Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The quick and the dead

Talk about using words to influence a desired outcome. In this case, I'm not too sure of the persuasive power of the word "deadline" on writers to finish a piece of work by the designated date. Owing to the changing times, some writers -- particularly younger ones, "slacker" types, or those who have not been ingrained with the importance of virtues such as punctuality and diligence -- don't seem to really take deadlines seriously.

Interesting bit here about the word, from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

"time limit," 1920, Amer.Eng. newspaper jargon, from dead + line. Perhaps influenced by earlier use (1864) to mean the "do-not-cross" line in Civil War prisons, which figured in the Wirz trial.
And he, the said Wirz, still wickedly pursuing his evil purpose, did establish and cause to be designated within the prison enclosure containing said prisoners a "dead line," being a line around the inner face of the stockade or wall enclosing said prison and about twenty feet distant from and within said stockade; and so established said dead line, which was in many places an imaginary line, in many other places marked by insecure and shifting strips of [boards nailed] upon the tops of small and insecure stakes or posts, he, the said Wirz, instructed the prison guard stationed around the top of said stockade to fire upon and kill any of the prisoners aforesaid who might touch, fall upon, pass over or under [or] across the said "dead line" .... ["Trial of Henry Wirz," Report of the Secretary of War, Oct. 31, 1865]

Well, personally, I regard the word "deadline" with sweet fondness every time we're done putting an issue to bed. But in the midst of finishing a difficult article during crunch time, I always wish this concept did not exist at all. Hence, the following is something I truly enjoy watching when the deadlines (at least for the time being) are over!

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