full bore

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full bore

Post by toobeaut » Mon May 02, 2005 10:50 pm

Can anyone explain the origin of the expression "full bore," as in, "If I start a new hobby, I always go full bore."

I suppose it has to do with firearms, but can anyone explain fully?
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue May 03, 2005 7:37 am

Mark, FULL-BORE nowadays is used as the adjective meaning to the fullest possible extent, complete, thoroughgoing, full-blown, moving or operating at the greatest speed or with maximum power. <"What they found when they broke down the door was a full-bore illegal gambling operation">. And FULL BORE is used as the adverb meaning at maximum capacity, power, speed, force, etc., to the fullest extent. <"The two cars were speeding full-bore down the straightaway."> In the expression AT FULL BORE (1938) the ‘full bore’ functions as a noun and the adverbial phrase means at full capacity, at maximum strength or speed. <"If he worked at full bore he could have the job finished by nightfall.">

BORE (12th century) is both a verb meaning to drill (a hole) and a noun (circa 13th century) meaning the hole that results.

The earliest appearance of FULL BORE (1635) was as a noun meaning a size, diameter or quantity that exactly fills a particular pipe, tube. etc. (from the idea of the full size of a bored hole) or as much as a pipe or similar container can hold. And in 1666 it first referred to a firearm (the barrel is a 'bored' hole) and today it is used to distinguish between a full-sized military or service rifle and the small-bore firearms used (often indoors) for training or target practice.

By 1755 FULL BORE was being use as an adverb to mean to the full capacity or diameter of a pipe, etc. and this was later generalized (1936) to its present meaning of at maximum capacity or full speed. In modern times this meaning has probably been strongly influenced by the condition of an unchoked carburetor in an engine, where the full bore of the gas line is being used.

FULL-BORE first appeared as an adjective in 1914 meaning 1) exactly filling or blocking a particular pipe, tube, etc. and 2) as much as a pipe or similar container can hold. It wasn’t until the 1970s that it was generalized to its present meaning of, to the fullest possible extent, complete, thoroughgoing, full-blown, etc.
<1635 “It is likewise ordered, that muskett bulletts, of a FULL BOARE, shall passe currantly for a farthing a peece.”—‘Early Laws of Massachusetts,’ 4 March in N. B. Shurtleff Rec. Mass. Bay (1853) I. page 137>

<1666 “That every Man be armed with a Musquet FULL BORE.”—‘Brief Description of the Province of Carolina,’ page 7>.

<circa 1699 “My engine at 60, 70, or 80 feet, raises a FULL BORE of water with much ease.”—in ‘Science Monthly’ (1936) by T. Savery, September, page 272/2>

<1755 “When the water run [sic] FULL BORE, at the rate of a gallon in 17 seconds, the heat of the water was found . . . to be 80 degrees above the freezing point.”—‘Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society,’ 49, page 320>

<1936 “When the throttle is lying flat in the direction of gas flow, the engine is running ‘FULL BORE’, the term generally used for this being ‘full throttle’.”—‘Motor Man’ (edition 29), ii. page 26>

<1938 “The yard employed three thousand men when it was working AT FULL BORE.”—‘Kindling’ by N. Shute, v. page 10>

<1963 “Blasting nearly FULL-BORE into the shallow-banked turns, the lighter (by 600 Ibs.) Lotus-Fords made the U.S. cars look like dump trucks.”— ‘Time Magazine, 4 October>

<1971 “The postal strike caused many schools to abandon the attempt to fire both small-bore and FULL-BORE [rifles] in one term.”—‘Country Life,’ 29 July, page 271/2>

<1977 “There is a bill now in the banking committee that provides for a FULL-BORE lending facility for credit unions to meet liquidity problems.”—‘Forbes’ (Nexis), 1 November, page 98>

<1982 “In Ditka, a former Bear tight end and Dallas assistant coach, Chicago got just the hard-nosed, no-nonsense type it wanted. He has run a mean training camp, with more FULL-BORE scrimmaging than normal.”—‘Christian Science Monitor’ (Sports Section) –Electronic edition, Section 9, September, page 1>
(Oxford English Dictionary, Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang, Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology, Random House Unabridged Dictionary)
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Ken G – May 2, 2005
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full bore

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue May 03, 2005 11:17 am

Of course, car engines also have piston bores in their blocks. This strikes me as being intuitively a more likely automotive association than 'the full bore of the gas line' explanation, since a piston reciprocating back and forth in its engine block seems a much more powerful image than the notion of petrol coursing through its full 8 mm diameter of fuel line (manly though that might appear to some).
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full bore

Post by russcable » Tue May 03, 2005 6:20 pm

;-) ... but the pistons are always at "full bore" both in that they always exactly fill the diameter of the chamber and they always move the full length of their movement no matter what speed the engine is running.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue May 03, 2005 6:24 pm

BOREDOM is actually a pretty interesting subject! (&lt)
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Ken G – May 3, 2005
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed May 04, 2005 6:11 am

Erik, I’m going to have to agree with your last comment. The truth be known, my personal image of ‘full bore’ has always been that of the piston and not the gas line. When I was growing up one of the big deals with hot-rodders was having their engines bored out – the bigger bore diameter providing a more powerful engine. Of course, there was a limit to how much one could have bored out, and what I had always visualized (possibly influenced by my time spent boring out holes on a Moore jig boring machine) was that full-bore meant a large bore and possibly the largest bore one could get away with for a particular engine. I never thought of the full bore of a gas line, although that’s the explanation provided by Chapman in his Dictionary of American Slang and the one I mentioned. It is my gut feeling, however, that if one were to take a survey, the majority of folks (rightly or wrongly) would probably go with the image of the piston bore.

Ken – May 3, 2005
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