So I've googled around (even for images!) with the phrase "Start the presses!", in order to find out what it means and what its etymology is. My results are inconclusive. It seems to be used when an important discovery was made, or late breaking important news events unfold, e.g. as in this article in Nature about a new material (with tongue-in-cheeck?)

What does it mean? Who would use it when? When was it first used?

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    I would take "Start the presses!" as being an unintentional misstatement of "Stop the presses!" Though it might be intentionally used in a sort of ironic sense to mean "Go ahead, there's really no new news to worry about." – Hot Licks Sep 10 '15 at 12:33
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    "Stop the press" means there's late breaking news so that the newspaper presses need to be reset to include the new news. The article is doing two things: modifying it (intentionally) to sound like the idiom, and also a play on their novel process of embossing (like a press) to manufacture their new polymers. Totally intentional word play. – Mitch Sep 10 '15 at 12:40
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    If it is being used ironically (I'm not sure that it is), it can be compared to the idiom 'Alert the media! - Comment used when someone says something of utter uselessness, or that only they care about – JHCL Sep 10 '15 at 12:43
  • This could be a merger of the idioms "Stop the press" and "Start the car" (meaning "Let's go!" in a general sense, not the literal meaning of "start the car's engine") – alephzero Sep 10 '15 at 14:36
  • Could it be about garlic presses? Pant presses? – Drew Sep 10 '15 at 17:39

I think it is the rephrasing of the more common:

"Stop the Press" or "Stop the Presses":

  • is a phrase stemming from the printed news media industry as an exclamation signifying the discovery of the need to change the content of an issue just before, or during its printing.

  • Since this meant that the printing press literally had to be stopped or delayed and much of the existing copies of a publication which had already printed had to be discarded - which carried extreme cost, it is a phrase indicating the arrival of extremely significant news or the discovery of an extremely grave error.

  • The phrase is common in an idiomatic context, referring to the discovery of significant information and is often used sarcastically.


According to the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Americam Idioms also:

Stop the Music and (stop the presses):

  • (Inf.) Stop everything!; Hold it! (Presses refers to the printing presses used to print newspapers. This means that there is recent news of such magnitude that the presses must be stopped so a new edition can be printed immediately.)

    • John (entering the room): Stop the music! There's a fire in the kitchen! Mary: Good grief! Let's get out of here! "Stop the presses!" shouted Jane. "I have an announcement."

enter image description here

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    I don't think so, the meaning of Stop refers to "let's print this important piece too" (if presses are already working). Start may refer to "let's switch them on and print it". Same meaning in the end. IMO – user66974 Sep 10 '15 at 12:18
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    I'm more familiar with the more transparent 'Hold the press/es!', but Google has them as equally common. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 10 '15 at 12:29
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    My guess is that the use of "start" is either an error, or the phrase is being used ironically. – Hot Licks Sep 10 '15 at 12:34
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    @HotLicks - that may be, anyway that's the idiomatic expression they refer to. – user66974 Sep 10 '15 at 12:38
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    I'm not sure that 'Hold' is necessarily more transparent than 'Stop', though. – JHCL Sep 10 '15 at 12:57

The journal article you linked to (titled Ferroelectrics: Start the Presses!) describes "a simple nanoimprinting method" that cheaply produces computer memory components. The final two sentences of the article:

With the development of nanoimprinted high-quality ferroelectric nanomesa arrays, it seems that we now have all the necessary ingredients to print inexpensive, even disposable, memory chips for ubiquitous computing. Start the presses!

This particular usage appears to be a play on the idiom "Stop the presses!" which Josh61's fine answer elaborates on. The play imparts a double meaning to the phrase: first, we should start using this process (which is described as a "printing" process, analogous to the press-based process of printing newspapers), and second, knowledge of this process is newsworthy.

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