Pitch Or Perish

Hugh MacLeod has produced some doodles for his friends at Cravens Advertising in Newcastle, England. While snooping around their site, these etymological gems surfaced.

I’ve been reading “Which Lie Did I Tell” by William Goldman (the guy who wrote Butch Cassidy & Sundance Kid). A fantastic book about his experiences as a screenwriter in Hollywood.
He also gives some tips and observations about the screenwriter’s art. (Essential reading for all copywriters).
One thing he talks about is pitching movie ideas. The stress and heartache of selling an idea you care passionately about.
Goldman says that to understand the pain of the pitch you have to consider its origin.
Back to a time of medieval religious persecution and the actions of one of its chief inquisitors.
Pitch: This originated during the Spanish Inquisition. Torquemada, one of its leaders would tell imprisoned playwrights that if they could interest him in an idea, he would let them live long enough to write it. If not, they were dropped into a large vat (or pitch) of boiling tar, hence the term ‘pitch’
This also got me thinking about the origin of ‘deadline’, another everyday agency word
Deadline: Originating during the American Civil War: prisoners in that war were seldom held in purpose-built jails. More often, they were herded at gunpoint inside a makeshift boundary. The boundary had two lines, and a prisoner who stepped outside the inner boundary was ordered back, but one who over-stepped the outer boundary was shot. Thus it was called the deadline.
Tough job this agency gig.

About David Burn


  1. Loved the bit about how the word “deadline” originated and thought it would be an appropriate piece for Monday’s “Much Ado About Marketing” blog (for 11/21) – seeing how collecting timesheets will be a pain this week.
    Maybe instituting a “new” deadline is in order?
    Have a great week.
    Mike Bawden
    Brand Central Station