everyone in the world would be a turnkey

jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
<...> the last coincidence was that a man at the Number Four security post, a man named Campion, saw the numbers go red just in time to get out of the room before the doors shut and mag-locked. Then he got his family and ran. He drove through the main gate just four minutes before the sirens started going off and we sealed the whole base. And no one started looking for him until nearly an hour later because there are no monitors in the security posts—somewhere along the line you have to stop guarding the guardians or everyone in the world would be a goddam turnkey—and everybody just assumed he was in there, waiting for the sniffers to sort out the clean areas from the dirty ones.
Source: The Stand by Stephen King
Context: Starkey is rationalising what went wrong at the viral biology lab and how a security guard escaped the compound when a some superflu (antigen virus) was acciddently leaked and a red alarm flashed.

What does turnkey mean?

Is WRF' definition turnkey = jailer who is in charge of the keys at a jail, relevant here? Is he saying if you need to guard the guards, then we have an endless loop of guards and hence everyone in the world would be a jailer?

Is this definition of turnkey common? I must admit in business turnkey is used to mean 'complete and ready to use immediately', as in turnkey project or turnkey solution.

Thank you.
 
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Is WRF' definition turnkey = jailer who is in charge of the keys at a jail, relevant here? Is he saying if you need to guard the guards, then we have an endless loop of guards and hence everyone in the world would be a jailer?
    Yes, that is the meaning.
    I must admit in business turnkey is used to mean 'complete and ready to use immediately', as in turnkey project or turnkey solution.
    There 'turnkey' is an adjective, not a noun.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Turnkey as jailer is an old expression (1654 onwards) for a jailer, especially a subordinate.

    It has declined in use over the centuries according to Google Ngram Viewer and would now be even less common if it weren't for the quite different computer meaning from 1960 onwards.
     
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