USENET. This is from a 1992 post by alt. thrash user “Spiral Death Trap”:

Loosen up! If you can’t deal with others’ sexuality, YOU have the

problem, not them. (Rape excepted — Captain Obvious)

and in 1993, David Kosak, now apparently lead quest designer for World of Warcraft, posted “The Adventures of…. CAPTAIN OBVIOUS” on alt.shrinky.dinks. Here’s an excerpt:

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

The police stormed into the room. Several uniformed officers were

present, as well as a man in a grey trenchcoat with a matching

weather-beaten fedora. The trench-coated one surveyed the scene.

“The door alarm has been deactivated; the safe was discovered and

removed from its original location…” He noted.

“Someone has tried to rob this bank!” Captain Obvious stated

helpfully to the man in the fedora.

The man surveyed The Captain. He wore a yellow body suit with a

giant red emblem on his chest that stated CAPTAIN OBVIOUS in red sequined letters.

“My name is … CAPTAIN OBVIOUS!!!” shouted the hero.

So, people expected each other to be familiar with the idiomatic expression by 1992. I need help finding an indication that it came from some particular source, but of course, that doesn’t prove anything.

Update: This may be nothing, but I turned up this group photo from the Chemical Warfare Bulletin, Volume 12, Issue 8, published in 1926.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

Where did the expression “loose cannon” originate?

One of the joys of sailing is learning what a significant role nautical activities have had on expressions in English (and likely other languages).

Various sources on the internet will point to the earliest uses of cannons on ships somewhere around the 1300s, with the 16th-19th centuries being their heydays. Imagine the changes to shipbuilding that had to be required.

Watch any period piece or fun pirate movie, and you can see they held the cannons in place with ropes (or sometimes chains). Let one of those babies get loose through recoil, faulty lines or knots, or enemy damage, and—Holy Jolly Roger!—you can see the danger and destruction a “loose cannon” can wreak. Wild and unpredictable, that metal beast is nearly impossible to reign back in.

Hence, the use of the term for people of similar inclination.

Per this resource, ‘Loose cannon’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase, the phrase both as literal and figurative terms were first likely used in the latter 1800s.

Whether talking about the careening iron hulks or the uncontrollable humans who make life difficult, dealing with a “loose cannon” is enough to make a person want to get “three sheets to the wind”—assuming they survive the experience.

That expression means “drunk” to the point of out-of-control. In sailor-speak, sheets are the ropes that let you control the sails. When the sheets are loose and not controlling the sails, the sails flap around. The boast loses speed, direction, and control.

Search for “nautical expressions” sometimes, and you’ll discover long lists of useful and funny expressions the maritime world has given to everyday English.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

Where did the expression “loose cannon” originate?

Originally Answered: Where did the expression “loose Canon” originate?

Where did the expression “loose Canon” originate?

It’s not “loose Canon”; it’s “loose cannon”. A Canon is an official of the Church, and a cannon is a large metal gun, often mounted on a wheeled gun carriage.

Imagine you’re on a sailing ship in a gun battle. Which would you rather deal with, a Church official wandering about the gun deck or a half-ton lump of cast iron that had broken loose of its restraining ropes and was rolling about creating mayhem wherever it went? Which of these best describes a person who is out of control, creating mayhem by making bad decisions with no regard for their effects?

What is the origin of the expression, “No flies on him”?

What is the origin of the expression, “No flies on him”?

Flies may not make the most loyal pets, but there’s no denying that they have landed with all six (eight?) feet in the English language. Their name comes from the Old English ‘fleogan’ (to fly), the same source as our verb ‘to fly.’ And fly they do — the problem is that they also land where they’re not wanted. One of the earliest fly-based figures of speech, dating back at least to the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, is ‘fly in the ointment,’ which means a small, disagreeable detail that ruins the enjoyment of something nice, like a jelly doughnut. In the 19th century, to say that ‘there are no flies on him’ of somebody meant that the person was alert and active, probably by allusion to cattle that move around enough to deny flies a landing place.

But when flies do land, they often do so in massive numbers, giving us the simile ‘like flies,’ meaning ‘in huge numbers.’ Shakespeare, in Henry VI, Part 2 (1595), wrote, ‘The common people swarm like summer flies,’ and it would not be inappropriate to say that Americans are, as of this writing, watching Regis Philbin ‘like flies.’ Thus, although flies are indeed fragile creatures and seem to die easily, ‘dying like flies’ or ‘dropping like flies’ refers to death in huge numbers (‘like flies’), whether of people or animals, not to any imagined similarity between human and fly mortality.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

What is the origin of the expression “skyrocket”?

Skyrocket is formed from the words sky and rocket. It is both a noun and a verb (intransitive). As a noun, it means a firework that bursts high in the sky. As a verb, it means to rise high and fast, to shoot up high.

