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Turn Off the Lights

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How do you make a room dark? Do you shut the lights, cut the lights, or turn off the lights? “Shut the light,” as Bob Dylan sang, may derive from old lanterns on which you’d shut a little door. They’re all correct, though even the most common phrase, turn off the light, sounds weird when you think about it. After all, you’re not turning anything if you’re flipping a switch up and down. This is part of a complete episode.

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1 comment
  • I know this is an older entry, but I just heard it today. I wanted to mention something that I was surprised to find not covered. Back around the 1890s or so, there was a type of light switch that actually had a knob on it much like a radio knob or range knob. Turning it one direction would open the circuit; turning it the other direction would close the circuit. Hence, you could literally “turn on” and “turn off” the light. I found a picture of one at the link referenced at the bottom of my comment. This one even has a nice window in the facing that tells you if the light is on or off. Very handy for the days when electricity was unreliable and you weren’t sure if the light was off because the switch was off, or for some other reason. 😉


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