I’m a deadline guy. Whether it’s self-imposed or client-imposed, if I have a deadline I’ll meet it. Without a deadline...not so much. It’s how I operate, and I know I’m not alone.

A recent conversation with a colleague on this topic got me thinking about the word “deadline.” The “line” part made sense to me (like a finish line) but the “dead” part? That seemed a little harsh. Enter Google.

Turns out that the term originally referred to a line drawn around a Civil War prison beyond which a prisoner risked being shot. Over the past 150 years, deadline has evolved to mean a time by which something must be completed. (Which makes me wonder what word people used for “deadline” before the Civil War, but that’s another Mind Mint…)

Perhaps it’s a subconscious fear of armed Civil War prison guards that gives deadlines their power; perhaps it’s just the word “dead.” 

The takeaway? None really, except a reminder that language is a beautiful and powerful thing, and a wish that we all use it to promote truth and kindness.