Pickle

DDT

Senior Member
Italy - Italian
Hi everyone!

Just wondering whether "pickle the altimeter" is a common expression or not. The problem is not the literal meaning, but a more extensive meaning.

Thanks in advance for helping

DDT
 
  • Perrin

    Member
    New Zealand / English
    Well I for one have never heard it. And Google agrees with me. I can't even think of something close that it might have been confused with. Can you give us the context in which you saw it? Or are you just pulling our legs? :)
     

    DDT

    Senior Member
    Italy - Italian
    Hey man, this is not a forum for pulling anyone's legs! :)
    The expression is from a novel where somebody deals with flights and all, the sentence is pronounced after the character is astonished by a very particular event which - being related to extra human abilities - causes the character itself to burst in such a weird exclamation. Expressing - that's my only deduction - his distrust/scorn of technology.

    DDT
     

    Perrin

    Member
    New Zealand / English
    No, I guess leg-pulling wouldn't go down that well here. But I have thought to myself that it would pretty funny to make up some expressions or words and see what the other people here could come up with in response...

    Anyway, I'll be interested to hear if anyone else has wanted to pickle their altimeter, but my guess it is a phrase used only by this character to make him seem unique and interesting.

    From your description it could have something to do with 'tapping the fuel-gauge', which you would do if you didn't trust what it was saying and thought it was stuck. This expression could be used metaphorically, but I'm struggling to think of an example sentence. And besides, for that to be the case, I'd expect you to tickle your altimeter rather than pickle it.

    I think I'm clutching at straws.
     

    Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    DDT said:
    Just wondering whether "pickle the altimeter" is a common expression or not. The problem is not the literal meaning...
    Well, it's certainly not a common expression, and goodness knows what the writer intended it to mean precisely! Unless it is just a semi-humorous exclamation using flight-bombardiers' jargon (like pirates saying "shiver me timbers"), because pace Perrin the words "pickle" and "altimeter" do go together.

    As far as I can make out, "to pickle" means to release a bomb or bombs from an aircraft when it is at precisely the right altitude and attitude to ensure the target is hit, by means of a "pickle switch". The latter term may possibly have a wider meaning, in civil aviation too, to do with stabilizing an aircraft or correcting its attitude, but I'm only guessing from context. Here are some examples from a quick google:

    Any deviation in dive angle or airspeed required a corresponding adjustment in the pickle point.

    Flight 261 called maintenance in LAX and said they had tried the pickle switch and got a runaway trim full down

    get low if you want a dense dispersion of the bomblets (200 feet or so) or stay about 1000 feet over the target (you'll have to do this by "feel") and pickle

    He made small tracking corrections to keep his pipper exactly on his aiming point of the first building, his thumb on the bomb pickle on the stick

    In this age of pickle sticks and flight decks, I invite you to spend a little time back in the days of cockpits and joysticks

    It was necessary to establish an exact 45-degree dive angle and arrive at the bomb release (pickle point) at 4000 feet above the ground with the airspeed passing through exactly 400 knots.

    "Pickle" Switch - Switches on the Captain's and F IO's control wheel used to electrically trim the horizontal stabilizer.

    Pickle - When a pilot or bombardier presses the trigger button to release bombs or missiles

    pressing the release button on his stick to pickle off his napalm, he pulled back violently, just clearing the top of the plateau as he leveled off

    Put the pipper on tgt, press and hold the pickle button.

    RADAR mode is the preferred mode when over flat terrain where you are sure the terrain elevation below your aircraft at pickle is the same as the target elevation.

    Set the DRC on the target and maintain it on the target throughout the pass until pickle

    sometimes it was MSL minus AGL as I flew over top, and sometimes I'd pickle with CCIP, then note the MSL readout at the bottom of the HUD (the most reliable method of measuring building heights, canyon depths, and just about anything else.)

    The chart shows the penalty for releasing bombs at an altitude above or below the preplanned "pickle point."

    Trainees were instructed to use the sight reticle vs. target circle diameter as a crutch for determining the pickle point until they became sufficiently practiced to use the altimeter, which was the ultimate arbiter of when to release the bomb.

    when the needle on his radar altimeter went through the bug set at 300 feet [... he] went Pickle! Pickle! Pickle! to release three Snakeyes


    F
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Could it be that the author was pickled when he wrote the line?

    If so, he's left us all in a pickle, hasn't he?

    I don't relish trying to explain the pilot's caper with the mysterious forces.
     