Here, sky and rocket are metaphors, respectively, for great height and high speed. In conversations, we say, ‘His ambition is sky high.’ meaning ‘He has very high ambition.’ ‘You don’t have to move with rocket speed.’ means ‘You don’t have to move with high speed.’ The effective meaning of ‘Sky is the limit.’ means ‘There is no limit.’ ‘Redwood trees grow sky high.’ means ‘Redwood trees grow very tall.’

How did the expression “hither and thither” originate?

It’s just a logical pairing, like “here and there.” English used to have variants on “here,” “there,” and “where”; those forms were used for location, but for direction, there was also “hither,” “thither,” and “whither,” for motion towards someplace, and “hence,” “thence,” and “whence” for motion away from (or just from) someplace. So “hither and thither” just meant “to here and to there,” i.e., to various places.

How did the expression “hither and thither” originate?

I am a native English speaker, and I studied Swedish when I was 15 years old. I learned that “here” in Swedish was här and “there” was där. But there were two more ways of saying “here” and “there” that accounted for direction. “From” was från, and “from here” was härifrån and “from there” was därifrån. Moreover, “to here” was hit, and “to there” was dit.

All these words correspond to archaic English words so that:

  • hither = “to here”
  • thither = “to there” (The letter eth is the link between “th” in English and “d” in modern Scandinavian languages.)
  • hence = “from here” (So “henceforth” means “from here on.”)
  • thence = “from there”

So you can translate “hither and thither” as “here and there” in the sense of places one arrives at.

And where did these words originate from? Wherever Old Norse/English/German/Dutch etc. came from. The Merriam-Webster dictionary even mentions a Gothic word here.

I love these old words that point me so easily to my language’s cousins in the Germanic family tree.

What is the origin of the expression “the bum’s rush”?

I had always thought it referred to waiters or bouncers hustling “bums” out of a respectable restaurant or saloon, perhaps by grabbing their waistbands and force-marching them out.

The word “bum” for tramp probably comes from the German “bummer,” meaning an idle or lazy person. Sherman’s soldiers, in their march through Georgia, referred to themselves as “bummers.”

Sure enough, here is the Wall Street Journal confirming my memory.

What is the origin of the expression “back in the day”?

‘ Back in the day’ is a favorite locution that refers to a time in the past, especially a time when someone was young. For example, I used to walk six miles back in my life. Its similar expressions are the following:



At one time.

Before your time.



What is the origin of the expression “to see the light”?

Hi Bud, thanks for the request. I wasn’t looking to answer a Quora question today – but weather issues and brand new COVID issues in Washington State have ‘done a short circuit’ in my plans for the day. I was checking my Quora messages, and your ‘request’ popped up … and hand-cuffed me. This is an idiomatic phrase used in dealing with a particular conversation. Let me bring out the Hebrew blood that runs through my veins and go to my ‘way back’ machine, in/of my ‘Understanding.’

I say? It comes from the most popular book on earth. The ‘first paragraph’?

In the beginning, when God created the universe, – the earth was formless and desolate. The raging ocean that covered everything was engulfed in total darkness, and Rauch HaKodesh (the Spirit of God) was moving over the water. Elohim (God) commanded, “Let there be light,”- and light appeared and was pleased with what he saw. Then he separated the light from the darkness, and he named the light “Day” and the darkness “Night.” The evening passed, and morning came – that was the first day.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

Well? I guess we shouldn’t forget ‘Thomas’ (Edison).

Or? ‘the candle maker’?

Oops, that was the cigarette smoker. Ummm? ‘the candles’ / Please and Thank you.

That’s my ‘Heartfelt answer . . . any “How”? Sure, “my brain is stupid,” I just ‘followed my heart’ on answering this one.

Hey . . . that’s the best Cubby can do … hope it might help answer. Have a sweet day … thanks again for the request.

Where did the expression “by far” come from?

The word “far” semantically asserts that a large distance or length exists. We have quite a few phrases that use “by…” that assert the existence of something: “by a nose,” “by a long shot,” “by a whisker,” and so on. These “nose,” “long shot,” and “whisker” are there to show an extent; these items benchmark how much to what extent our assertions go.

When we say “by far,” we assert the existence and some amount of (great) distance. If there’s no amount or no existence, asserting its extent is meaningless. So, “by nothing” and “by zero” are meaningless expressions.

Assertions are fairly common expressions, but asserting an extent (a benchmark for comparison) of zero/nothing is meaningless. Also, asserting a negative runs into all sorts of problems in English. (Nothing is better than complete happiness. And when you’re hungry, a ham sandwich is better than nothing. So… when you’re hungry, a ham sandwich is better than complete happiness…???)

