[Ads-l] Put it in the gray basket (UNCLASSIFIED)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jun 9 14:57:31 UTC 2016

> also seems to be a synonym...

Have known and used it for decades.  Have heard it too, though not
from the posited "average American."


On Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 10:43 AM, Mullins, Bill CIV (US)
<william.d.mullins18.civ at mail.mil> wrote:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Michael Quinion
>> Sent: Thursday, June 09, 2016 3:32 AM
>> Subject: Put it in the gray basket
>> A reader asks about the expression "put it in the gray basket", which seems to mean putting aside those questions for which there is too
>> little evidence to form a conclusion. An example: "As a physicist, I believe one must ask the right questions, have a large 'gray basket' for
>> those questions about which there is too little solid information to reach a scientific conclusion." (/Flying Saucers and Science: A Scientist
>> Investigates the Mysteries of Ufos/, by Stanton T. Friedman,
>> 2008.) The spelling is always "gray", suggesting it is of US provenance.
>> The idiom is hardly common but appears most often in the context of UFOs, alien kidnappings and the like. The obvious potential link is with
>> those mythical alien greys associated with such abduction claims. Can anyone supply pointers to the genesis of "gray basket"?
>> --
>> Michael Quinion, World Wide Words
> " The obvious potential link is with those mythical alien greys . . . "
> To me (coming from a scientist and engineering world), the obvious potential link is with graybeards.  These are senior scientists or others in positions of authority (they may even be retired) who represent the accumulated wisdom of a field.  So "put it in the gray basket" could be read as "let the problem ferment for a while, and maybe one of the graybeards will take an interest in it and solve it."
> _Washington Post_ 8 Sep 1998 p A01
> " When she came to the Senate, Mikulski methodically set about to win over the powerful graybeards, the old guard with seniority who would not be expected to welcome a brash and outspoken newcomer into the fold."
> _New York Times Magazine_ 5 Aug 2001 p 32 Col 1
> " After a few more tests confirm the on-board systems are working, Lembeck says, "We'll get all the graybeards in the room, tell them what we've done here and they will bless us and say, 'Go fly.' " "
> _Aviation Week & Space Technology_ 26 May 2003 p 25
> "Meanwhile, Apollo astronaut Tom Stafford, who heads the "graybeard" panel that will review NASA's return-to-flight decision-making, has tapped former shuttle pilot Richard O. Covey to lead the panel's day-to-day activities."
> Graybeard also seems to be a synonym for a generic old (male) person (see OED), but the above sense is a special case that deserves notation, I think.
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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