Famous Sayings #135 — ‘On the Same Page’

February 3, 2019

Before we delve into this project, I want to review some things and make sure we are on the same page.

on the same page, office, famous sayings
Image from Pixabay

This week’s famous saying is a phrase that has occasionally been used in the context of American football, but it is often used in interpersonal and office settings.

What Does It Mean to Be ‘On the Same Page’?

When someone uses the phrase “on the same page,” they are referring to two or more people (and they might be including themselves) and they might mean one of the following:

  • Everyone is in agreement.
  • Everyone has the same amount of (applicable) knowledge in a certain situation.
  • Everyone had the same kind of understanding (of a topic, process, or situation).
  • Everyone is caught up on recent events.
  • Everyone has similar thoughts at the time.

This phrase is often used in the first, third, or fourth sense. The person who is speaking is saying that everything is clicking, or someone only needs to make minor adjustments for things to run smoothly. Some related terms include: “on the same boat,” “on the same wavelength,” and “great minds think alike” (“On The Same Page – The Meaning”).

What Is the Origin of the Phrase ‘On the Same Page’?

The origin of this phrase is unclear, but the first recorded instance of its use in print may have occurred in the 1970s. The entry for on the same page at The Idioms listed 1979 as the first instance but there was no citation. According to an entry at Know Your Phrase, the first known instance of “on the same page” in print may have been in 1974. The idiom was used in the Corona Daily Independent, a newspaper when discussing the topic of football:

I think we can beat Washington and whichever team we play next to get into the Super Bowl. If 47 players and our coaches are all on the same page, we can do it.

I was able to find the above quote At the NewspaperArchive. The words were attributed to John Williams, the Rams’ right offensive tackle at the time.

It’s highly likely that the phrase “on the same page” was in used long before Williams used it. So, where did it originate?

Sometimes, the origin of this phrase “on the same page” is attributed to choirs or choruses because singers often needed to be reading from the same page to learn a song or make sure they were singing the same one. However, it is more likely that the idiom was inspired by classes or business meetings because people in those situations will need to read from the same document to learn at the same time or to understand what is being discussed (Ginger Software). Regardless, it makes sense in any of those settings where copies of books and pages are present and simultaneously in use.

When Did I First Hear This Phrase?

When I first heard the phrase “on the same page,” it was in 1998, I believe. That’s when Steve Young and Jerry Rice were still playing at a high level for the San Francisco 49ers. Young, the starting quarterback, completed a pass to Rice, the NFL’s all-time leading wide receiver, and one of the announcers noted that the two were on the same page. That might have been an improvised play, but I generally understood the meaning of the phrase the announcer used.

Speaking of football, Super Bowl LIII will be played today between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams. I don’t really have a dog in this fight and don’t know if I will bother watching the SB this year. I might watch the halftime show.

Works Cited

“Corona Daily Independent Archives, Dec. 19, 1974, p. 12.” NewspaperArchive. Web. Retrieved 3 Feb 2019. <https://newspaperarchive.com/corona-daily-independent-dec-19-1974-p-12/>.

“On The Same Page – The Meaning of This Phrase and its origins.” Know Your Phrase. Web. Retrieved 2 Feb 2019. <https://www.knowyourphrase.com/on-the-same-page>.

“On the same page | Define On the same page at Dictionary.com.” Dictionary.com. Web. Retrieved 2 Feb 2019. <https://www.dictionary.com/browse/on–the–same–page>.

“on the same page meaning, definition, examples, origin, synonyms.” The Idioms. <https://www.theidioms.com/on-the-same-page/>.

“On the Same Page.” Ginger Software. 1 Jan 2013. Web. Retrieved 2 Feb 2019. <https://www.gingersoftware.com/content/phrases/on-the-same-page/>.

“on the same page.” The Free Dictionary. Farlex, Inc. Web. 2 Feb 2019. <https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/on+the+same+page>.

Various Authors. “Meaning of ‘on the same page.’” Stack Exchange (English Language & Usage). Topic Created 1 Sept 2011. Last Updated 22 June 2014. Online Forum. Retrieved 2 Feb 2019. <https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/40208/meaning-of-on-the-same-page>.

Various Authors. “on the same page.” Wiktionary. Page Created 22 Oct 2004. Last Updated 28 July 2018. Web. Retrieved 2 Feb 2019. <https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/on_the_same_page>.

Various Authors. “What’s the origin of the idiom ‘on the same page’?” Stack Exchange (English Language & Usage). Topic Created 25 June 2013. Last Updated 29 Sept 2017. Online Forum. Retrieved 2 Feb 2019. <https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/117519/whats-the-origin-of-the-idiom-on-the-same-page>.