Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Revising the Deadline

Sharon Wildwind

Congratulations to Lil Gluckstern, who won the draw for the phrase to replace deadline. She gets a quilted door hanger saying "I'm nearing my due date." Lil, please send me e-mail with your mailing address.

Kaye George wins a truck pincushion for figuring out where the truck was on a military base.

Thanks to all of those who participated.

As some of you know, I took the plunge and did the 3-Day Novel Contest this year. This is the thirty-fifth year that writers from all over the world have written, or attempted to write, a novel in 72 hours. Since 0001 on Friday, September 1 until just a few minutes ago, 2400 hours on September 3, I have been writing or sleeping, or eating, or hugging my significant other. That’s it.

Okay, I did manage one outside walk, watered the plants, assembled one quilt square, took two baths, and spent a few minutes on the treadmill, but that was it. My total life for 3 days.

Did I write a novel? Not by a long shot. I was aiming for 100 pages, the average length of previous contest winners.

I wrote 50 pages, but it was a complete story, so I am one happy camper.

In spare moments, I took time to look up the word deadline, wondering why something that is so active had the word “dead” in it. Where did “deadline” come from anyway?

Three possibilities

The American Civil War. A line was drawn seventeen feet from a military prison’s inner stockade. If a prisoner crossed that line, he could be shot without warning. Scary, but probably not related to writing.

A term referring to the removal of a military vehicle or equipment from operation because it is damaged, unsafe or would be damaged by further use. I tended to discount this possible source, except that now that I’ve finished the 3-DN, “would be damaged by further use” seem sooooo! appropriate.

My favorite, and where I think this really comes from is that in the early 20th century a deadline was “a guideline on the bed of a printing press beyond which text will not print.” (Henry, Printing for School & Shop, 1917). That meant that anything written after the deadline, would not be printed. Originally it referred to the length of the writing, but somehow it got flipped to mean the time of writing.

You know what this means, don’t you? If this is an early 20th century term, it means Shakespeare never had a deadline. Neither did Dickens, Chaucer, or Alexander Dumas. Proust might have had one, since he published in the early years of the 20th century.

In any case, it’s time we got rid of of the dead in deadline, so today I’m sponsoring a contest. Imagine you have a sign on your office door. “I’m on _____________.” What word would you use in place of deadline to fill in that blank?

It should be something fun, colorful. Something that reflects our joy of life as writers. So, think of a word to replace deadline, submit in the comments section, and I’ll put all the suggestions in a hat and draw one, who will win a prize.

I’ll also send a separate prize to the first person who answers this question:

Where is the only truck on a U. S. Army base found? (In the 1960s, this was actually a question on the test given to men and women who hoped to be promoted to sergeant.)

Shutting down now to preserve vital functions.


Kathleen Kaska said...

How about "final approach?"

Kaye George said...

I like"final approach". You'd have to rephrase, but I like to think of it as the "finish line". If you're like me, you work well with whatever-it's-called, and it's a race at the end, to the finish line.

Terry Parrish said...

I'm on Amber Alert!

As for the other, I have no idea.

Sandra Parshall said...

I always feel like I'm coming in for a landing. It might be a crash landing, but I've reached my destination. :-)

JJM said...

Interesting post, thank you -- but what delighted me most was the question about the truck. Had a lovely time tracking that one down. The second question is: what does it contain? [laughs]


Anonymous said...

Wonderful suggestions. Keep them coming.

Mario, I may have to research this. (grin)

Kaye George said...

Ah, the truck. I found many contradictory answers and definitions at http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20061004083034AAcNvPg
I won't hazard a guess, except that one and the razor, etc, is probably wrong. Right?

Anonymous said...

Kaye nailed it. The truck is the round ball on top of the flagpole on a military base. Everything else with wheels, gas tanks, etc. are known as vehicles.

As for Mario's question about what is inside of it, folklore says it's a bullet, a match, and something else I'll have to look. Actually, that is apocryphal. What's really inside the truck is either air or metal, depending on if it is hollow or solid metal.

JJM said...

A razor blade. I'd found the full story on Snopes -- now that the answer's been given, here's the link:



KB Inglee said...

Following the Civil War, a prisoner at Andersonville, Ezra Hoyt Ripple, wrote a book called Dancing Along the Deadline.
I have always liked the term Deadline since a piece of writing needs to be submitted by then even if it isn't ready to go, and has a good chance of being shot down.

Warren Bull said...

How about "the victory lap?"

Unknown said...

Life Support

Carol Baier

lil Gluckstern said...

How about I'm nearing my "due date?" After all it is your baby, and a lot of work :)