This phrase means to run away with all haste. Today you may hear it used by someone encouraging you to finish a task and not to run away from it. This phrase originally had a more practical and deadly application.
|Chesapeake and the Shannon|
The term applied to ships that were setting an ambush. Warships might hide in a small estuary riding on their anchor. The sails would be furled and tied off with a light rope. When an enemy vessel was spotted the captain would order the cutting of the rope to allow the sails to fall down and give the ship maximum speed.
A tactic from the 17th century employed to capture enemy ships is now used today to denote someone giving up. It’s interesting to see how this phrase once meant running towards something and now it means to run away.
Thank you to Daryl for suggesting this post.