This is why “by near” (if it is taken to mean “by not far”) runs into trouble. As long as “near” means “not far,” it’s doubtful that “by near” would ever enter into common usage in English.

What is the origin of the expression “to touch base with someone”?

I actually think it makes more sense as originating from the game “tag.” In baseball, as the runner rounds the bases and touches them, he is usually not stopping and not meeting anyone (other than the opponent, perhaps violently and briefly). So, that doesn’t seem to fit the usage of the phrase. However, in “tag,” “base” is a safe zone where participants who are not “it” can take a brief refuge from the frenzy of not getting tagged and can chat with other “refugees” before departing again on their merry way into the frenzy.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

What is the origin of the expression “to touch base with someone”?

It comes from baseball.

So, I started explaining the rules of baseball.

I know Quora loves long answers, and I love baseball, but I never realized how complicated the rules can be to explain when you’re not actually watching the game.

Plus, I realized the rules don’t actually add much understanding to the idiom.

So, for the sake of clarity, here’s a brief description:

  • A player can’t advance without “touching base.”
  • You start at “Home Base,” and the object is to get back to “Home Base” safely by running around the base paths.
  • To do so, you must touch “1st base,” “2nd base,” and “3rd base” in order. You’re checking in with each “base” along the way. As long as you do so, you’re “safe.” This is the only way you can proceed.
  • If you fail to reach base before the ball does or before an opposing player with the ball touches (tags) you, you’re “out.”
  • To be “out” means you can’t proceed, and you’ve cost your team an “out.” Since each team only gets 3 “outs” per inning, you’ve reduced the chances of your team achieving its objective.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

So the idiom can refer to:

  • Checking in with someone
  • Checking in with your proverbial “Home Base.”
  • Letting someone know you’re safe
  • Letting someone know everything’s going as planned (or not)

This is helpful.

What is the origin of the expression “to touch base with someone”?

Not sure of the origin, but I’ll guess that the meaning and application are good enough.

I ‘touch base’ with you when I come to you and chat (or use email, IM, telephone, etc.) to establish a common understanding of the material we are using jointly. Perhaps it is a schedule or a way to present an idea or a summary of problems and potential solutions – the main idea is that you and I discuss the matter at hand until we have a shared understanding and, one hopes, agree on steps to be taken next.

American rules baseball has ‘bases’ which must be touched in sequence when running as a ball is hit, finicky exceptions omitted until one reaches home plate to score a run. Perhaps the expression began as an imaginative leap from standing at a midpoint in your process toward scoring, from standing at a virtual midpoint in a process to achieve a common understanding of which ‘base’ to take next.

Where did the expression “Well, I’ll Swanee!” come from?

I’m not sure of the provenance. The comment by Lauren Schunk (which is, incomprehensibly, banished to the bottom as “needs improvement”) makes the most sense. Many people from Northern England came to the Southern U.S., and of course, they brought their idioms and sayings with them. Some of them became shortened and slurred so that they didn’t sound like the original.

When I was growing up in rural S.C., I heard and said on occasion, “Well, I swan.” I said it as a way to express mild surprise or irritation. I think some people still say it, though I live in a city now and haven’t heard it for years.

Where does the expression “pound of flesh” originate?

Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare. Portia disguised as a male lawyer. A loan was set up with a pound of flesh as security. Portia argued that if the security was collected, it must be exactly a pound—no more, no less.

The famous quote from that play is, « The quality of mercy is not strained to dropeth as a gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice as blessed. It blesseth him that gives and him that receives. ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest it becomes the throned Monarch better than his crown.

My mother taught me the whole passage when I was 10. This is all I can remember just now.

Her lesson was that revenge = a poor outcome for all involved, and mercy usually leads to a more productive outcome. And some other things about politics and power.

What is the origin of the expression “take your stone to the well”?

It comes from the story of Jesus saving the adultress from stoning.

As you may recall, he told the angry crowd, “Let he who is without Sin cast the first stone.”

This next part of the story never made it into the Bible, but many have pointed out that as the only man without Sin, Jesus had effectively obligated himself to cast the first stone. Christ proceeds to lovingly cast the stone handed to him not at her but into a well where the mob is effectively baptized by this act, symbolized by the cooling of the rock in the well, their anger dissipated.

At first, the crowd’s reaction was stunned. But as his wisdom began to sink in, it gave way to repentance. Acknowledging his wisdom and following his example, each man among the crowd then took his stone and cast it into the well.

In this gem, Christ’s elevation is explained, and the rite of baptism, too – all beginning with the stone handed to Christ on account of his qualification.

As a result, the expression “Take your stone to the well” came to mean to turn away one’s anger or release it constructively without causing harm to oneself or others.

What is the origin of the expression “flank speed”? 13 facts?

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