I had only known of the phrase from the lyrics to the Pink Floyd song Shine on you crazy diamond and had always assumed that they had coined it. However, I stumbled upon a book by Alastair Reynolds called On the steel breeze.

I was wondering whether the title is a reference to the song or not so I ran a couple of Google searches which came up with 21,100,000 uses of the phrase, including a rock band from the '80s and a maker of parachutes. A Google NGram search for the phrase returned nothing.

This answer, claims that the phrase existed long before Pink Floyd and that it means "cold breeze". However, there are no references given and I have not heard it used in that context.

So, I am wondering if the phrase was indeed coined by Pink Floyd and all subsequent uses are references to the song or if the phrase already existed before they used it and the song's popularity is masking older uses. If the latter, I would also like to know what it means.


As far as Pink Floyd coining it: "no." I found a reference to a book published 1970 which uses the phrase in the same manner ( "19 Necromancers from Now", Doubleday 1970, Ishmael Reed link ). "Shine On" was released c. 1975.

For the date range 1/1/1800-12/31/1979, this was the only reference to the phrase (in "google books") which was not of the sort "... steel. Breeze ..." etc.

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  • Thanks and +1. However, that is not really indicative of the phrase being used as an idiom. More of the contrary in fact. If you only found one reference (and NGrams gave me none) it sounds like the Floyd at least popularized it. Also, in the book you mention as far as I can tell, the author is describing an actual breeze and using steel as an adjective: A cool stainless steel breeze (I guess there is a comma there but I can't see one in the link). – terdon Nov 13 '13 at 0:20
  • I agree about the idiom aspect, I was referring to the idea of them coining it. I am struggling to see your distinction between an "actual breeze" and the use of it as a metaphor. Metaphors are meant to apply a real-world type upon a concept. – horatio Nov 13 '13 at 16:03
  • My point is that the question I linked to suggests that steel breeze is a set phrase and I am looking for examples of its being used like that. The example you found is (I think) not one of them, it is just an author using steel as an adjective. I am looking for a case where steel breeze is used as an idiom though I admit I am not explaining myself very clearly. – terdon Nov 13 '13 at 16:54
  • For example, consider the Shakespearean gem of the bad revolting stars. If I were to read he had a revolting star tattoo, I would not think that was a reference to Henry the Sixth, it is just a normal use of the term revolting. I believe that your example of cool, stainless steel breeze is equivalent. – terdon Nov 14 '13 at 12:41
  • You are of course free to not select my answer. However I would say your example is flawed because the Shakespeare quote uses "revolting" primary in the sense of rebelling (though Shakespeare almost always employs multiple intentional meanings). Whereas the example I give employs essentially the same meaning and imagery, as far as can be gleaned from the lyrics. – horatio Nov 15 '13 at 15:11

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