Wordsmith.org: the magic of words

Wordsmith Talk

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  

Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Page 1 of 3 1 2 3
#141799 04/07/05 11:18 AM
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 1,624
Capfka Offline OP
Pooh-Bah
OP Offline
Pooh-Bah
Joined: Jun 2002
Posts: 1,624
Here's one which puzzles me. We say "turn on the light", meaning cause electricity to flow through a light bulb. But why "turn on"? It's usually a switch with a lever rather than a rheostat.

So I'm assuming that the origin of the phrase will be related to a spigot on a barrel (well, I would, wouldn't I, given my interest in real ale? ). But I can't find any definite origin for the term. Anyone able to help?


#141800 04/07/05 11:38 AM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
I
Pooh-Bah
Offline
Pooh-Bah
I
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
If to guess is to help, I would offer this suggestion: in the olden days they had round, surface-mounted wall swithes with center-mounted levers that you turned to open or close the circuit. Well before dimmers hit suburbia.


#141801 04/07/05 12:09 PM
Joined: Jul 2000
Posts: 3,467
Carpal Tunnel
Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Joined: Jul 2000
Posts: 3,467
See:

http://snipurl.com/dvem

These were quite common in the 20s and 30s. I lived in two houses that had them. They are fully rotary and turn clockwise.

The switching system survives today in pretty much all the table lamps you buy.

Hurry up and look at this link because it's a google to ebay and may not be up much longer for viewing.





TEd
#141802 04/07/05 01:31 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
I
Pooh-Bah
Offline
Pooh-Bah
I
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
"See:"

That's the one. (What they don't sell on ebay!)

Speaking of "turn on," did Timothy Leary ever write from heaven?

#141803 04/07/05 02:51 PM
Joined: Mar 2002
Posts: 1,692
D
dxb Offline
Pooh-Bah
Offline
Pooh-Bah
D
Joined: Mar 2002
Posts: 1,692
survives today in pretty much all the table lamps you buy

Actually you don't find this type of switch on table lamps in the UK. I remember being quite confused when I first encountered one in the USA, and of course I didn't immediately discover that the light got brighter if I turned it a second and third time.

Anyway, I remember light switches in my grandparent's house that probably dated back to about 1920 and had been put in to replace the gas lamps that were in fact still in place (maybe even operating - I remember seeing that somewhere*) at the time I'm recalling. The casing and knob on that old electric switch had been cast just like the gas tap on the gas lamp and I suspect they were all like that in the early days of domestic electicity installation - just automatically made like the familiar ones for the gas lamps, so they were turned on just like y'all's table lamps are still today.

* The gas lamps had delicate and fragile porcelain mantles, shaped like a thimble, that glowed brilliant white fading to yellow around the edges. They were always breaking it seems to me, but darned if I can track the memory down to a specific time and place.


#141804 04/07/05 03:22 PM
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 6,511
Carpal Tunnel
Offline
Carpal Tunnel
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 6,511
y'all's

Excellent! I now anoint you Hon'r'ry Sutheneh, Dix(b)ie!


#141805 04/07/05 03:48 PM
Joined: Mar 2002
Posts: 1,692
D
dxb Offline
Pooh-Bah
Offline
Pooh-Bah
D
Joined: Mar 2002
Posts: 1,692
Oh, no! Please! Not that!


#141806 04/07/05 04:49 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
I
Pooh-Bah
Offline
Pooh-Bah
I
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
<<...porcelain mantles...>>

Never seen one of those. The kind I'm familiar with come as silk, which you burn after installation, leaving a fine net of ash. At any rate, I would guess that to "turn up [or down]" the lamp comes from your gas lamps, or from kerosene lamps.

As to Dr. Leary, I only ask because he promised to write and there were those who were watching for it. I am, incidentally, neither follower nor critic of his.


#141807 04/12/05 10:29 PM
Joined: Jun 2000
Posts: 444
B
addict
Offline
addict
B
Joined: Jun 2000
Posts: 444
So doesn't it seem likely that 'turn on' the light comes from gas lamps which predated electric ones, and is about turning on the supply of gas (rather than the supply of beer as Capfka first suggested)?

Admitted and acknowledged non-sequitur:
On the radio recently I heard an interview with some war artists about their experiences. One of them talked about arriving at a military base in Iraq and described all the noise and activity, with 'soldiers coming and going, helicopters taking on and off' etc etc etc.
I could follow how this had happened in speech and I knew what he meant (at least I assume I do!), but my mind blanked at visualising a helicopter 'taking on'. Taking on what? Or just taking on as in having a hissy fit or tantrum? I rather liked it!


#141808 04/14/05 03:42 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
I
Pooh-Bah
Offline
Pooh-Bah
I
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,379
<<So doesn't it seem likely that 'turn on' the light comes from gas lamps which predated electric ones, and is about turning on the supply of gas (rather than the supply of beer as Capfka first suggested)?>>

With gas, I think it would be "light the light," and "turn *up* the light." But, maybe, "turn on the gas" went to "turn on the light." All guesses. No authoriities.




Page 1 of 3 1 2 3

Moderated by  Jackie 

Link Copied to Clipboard
Forum Statistics
Forums16
Topics13,910
Posts228,608
Members9,164
Most Online3,341
Dec 9th, 2011
Newest Members
Teejheni, vrk1951, Doctor, Silverfox, Red_Canoe
9,164 Registered Users
Who's Online Now
0 members (), 79 guests, and 3 robots.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Top Posters(30 Days)
Top Posters
wwh 13,858
Faldage 13,803
Jackie 11,613
tsuwm 10,542
wofahulicodoc 10,060
LukeJavan8 9,878
AnnaStrophic 6,511
Wordwind 6,296
of troy 5,400
Disclaimer: Wordsmith.org is not responsible for views expressed on this site. Use of this forum is at your own risk and liability - you agree to hold Wordsmith.org and its associates harmless as a condition of using it.

Home | Today's Word | Yesterday's Word | Subscribe | FAQ | Archives | Search | Feedback
Wordsmith Talk | Wordsmith Chat

© 1994-2022 Wordsmith

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.5