Why is it called booking it?

  • Jul 09, 2024
Why is it called booking it?

The name is derived from the phrase “booking it”, which is an informal term meaning to move quickly or travel at a fast pace. The phrase “It’s just the way it is” may be originated from various cultural and social practices as we look into the evolution of the phrase.

In the most common use, “book it” is a slang term for getting moving, usually to avoid something or get going quickly. Some familiar expressions include ‘We saw the cops, and scramming out of there’ or ‘I missed my bus so I had to hustle across town. ’ But where did this famous slang term actually originate from? Here are a few possible etymologies that shed light on the question of how the phrase ‘booking it’ came to be used as a slang term for ‘hurrying up and running away. ’

From "Booking" Travel Reservations

One theory is that it is a backronym for ‘booking it’, related to making bookings for traveling in order to leave as soon as possible. When you travel by air, by rail or any other means, the journey you are undertaking is essentially a reservation which allows one to quickly move to another location. It may be metaphorically akin to fleeing or ‘running’ away from something physically or literally running it in this case. The phrase ‘book me a flight out of here!’ extends the idea of booking travel and running away or escaping.

Starting from the Police “Booking” Arrest Procedures

The second possible origin is associated with the police activities and actions like charging and arresting of suspects. In the case that a police officer arrests a criminal or suspect, the officers ‘book’ them, a process that involves recording the suspect’s name, fingerprints and other personal details. Police booking can also involve the apprehension of personal belongings, taking pictures and detention of the accused individual. So, criminals who are in a bid to avoid police may have to start running out of the scene or places where they may end up being booked or arrested.

Some words in Old English Legal Terminology

The origin of the phrase “booking it” has been documented by some etymology researchers to mean something out of the court. The word ‘book’ appears to have historically referred to the record of legal sanctions and penalties. It meant having to flee town because one could no longer afford to pay one’s bills or, in other words, to give up on hope. This has slowly evolved into the general idea of the need to be able to escape quickly, something which is actually not very far from the reality since the nature of emergencies is such that they tend to strike without any warning. Perhaps, ‘booking it’ is linked to fleeing and escaping fugitives and debtors who have to surrender their records and then run away at full speed.

From Fairy Tale Books

In some of the oldest fairy tales and folk stories, it is believed that there is always a way that one can take to another place as soon as possible this is by chanting some words or by reading a passage from a magical book. It may be as simple as saying ‘open sesame’, like the cave in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves or the spell books like in Harry Potter. Thus it may be fanciful fairy tale imagery to be held as having precipitated the use of ‘booking it’ as meaning disappearing quickly. This also relates to the concept of travel booking and the idea of getting away from a location quickly.

From Schoolhouse "Booking" Lessons

Since the dawn of institutionalized schooling, learners have always been compelled to wait to exit the school-house as soon as possible. For a long time, the word ‘book’ is connected with school lessons, textbooks and the kind of hit the books. Schoolchildren therefore, might have taken the phrase ‘booking it’ to mean the ability to gain a quick escape from the boredom of school lessons or from school in the event that lessons were over or the day was over. When there are such feelings as escaping from school books and book learning, it becomes encouragement to hurry off with enthusiasm.

Cookbooks and recipe books are an excellent source of information about food and a record of the culture and culinary traditions of different peoples.

Curiously enough, such old cookbooks and recipe books as the one, published by H. Johnston, a baker from London in 1867 contain such expressions as “book it” in the context of baking instructions. Whenever recipes specify that one should mix ingredients ‘right quick’ or when one is required to get something out of the oven as fast as possible, then one is told to ‘book it’ meaning do it fast. And so maybe this particular recipe, or home cooks following recipes “by the book”, has something to do with how ‘book it’ came to mean to ‘speed it up’. While those cooking either on a hot stove or in scorching ovens had to move it out of there swiftly.

As gleaned from history and legal documents of the Anglo-Saxon period

Turned even earlier in the Anglo Saxon histories, sources in which local legal policies were written, utilised terminology concerning erasing the violations from the records of the village. People who are apprehended for minor offenses could escape from the scene by running towards the town or legal limit. And by further extension of this imagery, to move oneself quickly out of a place, started being referred to as ‘booking it’ in later slang. This idea of fleeing village record books this is legally closely connected with the “forfeiting one’s book” debtors theory.

In Summary

Scholars also have not established when or how running away to avoid danger rapidly became associated with booking it in the English language. However the source of this phrase must be attributed to some varying formalities of booking procedures and the languages used to make a fast transport from somewhere. Apparently, this is true because the processes of taking bookings as a police, reservations of fares for travel, old legal language and schoolhouse terminology have combined in a manner that led to the creation of this expression. Hence today when you need to run out with some sort of hurriedness, you can say you really need to “book it”- This is much like racing at an incredible speed as if you booked transport to get away in a hurry or to escape the law!.