    Perrin

    Member
    New Zealand / English
    Focalist... Kudos for the thorough research. I'm sure you're right that the expression is linked to the aviation-related meaning of pickle (which I have to admit I'd never heard of). But I guess the answer to the original question is still that no, it is not a common expression, and it probably doesn't have any significant meaning.

    And I learnt something else today, when I had to look up what you meant by "pace Perrin", because I'd not seen it before. I'll be sure to try to use it in conversation tomorrow.
     

    Frank Breen

    New Member
    DDT said:
    Hi everyone!

    Just wondering whether "pickle the altimeter" is a common expression or not. The problem is not the literal meaning, but a more extensive meaning.

    Thanks in advance for helping

    DDT
    The expression must indeed be unique to the character in the novel. I've never heard it before and I've been speaking English for about 67 years.
    Frank
     

    frogzoo

    Member
    Australia - Native English Speaker (debatable)
    Pickling is a method of preservation.

    The line suggests that the altimeter has "died" - no longer works.
     

    DDT

    Senior Member
    Italy - Italian
    Let me thank the whole of you for helping. But how would you express "pickle the altimeter" in everyday English? Consider that the character pronouncing the sentence does believe what just happened and is pretty amazed.

    DDT
     

    LadyBlakeney

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Perhaps the character meant:

    - As far as I am concerned, you can either pickle the bloomin' altimeter or make preserves of it, for I don't rely a bit on those devilish devices.

    Does this make any sense at all?
     

    kainat

    Member
    Pakistan/Urdu
    Perrin said:
    No, I guess leg-pulling wouldn't go down that well here. But I have thought to myself that it would pretty funny to make up some expressions or words and see what the other people here could come up with in response...

    Anyway, I'll be interested to hear if anyone else has wanted to pickle their altimeter, but my guess it is a phrase used only by this character to make him seem unique and interesting.

    From your description it could have something to do with 'tapping the fuel-gauge', which you would do if you didn't trust what it was saying and thought it was stuck. This expression could be used metaphorically, but I'm struggling to think of an example sentence. And besides, for that to be the case, I'd expect you to tickle your altimeter rather than pickle it.

    I think I'm clutching at straws.
    What do u mean by the quote...I think I'm clutching at straws? ;)
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    kainat said:
    What do u mean by the quote...I think I'm clutching at straws? ;)

    Clutching at straws means that he is guessing at the meaning. He is using all his known information and forming an opinion on the unknown.
     

    Perrin

    Member
    New Zealand / English
    jacinta said:
    Clutching at straws means that he is guessing at the meaning. He is using all his known information and forming an opinion on the unknown.
    You can also infer that I am a little bit desperate (to come up with an answer, not in general ). :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    DDT said:
    Let me thank the whole of you for helping. But how would you express "pickle the altimeter" in everyday English? Consider that the character pronouncing the sentence does believe what just happened and is pretty amazed.

    DDT

    DDT- you could make life a lot easier for yourself and all of us trying to help by PROVIDING [sorry to yell] some context. I don't mean a description, which you gave in your first post. Rather, it would be nice if you were to give us the entire paragraph, and if you think it would be useful, even more than that.

    From what I've read here, it could mean that bombs were dropped or weapons fired. The actual text might make that clear.

    Right now, I only know for sure, that a character "...does believe what just happened..." but what just happened as a result of the altimeter pickling is not yet obvious.

    Based on your initial post, one could reasonably assume any of the following:
    1) something happened to the altimeter:
    --it went 'on the fritz'
    --it is showing an unexpected, amazing, reading
    2) Something happened for which 'pickle(d) altimeter' is a symbol


    Thanks,
    Cuchufléte
     

    Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    DDT said:
    Let me thank the whole of you for helping. But how would you express "pickle the altimeter" in everyday English? Consider that the character pronouncing the sentence does believe what just happened and is pretty amazed.
    DD, I think it is imposssible to answer your question as it stands since none of us really understands the significance of the phrase in question. Can you give us more context? I am sure that copyright law allows you to quote a paragraph or two in the interests of academic enquiry. Who, by the way, is the author of this remarkable phrase?

    Until we have more "background" I think we must inevitably all remain in a total pickle... :)

    F
     

    DDT

    Senior Member
    Italy - Italian
    First of all thanks everybody for helping! :)

    Well, here's a little extract (the characters are on the ground, nearly lost in a forest; no matter his job, she's a flight attendant):

    [...] "Without my glasses I was as blind as a mole in the daylight". He looked at her face, and spoke quietly. "Now, I can see all".
    "Well, pickle my altimeter", she answered.

