touch and go

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touch and go

Post by Archived Topic » Sat Nov 20, 2004 5:49 pm

The idiom "touch and go" sounds like it refers to an occurance, the effect of which is not lasting, but is transient and passe. However, the meaning of the idiom, as described in the New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, seems to be quite in disagreement to my understanding. I find it rather confusing that the usage has been ascribed to a thing marked by uncertainty and peril.

http://www.bartleby.com/59/4/touchandgo.html

How did the idiom come to parlance?
Submitted by Sathyaish Chakravarthy (New Delhi - India)
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touch and go

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:03 pm

>disagreement to my understanding

Apologies for a typo in my post, that reads like a grammatical error. Please read the above as:

[snip]disagreement with my understanding..[/snip]
Reply from Sathyaish Chakravarthy (New Delhi - India)
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touch and go

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:17 pm

'Touch And Go' is in fact a naval expression meaning 'uncertain as regards results' and it refers to a ship touching the sea bed and then slipping off again.

16.08.04
Reply from Graham Godwin (Bath - England)
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touch and go

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:32 pm

Sathyaish and Graham, There are two rival theories on the etymology of ‘touch and go’ and the nautical theory is one of them.

TOUCH AND GO is used as both a noun and adjective (‘touch-and-go) and means a precarious situation in which the outcome is doubtful or extremely uncertain for a time – a close flirtation with danger or disaster. “It was touch and go after his surgery, but he pulled through.” “He was familiar with the touch and go of guerilla warfare.” It also has a second meaning of ‘quick action or movement,’ “One must learn to deal with the touch and go of city traffic.’

The first appearance of ‘touch and go’ in a literal sense was in the 16th century (see quote below) as a verbal phrase (used as noun or adjective) meaning to touch for an instant and immediately go away or pass on; to deal with momentarily or slightly. In the early 19th century the phrase took on its two other figurative meaning – 1) adjective: [1812] Involving or characterized by rapid, slight, or superficial execution; sketchy; casual, careless; instantaneous; expeditious. 2) noun: [1815] precarious situation.

The familiar sense of ‘precarious situatioin’ originated in the early 19th century with reference to coach driving or ship pilotage and appears to have been a literal allusion to a vehicle barely escaping collision. Coach drivers used the term ‘touch and go’ for a narrow escape after the wheels of two coaches touched in a near accident – the wheels would TOUCH, there would be a moment of extreme anxiety, but neither vehicle was stopped, and each could GO on. For sailors a ship was said to ‘touch and go’ when its keel scraped the bottom without stopping the boat or loosing a significant amount of speed. A second nautical use referred to the practice of approaching the shore to let off cargo or men, but in an attempt to save time and avoid the involved procedure of stopping – not stopping. It has been speculated by some that the great risk and uncertainty involved in this maneuver spawned the expression.
<1549 “As the text doeth ryse, I wyl TOUCHE AND GO a lyttle in euery place, vntyl I come vnto to much.”—‘First Sermon Preached Before King Edward VI’ by Latimer, page 26> [[literally, touch on and go away, deal with momentarily]]

<1655 “Howsoever we may taste of it to bring on Appetite, let it be but a TOUCH AND GO.”—‘Healths Improvement’ by Moufet & Bennet (1746), page 59> [[literally, touch on and go away, deal with momentarily]]

<1812 “There is an art of writing for the Theatre, technically called TOUCH AND GO. . . indispensable when we consider the small quantum of patience which . . . a London audience can be expected to afford.”—‘Rejected Addresses, or the New Theatrum Poetarum’ by H. & J. Smith, preface, page 11> [[figuratively, superficial execution]]

<1815 “'Twas TOUCH AND GO—but I got my seat.”—‘Letters on Epistles to the Romans’ by R. Wardlaw in ‘Sketches of Life’ by Alexander (1856), vi. page 166> [[figuratively, precarious situation]]

<1832 “Free to introduce anecdotes, quotations, and all such TOUCH-AND-GO things as the formality of an essay would not admit of.”— ‘Memoirs, Journal, and Correspondence’ (1854) by Thomas Moore, VI. page 247> [[figuratively, superficial execution]]

<1887 “She caught [the horse]..by the mane, and though it was TOUCH AND GO she managed to retain her seat.”—‘Cleverly Won’ by H. Smart, ii> [[figuratively, precarious situation]]
(Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable)
_____________________

Ken G – August 16, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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touch and go

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Nov 20, 2004 6:46 pm

.. another military use of "touch and go" refers to the training practice undertaken by Air Force aircraft when they land, proceed along the runway and then accelerate to immediately takeoff again without actually stopping .. these are called "touch and go's" .. they can be used practically for quick delivery of cargo to an airfield or as a necessary manoeuvre if an aircraft comes under fire as it lands ..
WoZ of Aus. 17/08/04
Reply from Wizard of Oz (Newcastle - Australia)
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touch and go

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:01 pm

Woz

Touch & Go is also used by training pilots to practice
their landing skills and some airports call the flight
path used by small aircraft the touch & go path to keep
them out of the way of the passenger aircraft whose flight
path is called arrivals & departures.
Worked at Cairns airport for over 27 years ( Ansett ???)

Gaz
Reply from Gary Wallington (Akolele - Australia)
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touch and go

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:15 pm

Well thank you Clubhouse,

A most interesting collection of answers - one really does learn something every day!

17.08.04
Reply from Graham Godwin (Bath - England)
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touch and go

Post by Archived Reply » Sat Nov 20, 2004 7:29 pm

Just as an aside, 'touch and go' is used for reasonably skilled learner pilots. Circuit and bumps is used instead for real newchums.
Reply from Ron Harker (Bay Of Idslands - New Zealand)
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