The word "deadline" was first used in a journalistic sense around 1920 and most people assumed it meant that "if you missed your time line the editer might kill you."

But the word really goes back to "Andersonville", a civil war prison of hell ran by the Confederate Army.  The "deadline" was a line 19 feet from the stockade wall and any prisoner crossing that line was assumed to be escaping and was shot on the spot.  The conditions were bad at Andersonville.  I found the following quote.

July 9, 1864, Sgt. David Kennedy of the 9th Ohio Cavalry wrote in his diary;

"Wuld that I was an artist & had the material to paint this camp & all its horors or the tounge of some eloquent Statesman and had the privleage of expresing my mind to our hon. rulers at Washington, I should gloery to describe this hell on earth where it takes 7 of its ocupiants to make a shadow."

A "deadline" at Andersonville seems to have a much deadlier meaning than a journalistic "deadline".

It seems that over the years not too much has changed.  Journalists still think their "deadlines" are more important than a soldiers "deadline".  Maybe that is true if they are war correspondents.  Sometimes their "deadlines" are the same as a soldiers

If I am ever in the position that requires getting something written on time I am going to call it my "lifeline".  Afterall, a timeline requirement should mean I will get paid for it.

posted for "Sunday Scribblings"


  1. Thank you for this enlightening post. I had no clue as to how the term 'deadline' came into existence :)
    I liked your take on the "lifeline" concept :d

    Keep up the good work.


  2. Words don't we love them, but it needs revealing reminders such as your post to bring home the stark realities of life while we blithely use words without understanding their provenance. Great piece.

  3. Very informative Grizz, I didn't know this when I wrote mine Hahaha.

  4. I didn't know where the word came from. That was interesting.
    I have very occasionally written for payment and to a deadline, and I can tell you, it is never as much fun.

  5. I had wondered where the term came from and was just too lazy to google it. I've read of the conditions at Andersonville - horrible place and very telling that we would treat our own countrymen in such a manner. Thanks for posting this, Grizz.

  6. Oh my Old Grizz, I was going to use word play with the word "dead" and "line" for my post, never knowing the history you imparted here. I'm glad I didn't make a fool of myself. This is harsh history and I'm glad I learned something new today.

  7. thanks for the info :) i like your take on this!

    Deadline - Decline

  8. Thank you for stopping by and thank you for your information.

    That man who wished he had the eloquence and artistry to describe Andersonville did just fine. Wish I could tell him that.

  9. I didn't know that about Andersonville; very interesting. I do know many, many people died in there even without the deadline. Thanks for the information.

  10. Good piece Grizz! I knew a bit about the prison related deadline, I incorporated it superficially as a bit of humor in my poem for this prompt, but had no sense of the detail you brought -- thanks for the enlightenment...
    Image & Verse

  11. Thanks for your visit. I clicked on the link above my comment here, and it works now, so don't know what to think. Maybe WordPress was down for awhile? Anyway, thanks for letting me know!

  12. *grin!* I enjoyed your take on "deadline", and also enjoyed learning about how the term originally came to be used. :)

  13. Yes, like the others I have learnt something here (especially as I am not familiar with American history). Did you have the Anderson shelter in WW2 in America? That was more lifeline than deadline.. Jae

  14. that's very interesting--i was wondering about that word. It does have a very ominous ring. thanks for doing the research!

  15. old grizz...

    so interesting and informative. well written, too.

    peace & love,