To go as fast as possible, especially when fleeing. Also ‘bolt for freedom,’ or ‘skedaddle,’ or ‘book it outta here.’

As in my mom used to say, “You had better hightail it home right now.”

This expression, according to some, was originally used to describe the way a herd of mustangs break and race away when ‘spooked’ or frightened by the approach of cowboys.

Others are convinced that the phrase originated with the white tail deer, whose short, sturdy tails are white on the underside, and are raised high when fleeing as a danger sign to other deer in the area. A horse will also raise its tail in flight, so perhaps both factions are correct.

The phrases used to describe ‘leaving’ are varied, no doubt due to the wisdom of choosing ‘flight’ over ‘fight.’ The verb ‘to bolt’ means ‘to dart or rush suddenly away.’ But ‘bolt’ is also a noun and originally meant ‘projectile,’ such as the short arrow fired from a crossbow. Later it was combined with ‘thunder’ (thunderbolt) to mean a discharge of lightning and, shortly thereafter, as a metaphor for something dramatic and unanticipated (bolt from the blue). ‘Bolt” is also used to describe a roll of fabric, because it its shape.

Nothing is known of the origins of ‘skedaddle.’ It first appeared as military slang meaning ‘to flee’ during the American Civil War and may be related in some way to the Irish word ‘sgedadol,’ meaning ‘scattered.’

‘Book,’ meaning ‘to leave,’ apparently comes from ‘boogie,’ US slang from the early 20th century originally meaning a style of blues music and later ‘to dance energetically.’ An even broader use of ‘boogie,’ meaning ‘to move quickly’ appeared in the 1970s.

I’d never heard of ‘book’ as meaning ‘to leave,’ but ‘boogie is familiar. I have friends who say they’re going to ‘boogie on.’ 

And that’s what I’m going to do, right now. It’s lunch time!

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