Isaac Su — exercising my powers of observation

Throttle

Thu, 19th Sep 2019

colleague: My housemate would throttle me if anything bad happens to our beloved porcelain bowl

me: You mean like reduce the number of times you can use kitchen equipment per time period? 🤓

At the time, my understanding of the word "throttle" involved two concepts. The first is the car pedal that a driver steps on to make a vehicle go faster. The second is what a web service does to prevent a client from overwhelming it with too many requests.

This exchange prompted me to look up the actual meaning of throttle: to choke, suffocate or strangle, which was what my colleague was pleading us to prevent from happening. I'm pretty sure this definition predates its use in automobiles and web requests.

To throttle a web request, I understand. The more severe the throttling, the fewer requests get through. Throttle in the context of the car pedal though is less intuitive because stepping on it allows more fuel into the engine, making the vehicle travel faster.

Turns out the term comes from the throttle valve in a combustion engine. The default state is for the valve to be at its most constricted or "throttled" (just enough for the engine to keep running). Stepping on the accelerator pedal "unthrottles" the valve, allowing more fuel to flow into the engine.

So really, calling the pedal the "accelerator" is accurate, but in terms of "throttle", it should be the "unthrottle" pedal. Also when someone dramatically declares "hit the throttle" with the intention of making their vehicle go faster, what they really mean is "hit the unthrottle" 😂.