where the rubber meets the road

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where the rubber meets the road

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:06 am

In a recent issue of Newsweek, I came across the following:
“Republicans—and many of their Tea Party and Libertarian cousins—are campaigning on the promise of a conservative takeover of government. But in New Jersey, where such a takeover is well underway, a rubber-meets-the-road question is emerging: can conservatism actually soothe the nation’s fiscal woes?”—Newsweek, 12 July, page 8>
The ‘official’ expression is WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD. But, surprisingly, it didn't appear in any of the dictionaries that I checked – and I checked quite a few.

I found this expression to be a difficult one to define with it having several different shades of meaning. And the only way I could come up with some reasonable definitions was by trying to fit them to the quotes.

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD: Where the time for decisions and action – often involving conflict – is now; at a point where action is required; where opposing views finally clash head to head; where ideas must face reality; where one must get down to the nitty-gritty; where the action is.
<1957 “add agency jargon . . . ‘let’s get down where the rubber meets the road.’” —Los Angeles Times,18 April, page 2>

<1957 “Just as lovers develop their own language, so do businessmen . . .now known as ‘businessman’s bebop’ . . . ‘gray flannelisms’ overheard in conferences in many executive suites. Here are a few, selected at random, for the young go-getter who wants to pep up his conference vocabulary: . . . . . . ‘Let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road.’ . . . ”— Newport Daily News (Rhode Island) , 31 July, page 16>

<1958 “Let’s get down to where the rubber meets the road.”— Western folklore, Vol. 17. No. 1, January, page 63>

<1962 “You mean toss it in the well and see the kind of splash it makes; follow it into the high grass and see if it eats; get down to where the rubber meets the road.”—Time Magazine, 14 December>

<1973 “Chairman George Willeford told the State Republican Executive Committee twice that the rural areas are ‘where the rubber meets the road if the GOP is to start winning races for statewide offices.”—Denton Record-Chronicle, 11 February, page 3>

<1975 “The church has to move out where the rubber meets the road . . .”—European Stars and Striped (Darmstadt, Germany), 9 October, page 24>

<1984 “In the meantime, he continued, the world appears to be heading toward a point ‘where the rubber meets the road. We are seeing frightfully few reserves coming on in relation to the number of wells that are drilled.’”—Oil Daily, 4 December>

<1992 “But why would a distinguished legal scholar and jurist want to take an assignment like the Helmsley case? Explains the judge: ‘In the law, it's where the rubber meets the road.’”—Time Magazine, 6 July>

<1999 “‘I think that what we are looking for is an assessment of what the human-services coordinator and the health director would say are the needs of the community,’ Walton said. ‘That’s kind of the place where the rubber meets the road in learning about those kind of needs.’”—Daily Herald (Chicago), 5 February, Section 5, page 1>

<2002 “However, when you get down to where the rubber meets the road, you will find that they are calling for the same things the Brady [[gun control]] Campaign called for, beginning with the initiation of a gun registration system that is in violation of existing federal law. The Facts (Clute, Texas), 22 July, page 4>

<2006 “Certainly, having that policy is a good one; implementing it is where the rubber meets the road.”—Aiken Standard (South Carolina). 30 August, page 10>

<2010 “I suspect that little of what he says will transform or make our educational system better where the rubber meets the road: in our local schools.”—The Post-Standard (Syracuse, New York) 25 July>
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD was originally part of an advertising jingle for Firestone tires. I couldn’t come up with an exact date, but according to my 2001 quote below, I’d say that it was born sometime in the 1940s and that it became a catch phrase, as defined above, sometime in the 1950s (see 1957 quotes above).
<2001 “Akron [[Ohio]] journalists have recently uncovered other details about the 1950 Dedication [[a statue of Harvey Firestone unveiled, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the tire company in 1900]]. . . Back then [[at the dedication]] we would have just kept whistling the Firestone jingle that ran through our heads all day: Wherever wheels are rolling / No matter what the load / The name that’s known is Firestone / where the rubber meets the road! It would be over twenty years after the 1950 Dedication before my father stopped whistling that tune.”—The North American Review, Vol. 286, No. 5, (September-October), page 6>
I’m sure there are other phrases that have made the transition from ads to idioms, but, offhand, the only one I can think of at the moment is Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?”
____________________

Ken G – August 2, 2010
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Re: where the rubber meets the road

Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Aug 03, 2010 4:55 am

.. Ken for the definitive word on this idiom we HAVE to refer to that greatest of Rock icons .. none other than Mr Loaf himself .. Meat to his mates ..
Meat Loaf: Where the Rubber Meets the Road Lyrics:
Somewhere some girl is crazy, and some
boy's half out of his head
Somewhere somebody's fearless and someone won't wind up dead
Somewhere two hearts are pounding, and
they don't care what's correct
Somewhere somebody's fallin' in love, without a background check
Son I'm Mr. PC, believe you me, I'm the ultimate king of correct
And if you wanna make it, you gotta make her take it
As a sign a' your deep respect
If you're gonna do it, you gotta see through it
To the heavenly trust that it is
Then you can call her a slut, and you can call her a slave
If you remember to call her MS.
Where the rubber meets the road
Welcome to protection mode
Used to be sex was a fine hello
Now the rubber meets the road
Ya say "girl, you're a beauty", but I'm no beast
I got a little contrcat right here
See, you can slam on the brakes, anytime you got the stick
Even if we're in 4th gear
Cop in the front seat, lawyer in the back seat
Gettin' it on videotape
Got a shrink in the bed, lord, sittin' on the headboard
Swearin' that we both got raped
Where the rubber meets the road
Welcome to protection mode
Used to be sex was a fine hello
Now the rubber meets the road
Where the rubber meets the road
Boy meets girl then watch it explode
Yes means no means yes means no
Where the rubber meets the road!
Somewhere some girl is crazy, and some
boy's half out of his head
Somewhere somebody's fearless and someone won't wind up dead
Somewhere two hearts are pounding, and
they don't care what's correct
Somewhere somebody's fallin' in love, without a background check
Somewhere somebody's fallin' in love, without a background check
Where the rubber meets the road
Welcome to protection mode
Used to be sex was a fine hello
Now the rubber meets the road
Where the rubber meets the road
Boy meets girl then watch it explode
Yes means no means yes means no
Where the rubber meets the road!
Somewhere some girl is crazy, and some
boy's half out of his head
Somewhere there's just a moment, when it all remains unsaid
Somewhere two hearts are pounding, and
they don't care what's correct
Somewhere somebody's fallin' in love, ...
.. now it's all clear .. isn't it ??

WoZ who would do anything for love
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: where the rubber meets the road

Post by Shelley » Tue Aug 03, 2010 7:54 pm

WoZ, it looks to me like Mr. Loaf's song should be titled "Where the Rubber Meets the Roadie".
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Re: where the rubber meets the road

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:10 am

Or, perhaps, 'Where the scrubber meets the roadie'.

The lyrics of Meat Loaf are not easily confused with Stephen Sondheim's.

One of the entries under Urbandictionary's headword 'scrubber' helpfully supplies some colourful synonyms:
"Exactly the same as Chav, Ned, Townie, Kev, Charver, Steek, Spide, Bazza, Yarco, Ratboy, Kappa Slapper, Skanger, Janner, Stig, Scallie and Scrut".
I'm not familiar with most of those epithets, but I assume they are British regionalisms.
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Re: where the rubber meets the road

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:53 pm

Rubber meets road in America.
Traffic all slowed in America.
Car overload in America.
No Highway Code in America.
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Re: where the rubber meets the road

Post by Wizard of Oz » Fri Aug 06, 2010 3:55 am

.. another quote for you Ken with a rather clever addition >>
Liberal Member for Paterson Bob Baldwin has criticised Labor's promise of a study into high-speed rail, saying it will amount to nothing.

"This Government has had so many studies it deserves a master's degree in studies," he said.

"What people want is rubber to hit the road. They want to see action and traction, they don't want to see more studies.
.. this was reported on ABC radio on the 5th August .. we are currently having a Federal election so the BIG promises are coming thick and fast ..

WoZ who loves train travel
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Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: where the rubber meets the road

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:52 am

Today I spotted a new variant in a New York Times story titled 'U.S. Prepares to Train African Forces to Fight Terror':
“When the tire meets the tar, that’s when you actually learn the most lessons,” Brig. Gen. Lawrence Reginald Smith, the South Africa force commander there [i.e. in South Africa], said in a telephone interview. “What we bring to the table is knowledge of the indigenous people and the rebels who come from those people, including how they act.”
At this moment there are circa 50 Google hits for this new form, many of them quoting Brig. Gen. Lawrence Reginald Smith.

No hits yet for "where the tire hits the tar".

So it remains to be seen whether the alliterative tire / tar form gains any traction among speakers of English.
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