I know what crash course means, but does anybody have any idea why they call it that? In other words, what is the origin for the phrase "crash course". Thanks.
That was a very informative and helpful post on the what a crash course is, but my interest is in finding out why they call a "crash course" a "crash course". Why does "crash course" mean a quick study about a particular topic. Why do they call it that? What is the origin of the idiom?
So nobody has any idea why it is called a "crash course"?
(idiomatic) A quick, intense course of learning, especially one which is informal or hurried.
a rapid and intense course of training or research (usually undertaken in an emergency)Example: "He took a crash course in Italian on his way to Italy"http://www.rhymezone.com/r/rhyme.cgi?Word=crash_course
Idioms: crash course
A short, intensive training course, as in Daisy planned to take a crash course in cooking before she got married. [Colloquial; mid-1900s]
Origin of most of the idioms is unknown. The word crash is intended to
express hurried and emergency way in which the course is given.
Last edited by Red5; 02-Mar-2009 at 12:39. Reason: Edited link
I don't think the idea of 'crashing' after an all-nighter is involved. That use of 'crash' entered the language fairly recently ('60s, I'd guess, when attitudes to sleeping arrangements became less hide-bound - 'OK if I crash on your floor after the party?'), and I'm sure 'crash course' predates that.
I am going to speculate that this phrase actually derives from "crash-land". In a crash landing you have an emergency situation where you have to land right away, regardless of the consequences. Similarly a crash course implies an emergency need to learn something in a less-than-ideal amount of time, as opposed to simply a course that happens to be short. Indeed, a pilot who is crash landing is said to be "setting a crash course".
I was surprised to see "crash" as an adjective in Wiktionary: "quick, fast, intensive: crash course, crash diet". This implies that a "crash course" is not really idiomatic but just a proper usage of crash as an adjective. The problem with that idea is that I can't think of any examples other than "crash course" and "crash diet" (unless you count synonyms such as "crash program" which are the same as "crash course"). So this leads me to speculate that both uses are modeled after "crash-land", which originated during World War II. This kind of fits the same pattern along with the earlier "crash dive" (1918, Merriam Webster) which refers to an emergency submarine dive as fast as possible (sometimes leaving crew on deck).
Certainly in crash-land and crash diet, there is an implication that you have to "pay the piper" for doing things in such a hurried manner (making repairs on your plane, deleterious health side-effects). I feel there is a hint of this in the crash course as well; you may have to sacrifice maintaining your "normal life" (work, sleep, social obligations) while completing a crash course, which you may have to pay back later. Thus it may be tenuously related to the "crashing" you must endure after drugs or staying up all night, but not directly derived from it; rather my guess is that both are derived from the metaphor of airplanes falling out of the sky.