18 July 2006

Etymology Part III: Drinking from the firehose

J came home with this expression one day, and I immediately adopted it. Drinking from the firehose means you are overwhelmed in some way, involved in something intense in which it is hard to stay caught up.

I was surprised that I could find examples of this phrase in use, but no explanation of where it came from. Even the Urban Dictionary, which usually provides me with something amusing if not downright useful, came up blank.

I have been told that "drinking from the firehose" refers specifically to being inundated with information from the Internet. Indeed, some of the links I found using this expression are related to the explosion of data created by the proliferation of the web each year.

Another possible source of the term is its usage at MIT, where the expression is used to describe the experience of being a student there. Since MIT is, in fact, steeped in the developement of technology, it would not be difficult to imagine the phrase crossing over (from describing education to describing the Internet) at this point.

I also found evidence that the phrase is being used more generally. My rather perfunctory Google search turned up examples of the phrase used to describe an Italian language immersion program and a flight training program at United Airlines.

I submitted the phrase to the Urban Dictionary, and it was published today.

1 comment:

dronbyfoto said...

I say briefly: Best! Useful information. Good job guys.