to be on the beam

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jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
Does that sound more or less on the beam to you?’
Source: Insomnia by Stephen King

I looked up on the beam and it means Fig. exactly right; thinking along the correct lines. That's the right idea. Now you're on the beam! She's not on the beam yet. Explain it to her again.

I wonder whether the bolded expression is slangy and whether as a native speaker you would use the expression “you are on the beam” in your email writing or conversation?

Thank you.

Edit. typo corrected.
 
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  • Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    'On the beam' is a sailing term meaning at right angles to the vessel's orientation. It is in widespread use among mariners but, as far as I know, only with this specific meaning. It has no obvious application ashore and, although King's usage may have originated in the nautical expression, it clearly means something different here. It isn't used like this in Britain.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It's not an expression I'm familiar with, but I'm pretty sure I would understand it in context - which you haven't given.

    I assume “you are on the mean”, was a typo?
     

    jacdac

    Senior Member
    Lebanese
    Thank you. Typo corrected and here’s the passage:

    ‘Atropos is a nasty little bugger, but otherwise I think he’s not much different from Mr C and Mr L –low-level help, maybe only a step above unskilled labor in the grand scheme of things.’
    ‘Janitors.’
    ‘Well, yes, maybe,’ Lois agreed. ‘<…> Atropos is probably the one who’s done most of the actual work on Ed, and I’d bet a cookie it’s work he loves, but I’d bet my house that his orders come from higher up. Does that sound more or less on the beam to you?’
    Context: Ralph and Lois are discussing Atropos, a low level antagonist.

    The looked up definition seem to fit the context. However, my question was about the ubiquity and the usage of this expression. Based on your answers, I gather it is a not popular term.

    Thank you.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    What is Ed? Who are Ralph and Lois? Who does Atropos “antagonize”? The speech is now present but I can’t tell anything about the context in which it is uttered.
    In any case, it is not a common expression but the general meaning now seems clear ( :D)
     

    exgerman

    Senior Member
    NYC
    English but my first language was German
    From dictionary.com:
    To be on the beam (1941) was originally an aviator's term for "to follow the course indicated by a radio beam."
    It means "to be headed in the right direction, without deviation from the desired path", and in context "Does that seem right/reasonable to you?"
     
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