    After this passage the subject is slightly different, even if short this paragraph might help to understand the context (I do hope so!)

    DDT
     

    LadyBlakeney

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Then I was absolutely wrong when I posted my flamboyant interpretation.

    Could it mean something like "Blimey!" or "I can't believe it!", or perhaps "I'm damned if I understand it!"?

    Sorry for the strong language.
     

    Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    DDT said:
    "Without my glasses I was as blind as a mole in the daylight". He looked at her face, and spoke quietly. "Now, I can see all".
    "Well, pickle my altimeter", she answered.
    Well, marinate my search-engine, DD!

    That "well," at the beginning of your by now famous phrase (together with "my", not "the") turns the whole matter into quite a different kettle of fish. I was well and truly on a wild goose chase when I went on my bombing raid earlier.

    I agree with LadyB that this nonce(*) phrase almost certainly amounts to no more than a picturesque way of saying: "Well, I'm amazed!" Whether the lady who uttered it is being serious, playfully humorous, or even sarcastic in expressing her amazement I would have to have read more about her to know.

    Your original question, if I remember it rightly, was about how this might be said more generally. Well, there is a whole host of ways, from the banal "Wow!" to the 18th-century "Stap me vitals!" (stop up my bodily organs). As the latter phrase suggests, this is based on the swearing of oaths as an expression of surprise. LadyB's "Blimey!" derives from "(May God) blind me". Another formula consists of saying: "Well, I'll be...". "...damned" is understood, though you can euphemistically put in another nonsense word like "jiggered".

    Going back to "Well, pickle my altimeter", in the right context you can use the pattern:

    Well, (any transitive verb) my (any noun)!

    to make up any sentence you like to express amazement -- as I did at the start of this posting.

    F

    (*) occurring, invented, or used just for a particular occasion (American Heritage Dictionary)
     

    Perrin

    Member
    New Zealand / English
    Well, bobble my bananas. We really were flying blind, weren't we...

    I am going to try to use 'pickle my altimeter' in a conversation at the earliest opportunity. Maybe it will catch on.
     

    Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    Perrin, remember to say:

    Pace an Italian friend of mine, now living in Paris: Pickle my altimeter!

    F :)
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    "Well, cauterize my codpiece!" he exclaimed in agony, "We've been chasing geese around the meadow for days trying to figure this one out."
     

    DDT

    Senior Member
    Italy - Italian
    Ahahahahah! Focalist, Perrin and Chu, that's very very funny!!! :D
    Thanks a million to everybody, next time I'll try to be sharper about the context

    :)
    DDT
     

    ardor

    New Member
    Israel, Hebrew
    Focalist said:
    Well, it's certainly not a common expression, and goodness knows what the writer intended it to mean precisely! Unless it is just a semi-humorous exclamation using flight-bombardiers' jargon (like pirates saying "shiver me timbers"), because pace Perrin the words "pickle" and "altimeter" do go together.

    F
    What does "shiver me timbers" mean? I know that expression from a Tom Waits song, but I always thought he made it up.
     

    garryknight

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    "Shiver me timbers!" was one of the favourite sayings of the pirate Long John Silver, one of the characters in Robert Louis Stephenson's "Treasure Island". It roughly translates as "Pickle my altimeter!"
     

    Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    garryknight said:
    "Shiver me timbers!" was one of the favourite sayings of the pirate Long John Silver, one of the characters in Robert Louis Stephenson's "Treasure Island". It roughly translates as "Pickle my altimeter!"
    Haar haar, me lad. Nice one, Garry! But, to be fair to the spirit of enquiry in which ardor posed his question, I think it should be added that old Long John was not being entirely nonsensical in the words he chose for his oath.

    Another, older, meaning of "shiver" is "shatter, splinter", and the "timbers" are those of his wooden sailing-ship. So "shiver me timbers" meant "(may) my ship be destroyed".

    F
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    This is without a doubt the most pickled post to reach such heights that an altimeter was required.

    DDT- We are still waiting for the encore.

    Abbracci
    C
     

    Helicopta

    Senior Member
    England - English (Learning Spanish)
    I'm new to this so i hope i don't offend anyone but, "Well, bugger me!" is also a pretty common way to express surprise (at least it is here in England). It's not even considered particularly offensive, which is quite surprising given it's literal meaning. I wouldn't suggest that anyone start using the expression but it will hopefully put things into a slightly less alarming context should you ever hear it used!
     

