Academic journal article Parameters

The Military Roots of Civilian Sayings

Academic journal article Parameters

The Military Roots of Civilian Sayings

Article excerpt

Many popular expressions used in politics, business, fashion, and other arenas have their origins in the military arts. Take a look at the source of these sayings frequently used in conversations among civilians.

By the numbers: How the Union Army taught recruits to load and fire muskets, step by step.

Chow: A meal. Possibly a corruption of the Chinese word chia ("food").

Filibuster: The nickname given to individuals waging war without government sanction in mid-nineteenth century Latin America, from the Spanish filibustero ("freebooter").

Go the whole nine yards: When a World War II fighter pilot fired off all his ammunition--nine yards of it loaded in a belt--in one burst.

Scuttlebutt: The cask of drinking water on board a ship, around which the sailors would gather and gossip.

Show one's true colors: From men-of-war that would approach an enemy ship while flying a friendly flag, then hoist their real flag immediately before opening fire.

Son of a gun: In the days when women were allowed to live aboard naval vessels, children born at sea of unknown fathers were entered into the ship's log as "son of a gun."

Turncoat: A duke of Saxony whose lands bordered France supposedly once dressed his men in blue coats with a white interior, so they could switch when he wanted them to appear to be acting in the French interest. …

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