The Tragic History Of The Term "Deadline"!


"Deadline." Dead-line.

Did you know that the word ''deadline'' really comes from the ''line of death?'' This story we're about to tell with etymological research is a bit tragic.

The word ''deadline'' is actually a war term that fits its definition.

According to etymologists, the term was first used during the civil war in the U.S (1861-1865). Writer Christine Ammer states that the term was first used by a colonel named D.T. Chandler in a report written on 5 July 1864 at a horrible prison camp known as the hell of its time.

The colonel explains the horrible circumstances of the prison camps like this:

The prisoners of war are restrained in a rambling wooden cell which is 15 feet high, 8 inches wide and is buried 5 feet in the ground. Over the rails which enclose the cells is the ''deadline."__ The prisoners are not allowed to leave this place and have to live in this 6 sq feet area.

There is another report from the same camp written by Captain Walter Bowie (1864)

There is a deadline in the cells. No prisoner can pass this line, neither in the evening nor in the morning; if they do so, the punishment is to be shot to death.

The deadline practice, which started in Andersonville, spreads quickly.

According to many reports, the term and the practice spreads to almost every prison and camp.

Another report from the prison in Rock Island Union:

When I first saw him, he was behind the coalyard. At first I didn't understand who I saw and I missed him for a second. Then I saw him trying to go over the ditches and escape. I went next to him near the razor wires and shot him. I threw him in the ditch next to shed number 13.

So how did this scary concept get into the business world?

By journalism.

Researcher David Merline came across this finding: Newspapers internalized the term quickly and started using it as readability limit that cannot be passed during pressing.

Afterwards, the term spread to every printing house

The first meaning of the term is used more as to describe how the printing process will be structured and which limits can't be passed rather than the due date. But using the term in place of ''due date'' of course takes its place quickly.

By 1900s, the term was used to describe all the limits that shouldn't be passed.

By 1920s, the term becomes widespread with the meaning of ''time constraint''

Today, deadline is sort of the line of death in business life.

Because it carries the risk of losing a client for good. We give our farewells to all journalists who placed this disturbing term right in the middle of our lives.

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