    DDT

    Senior Member
    Italy - Italian
    Helicopta said:
    I'm new to this so i hope i don't offend anyone but, "Well, bugger me!" is also a pretty common way to express surprise (at least it is here in England). It's not even considered particularly offensive, which is quite surprising given it's literal meaning. I wouldn't suggest that anyone start using the expression but it will hopefully put things into a slightly less alarming context should you ever hear it used!
    Just please don't bugger my altimeter!!!?! :D :D :D

    DDT
     

    JazzByChas

    Senior Member
    American English
    I realize I am posting this a year after this conversation ended, but I found this thread rather funny.

    I would imagine, since the character who first uttered this phrase was a flight attendant, the "altimeter" part was because of the aviation context. "Pickling" your altimiter could be anything from preserving it, because it may be considered dead/non-working, to just as silly as trying to express dumbfoundedness by making up a nonsensical phrase, which to me suggests, make my altimeter drunk...:D It is also interesting that this could also be thought a personal reference, so what exactly is one's "altimeter?" Perhaps a measure of how "high" you are at the moment? ;)

    So for those of us who fly high in these forums, and come across something that makes us pause in amazement or dumbfoundedness, I would want my altimiter to be pickled too, because sometimes life is just too awesome to be perceived in one's right mind...

    Just some of my rambling thoughts while my altimeter was under the influence...:eek: :p

    NB: Dan...I always wondered what your signature signified...
     

    Last Tango

    New Member
    English, USA
    And another 6 months later, a newcomer solves the mystery...
    "Pickle my altimeter"

    The pickle switch is the weapons release switch generally located on the flight controls, so named because the single stick flight control contains a myriad number of switches and controls, and thus has the general appearance of a bumpy pickle skin. A sample of other switches commonly found there are the radio voice switch, the intercom switch (for multiplace aircraft), marker switch for dropping a data point on the navigation screen, trim control, and in the case of guided missles, the thumb joystick for controling the missiles' course.
    "Pickle my Altimeter" is in fact a "Shivver me timbers" type of exclamation, and thus is not a truly aeronautically founded phrase. One does not release the altimeter. However, one may desire to pickle an ill-reading altimeter.
    In the old days of frozen cockpits and frequent movie scenes where the actual altitude of the aircraft may be in question, the characters and pilots rapped on the glass face of the mechanical (barometrically controlled) altimeter to ensure the indicator needle was moving freely. This leads to the invariable surprise response from the pilot/movie characters to the discovery that in fact their rate of decent or actual altitude was incorrectly displayed as the needle was temporarily frozen.
    Rapping on the glass is a form of "pickling" the altimeter.

    Thanks for your attention. I will now go away quietly.
     

    xwing

    New Member
    english US
    "Pickle my altimeter" seems to me a malaprop by the author of your passage. A "pickle" switch is either a weapons release switch in military aircraft, or a trim/autopilot interrupt switch in civil aircraft. It is almost universally red, and looks nothing at all like a pickle.
    The reference for pickle comes from claims arising in WWII that a bombardier using a Norden Bombsight, as found on the B17, could reliably drop his bombs into a pickle barrel. This grew into the use of the bomb release being colloquially known as the "Pickle switch". Since many civil aircraft have the red trim interrupt/autopilot disconnect switch on the control in a similar presentation to the weapon release switch on military aircraft, it also became known as a pickle switch as well.
    As a verb, to "Pickle" means either the act of pressing the switch, or it can also refer to the resultant action, i.e. the release of bombs or the deactivation of a system "...pickled the bombs..." "...pickled off the autoflight..."
    While there are altitudes for pickling loose a bomb, there is not really a way to actually "pickle an altimeter", and thus I believe this is a case of an attempt to use jargon for an authentic sound, though improperly doing so.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    In honor of the EO Forum's "Campaign for Context" (Kelly B is the author of that title, which will end up in the Smithsonian Institute's collection of Early Twenty-first Century artifacts.),
    this thread is presented for your enjoyment.

    When this began there were no moderators—a good thing?—and all the forum rules were barely enough to fill half a page. That's the background. The context is yours to provide.:)
     

    calvindebeverly

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I have heard this at the bionucleonics laboratory. They calabrate altimeters with atomic clocks to make them very precise. "Well you can pickle that altimeter". It means you can trash it. It can't be calebrated. Altimeters are used in the controls for bombing. Don't know how that works. Pickling is droping the pickles or bombs that look like pickles as in WWII. So you bomb or drop the altimeter in the trash cause it's broken. So in this case the guiding influance of what the preson thought they knew to be correct "altimeter" no longer functions so get rid "pickle it" of it.

    "I thought something was one way but it ain't. Well pickle my altimeter"!
     
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