For some inexplicable reason, I awoke early this morning with this question on my mind: Why do we call a quick training session a crash course?
This question persisted in my mind as I fed my remaining 20 pounds of housecat and made my coffee. As soon as I finished that, I fired up my computer and Googled for an answer.
Seems, oddly enough, that “getting a crash course” may have originated from a surprisingly literal meaning. A thread at www.reddit.com/r/etymology quoted this excerpt from Knights of the Air, a 1929 history of aviation:
…to demonstrate how pilots might crash and still escape injury. The crash course, as Sperry outlined it, would have three stages. The student would first crash into swamps, primarily to overcome the fear of crashing…