Today is the anniversary of the end of fighting in World War I. The “war to end all wars” had begun in Europe in 1914, and it raged on until November 11, 1918, when the fighting ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The official end of the war came seven months later on June 28, 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
The first official Armistice Day was proclaimed by President Woodrow Wilson on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I, but the day didn’t become a legal holiday in the Unites States until 1938. After World War II, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation that changed the name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day, making it a day to honor all veterans (1).
The war in Europe popularized a number of words and expressions, many of which we use today without realizing that they emerged from the muddy trenches of Belgium and France.
Today’s Challenge: Them’s Fighin’ Words!
What are some English words that you think might trace their origin to warfare? World War I was not the only war to contribute significantly to the English lexicon. In her book Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers, lexicographer Christine Ammer traces a huge number of words and phrases that have their origins in warfare. The ten words below are just a small sample of the many words and phrases that entered the language from warfare. Select one of the words, or one of your own, and do a bit of research to trace its etymology. Write an explanation of the word’s history, including how its origin relates to warfare as well as the modern meaning of the word.
antebellum, brainwashing, Catch-22, deadline, echelon, flak, gung-ho, hawks and doves, incommunicado, Jingoism, khaki, logistics, magazine, no man’s land, old guard, panoply, quisling, rendezvous, sabotage, trophy, underground, vandalism, zealot (2) (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
1-Office of Public Affairs – “History of Veterans Day”
2-Ammer, Christine. Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers. New York: Paragon House, 1989.