[Ads-l] "come-a-long", engineer's jargon (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill CIV (US) william.d.mullins18.civ at MAIL.MIL
Mon May 4 17:11:19 UTC 2015

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

I don't think of it particularly as "engineering jargon" (I'm an engineer by trade); just the name of the tool.  I see them more commonly with steel cables than chains, although not exclusively.

There are (at least) two different tools which are called come alongs.

1.  One is an winch with an eye for attaching one cable, and wrapped around the winch is another relatively short piece of cable with an eye at the working end.  The winch is ratcheted and pulls the working end so that the two eyes get closer and closer together.


This one is more common, and can be bought at Harbor Freight, Home Depot, etc.

2.  Another is simply a gripping/clamping device, which is attached externally to a cable. When tension is applied, the grip gets tighter and tighter.  It is a more specialized tool and is not as commonly available.


_San Bernardino County [CA] Sun_ 21 Dec 1946 p 17 col 7 [classified ad]
"ROTARY jackhammer, paint spray outfit, acetylene welder, 3/4-ton come-along hoist, gasoline engine."

There is a style of handcuffs/restraint devices called "come alongs":


_Freeport [IL] Journal-Standard_ 22 Apr 1886 p 4 col 4
"Officer Piersol reached the spot as Jake got his man up, and after the come-a-longs were put on his wrists, he was escorted between the two officers to the station, where he passed the night."

I've also seen the term used in reference to a football play.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
> Behalf Of George Thompson
> Sent: Monday, May 04, 2015 9:50 AM
> Subject: "come-a-long", engineer's jargon
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header ---------------
> --------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU>
> Subject:      "come-a-long", engineer's jargon
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> From an article in today's NYTimes on a malfunctioning footbridge that
> is undergoing repair.
> "Last week, through a chain-link fence that prevents access to the
> bridge, one could see an elaborate system of chains that crisscrosses
> its eight-foot-wide deck. In the middle of each chain was a hand-
> operated winch with a ratchet, known in engineering parlance as a
> =E2=80=9Ccome-a-long,=E2= =80=9D which is used to pull objects
> together."
> This term seem not to be in the OED.
> NY Times, May 4, 2015, section A, p. 19, col. 1 (story "Slow Rebound
> for a Bridge Whose Bounce Became Worse" starts on p. 15)
> --=20
> George A. Thompson
> The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998..
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: NONE

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

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