Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis: The Military Origin of Everyday Words and Phrases

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Did you know they started 'hearing through the grapevine' during the American Civil War? It was a reference to the telegraph lines used for communicating with the army. These looked like twisted grapevines. And why does the phrase now suggest unreliable information? Because the lines were used by enemy troops to send false battle reports.

Similarly, 'deadline' has a rather disturbing and extremely sinister origin. Again originating in the American Civil War it refers to an ...

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Overview

Did you know they started 'hearing through the grapevine' during the American Civil War? It was a reference to the telegraph lines used for communicating with the army. These looked like twisted grapevines. And why does the phrase now suggest unreliable information? Because the lines were used by enemy troops to send false battle reports.

Similarly, 'deadline' has a rather disturbing and extremely sinister origin. Again originating in the American Civil War it refers to an actual line drawn in the dirt or marked by a fence around prisoners. If the prisoners crossed this line the guards would shoot to kill.

And of course, "Cut to the quick," originally meant a sword blow that cut through the armor and into the flesh beneath.

Jam-packed with many amazing facts, Stickler's Sideburns and Bikinis is an intriguing and entertaining trip through the words and phrases that originated in the military but are now used by soldier and civilian alike. The sources of many are surprising and their original use is often far removed from how we use the word today. From 'duds' to 'freelancers' and 'morris dancing' to 'snooker' this enthralling book describes the military origins of words that we all use without thought on a daily basis.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis is consistent in content, formatting, and layout. Each word is accompanied by a paragraph of its history (or more, as the case may be) as to how the word came into the language. Even mayonnaise, which I dip my French fries into much to the horror of ketchup-loving friends, has its origin in the military (a victory dinner with very few ingredients resulted in the invention on mahonnaise in the Port of Mahon by a military chef).

Graeme Donald has taken great pains to research the word origins in his book and makes a point of not relying solely on English experts but also on military experts who sometimes have a different view on the origins of a word. For words with unresolved disagreements, Donald provides both (along with his e-mail if you want to weigh in on which version is right).

Overall, this is a compact and well-done book that can be read cover to cover or in random bits as the mood strikes you." -www.booklorn.com
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Osprey Publishings' FUBAR - 2007's dictionary of military slang - was widely praised, and received wide coverage in national media circles, including featuring in an article in The Spectator

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781846033001
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing, Limited
  • Publication date: 10/21/2008
  • Series: General Military
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Graeme Donald has been researching the origins of words, nursery rhymes, superstitions and popular misconceptions for years. For the ten years that Today newspaper was on the stands he wrote a daily column exploring such material and also wrote for The Mirror and The Age in Melbourne. He devised and set the questions for Back to Square One, a word-origins based panel game which ran for eight series on BBC Radio 2 and BBC World Service.

He has also guested on countless radio and television shows, either to explain words and customs at special times - Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. - or simply to field listeners' or viewers' question.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting read. Probably meant more for browsing more than re

    Interesting read.
    Probably meant more for browsing more than reading thru A-Z. But you know what I found? Along with the usual word derivation information through a military and historical lens, the author spends no small amount of time discrediting inaccuracies and misconceptions.
    A few of my favorites include Jeep (from the cartoon Popeye in the 1920's) , cold shoulder (from the 1700's hospitality courtesy), and concentration camp (19th century Cuba).
    In reality the entries all have some thing to capture even the most casual reader. In other words, you don't need to be a linguist or etymologist to find something of interest here. Give it a try!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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