flight (of wine etc.)

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sat Mar 22 10:57:35 UTC 2008

You can only hope that no former RAF members have read your message
and think you want to associate any of them with such an unmanly
drink as wine.


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
>Subject:      Re: flight (of wine etc.)
>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

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

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

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