Why do we say that? | Pulling out all the stops

Why do we say that?: “Pull out all the stops”

Why do we say that?

If you’ve ever had a big deadline coming up, maybe a big school project or an important deadline at work, maybe your teacher or your boss told you that you needed to “pull out all the stops,” to hold nothing back and put your full effort into the project.

The origins of this phrase lie in the music world, particularly with the pipe organ. This instrument was (and still is) very popular, especially in churches (so much so that you may also hear it called a church organ or a chapel organ). A pipe organ operates by pushing pressurized air through a set of pipes, each of which produces a single pitch. In order to control the flow of this air into the pipes each pipe has something called a “stop.” If the stop is in place less air is able to flow through, which leads to a quieter sound. If, however, the church had a huge congregation and wanted to make sure every single person could hear the music, they could pull out all of the stops so that air could flow through all of the pipes to play as loudly as possible. You can see how this action of “pulling out all the stops” would lead to an expression meaning to go all out!

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