Jargon Genesis: Hit the Ground Running

What do a hobo jumping off a train and a paratrooper have in common? They both hit the ground running!

Sometime in the late 19th century, this phrase came to light in written form. One example is from a story entitled “King of all the Liars,” syndicated in several newspapers in 1895. The Evening News published this excerpt on April 23.

I turned to run and figured to a dot when he shot. As he cracked loose I jumped way up in the air and did a split, just like what these show gals does, only mine wasn't on the ground by six foot. The bullet went under me. I knew he had five more cartridges, so I hit the ground running and squatted low down when his gun barked a second time.

Early in the 20th century, the literal use of this phrase continued, describing the landing practices of hobos jumping off trains, troops dropped by parachute, etc. It is unclear when exactly the phrase took on its figurative use, but in 1940, The Hayward Daily Review wrote, "It sometimes seems to me that the young idea nowadays wants to hit the ground running and to tell the old editors how to run things."

So whether you are skydiving or proposing your new marketing strategy, keep this business cliché in your arsenal so that you can, literally or figuratively, hit the ground running.