Historically Speaking

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Archive for September 14th, 2011

Cutting Edge

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 14, 2011

If someone is cutting edge, it means they’re trendy and right up-to-date and if something is cutting edge, it’s the latest go-to design or technology.  But how long has there been a cutting edge is the question.

On August 17, 2009 the Computers and Internet Community magazine published an article by Russell Blanc outlining the top 5 reasons FiOS customers in New York were recommending FiOS to their friends and family.  It read in part:

Savvy New York customers choose Verizon FiOS TV and Internet service because it gives them a great deal.  In New York FiOS is one of the most recommended cable and Internet services because Verizon FiOS uses cutting edge technology to provide ultra fast and high quality TV and Internet service.

On October 12, 1982 the Montreal Gazette ran an article entitled, “California Is Still On Cutting Edge.”  It began by stating:

Out on the edge of the frontier, where the world drops of, there is always the cutting edge of society.  Frank Lloyd Wright once said that if you imagined the United States as a table and you tipped it up and all the junk and detritus fell to one side — well, that would be California.

On February 18, 1965 the following was part of an article published in the Gettysburg Times of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in the column, “News In Review: Our Army In Viet Nam.”  The question in the column was: what’s wrong with our Army?  The answer was quite simple according to the journalist and he proceeded to outline what was wrong in great detail.  The story included these final words:

In other words, there are too many in the Army who do not actually think of themselves as fighting men.  It is much more pleasant to have MOS classifications as planners and suppliers.  They are, of course, strongly committed to standing firmly behind the man, behind the man, behind the Man With The Gun.  It is further unfortunate that too often promotion is more readily achieved back in the wonderland of military bureaucracy than within the formations of the “cutting edge.”

On April 20, 1950 the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a situation between Russia and the United States in their article entitled, “A Warning For The Western Powers.”  The first paragraph read:

The United States protest to Russia over the shooting down of an unarmed American plane is strong but yet restrained.  A Government less careful of its responsibilities to peace might easily have given a sharper cutting edge to its demands.  Having used every possible means to verify its contentions, Washington has put on record a series of facts that expose the Soviet Note of April 11 as a shameless concoction.  At first sight that document bore all the marks of a guilty conscience, but not until the American investigations were complete could it be finally branded as a tissue of lies and distortions.

Now some dictionaries claim that the phrase is circa 1950, however, Idiomation found an earlier reference in the Milwaukee Journal dating back to February 20, 1938 in an article entitled, “The Navy, Its Size And Job, And Line Of Defense, Should Defence Ever Be Necessary.”  Dateline Washington, D.C., the article began thusly:

There is more to the United States navy than greets the eye when you see that file of wallowing battlewagons plunging towards you in the newsreel.  What you see in that picture is merely the cutting edge of an enormous machine that spreads literally around the world.  The navy is something more than just ships cruising under a tropic sky, operated by natty uniformed young men “seeing the world” on picturesque shore leave in Yokohama or Algiers. Behind all this is a sheer administrative and business problem that makes the navy “big business” with a vengeance. 

The article then goes on to describe some of the jobs in the navy that require smoothness and precision in the course of a day’s work including keeping 535 vessels and 1,122 airplanes in excellent working condition, and guarding and operating naval property that cost American taxpayers in the neighbourhood of $3,000,000,000 USD.

The expression, however, actually dates back to 1931 when a new alloy for metal turning tools was announced.  Newspapers across America stated that:

The new metal, with extremely durable cutting edge, has been formed from a combination of metal carbides.

And thus began the use of the expression “cutting edge” to describe the latest and greatest in fashion, technology and design.

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