What Is In A Word: Part Twenty-Nine
Ever wonder where the acronym AWOL came from? Or how about “zero hour” or “roger that”? Through out the history of the English language, words have been invented by different groups for representation of one thing, that has later gone on to mainstream use and widespread understanding … perhaps in a very different way. Here are just a few examples of some from the world of the military…
The origins of this word are said to be traced back to the American Civil War. At that time prisoners of war were kept incarcerated in makeshift facilities, often with little to no real overhead covering or bars/enclosing of any type (be they wood, stone, brick, steel, etc). The prison guards would therefore draw a line around the perimeter, instructing the prisoners that anyone who crossed the line would be shot on sight, making it the “dead line.” Today we use this word in many ways, most often meaning the time when something is due.
On a ship, the crew took their drinking water from a cask called the “scuttlebutt,” and whenever a few men gathered to take a break, gossip and hearsay about the voyage/their mission and so forth would soon follow. Eventually, the word for the water barrel came to refer to the petty gossip itself, and while not widely used anymore, scuttlebutt still is recognized as meaning … mindless gossip…
Bite the Bullet
In the heat of combat, battlefield surgery is no laughing matter: unsanitary conditions, lack of supplies, lack of postoperative care. When soldiers were injured during a war and anesthetics like chloroform or whiskey had run out, doctors had no choice but to proceed with amputations, even if the patient was fully awake and cognizant. In such circumstances, the soldier was often given a bullet to bite down on to help him channel the pain and keep still. So today we use the term to refer to a person whom must “clamp down” and do something they most not necessarily want to do or find uncomfortable in some way.
Heard It Through the Grapevine
During the first days of telegraphy, the wires needed to send all the messages were strung all over the country in patterns that sometimes looked like grapevines. Instant communication made disseminating news easier, but it also made for increased inaccuracy and errors. Civil War soldiers called it “the grapevine” because of the way the wires twisted around the terrain, and because it reminded them of the way information wended its way through multiple parties. The term also insinuated that since grapevines were tended mainly by poor farmers, the information was not to be trusted. Today it is used in an offhand way to describe information we have heard through a number a parties that may or many not be true. Rumors and innuendo
This acronym, standing for “fouled (or f@#ked) up beyond all recognition” is said to have originated in the U.S. Army. Its first recorded use was in 1944, (although soldiers had probably been using this slang term for many years before then).
Three Sheets to the Wind
This naval phrase, describing someone who’s had too much to drink can be traced all the way back to the days of wooden ships. The drunkard’s clothes were usually in a state of disarray, with his shirttails flapping, and so he was compared to an untended ship whose sails were loose and blowing carelessly in the wind.
Used by armies all over the world, this term originally referred to the small party that was sent out in advance of the main body of troops in order to plot a course or chart a terrain. It was also sometimes called the advance guard or the vanguard. The French version of this word was appropriated by the arts-and-culture world to refer to anyone working at the forefront of creativity or experimentation.
The invention of wireless telegraphy was a huge benefit to ships, which were now able to call for help when they were in distress. The code S.O.S. was first used by the Germans in 1905 and was eventually adopted by all nations for both commercial and military vessels. The code isn’t an acronym for “save our souls,” “send out supplies,” or another message; it actually doesn’t stand for anything. The letters were chosen because their Morse code transcription—dot-dot-dot-dash-dash-dash-dot-dot-dot—is unmistakable
In medieval times, the sport of jousting, in which two knights charged at each other, each trying to knock the other off his horse, was originally called tilting. To run at “full tilt” was to run at top speed, and so while the mane of the sport has changed, the idea of the word “going full tilt” still remains with us.
With Flying Colours
Flags flown at sea were subject to strict and complex rules; the only time a warship would lower its flag (also called its colours) would be to acknowledge the passing of a higher-ranked ship, or to announce surrender in battle. A ship proudly flying its flag after a battle would have been advertising victory. Today we use the term in such ways as “they passed that test with flying colours, indicating that they did very will on the test they just had.
An untenable situation seems to be permeating the world….
Our world seems to be embroiled in a nuclear double standard in many ways… When one state (no matter the reason) has these type of weapons, and others do not, it creates, (like in many other ways in this world), a desire of others to have (the power), be (one of “the boys”), feel (included) and determine (one’s own future, not let others dictate it for them).
In a world where the majority of the countries with these weapons are guided by the principles of “free market capitalism” and “allowing the markets to dictate the raise and fall of capitalistic ideas without the interference or regulation of government over business”, how can they use this type of moral relativism for one of their ideologies and not for another? Why is it anyone is surprised that there are countries outside of this realm that want in?
We often hear it said that the places that want these weapons are places that should not have them, for their intentions for them are not upright and moral. When is it ever upright and moral to say that having these weapons is better for the world and that some countries are okay in having them because their moral compass is better and they are better equipt (morally) to help keep a peace for the entire planet?
The world that now has these weapons (in my estimation and outlook on these countries): denies their existence (in their country.. which leads to a loss of credibitly in its own right), are run by (what many would define as) tyrannical leaders (whom are “freely” elected in their now “free market” economies), have trouble keeping them safeguarded, want to keep the boys club exclusive and thus can use them as a deterrent to keep others inline (to their own ideas of how things should be), and/or say others should not have such deadly weapons but then in turn they have, the selling of weapons to countries around the world as one of their leading industries.
….And even with all of these things staring us all in the face of our nuclear weapons possessing countries they still act as the moral compass and tell others what they should and should not have.
….and one wonders sometimes why we have so many problems in our world, when if you strip away all the rhetoric and double speak it is easy to see the hypocrisy of most of these nations.
….let us stop the madness and get rid of said weapons, in all states, in all places and really show we are seeking a real sane and just solution. This seems the only real geopolitical strategy that will show the whole world that anyone means what they really say.
What is in a Word: Part Thirteen
When we hear the word “John Doe” we think of the unknown person. A body found with no identification, a defendant in a public case whose privacy is being protected (An anonymous plaintiff is Richard Roe in the United States), but what of other countries, other cultures, other languages? How does one protect ones animimity in these nations of the world? In a world of less and less privacy and greater global connections, here are a few names for your consideration when thoughts of “keeping it to yourself” may arise:
• Australia: Fred Nurk
• Austria: Hans Meier
• Belgium: Jan Janssen
• Colombia: Fulano de Tal
• Croatia: Ivan Horvat
• Czech Republic: Josef Novák
• Estonia: Jaan Tamm
• France: Jean Dupont
• Guatemala: Juan Perez
• Italy: Mario Rossi
• Lithuania: Vardenis Pavardenis
• Malta: Joe Borg
• New Zealand: Joe Bloggs
• Philippines: Juan dela Cruz
• Poland: Jan Kowalski
• Romania: Ion Popescu
• Slovenia: Janez Novak
• South Africa: Koos van der Merwe