flight (of wine etc.)

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Sat Mar 22 00:13:53 UTC 2008

The term is also used for groups of skaters in a competition, as I am
reminded watching the World Championships this week. In the free
skate, they skate in reverse order of standing (with the leader
coming last), in groups -- flights -- with a warmup (and in some
cases a flood, i.e., ice resurfacing) in between, and it's a big
thing to be in the final flight.

I was wondering whether it has anything to do with flights of stairs,
but a little looking up make sme think not quite -- that has more to
do with the upward trajectory of the stairs specifically, whereas the
groups of skaters -- and, I would assume, of wine -- do seem more
like OED 8a, "A collection or flock of beings or things flying in or
passing through the air together," or, as you say, perhaps more
specifically "A Royal Air Force unit consisting of about five or six
machines; the members of such a unit." This latter use is dated back
to 1914; the former, unsuprisingly, has Middle English cites.

I would imagine that the flight of wine use might have originated in
wine competitions, which have been around for a good long time. The
competitive nature of those and of the skating events would give
added cause to suspect the RAF link, I'd think.

James Harbeck.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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