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Sticklers, sideburns and bikinis: The…
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Sticklers, sideburns and bikinis: The military origins of everyday words…

by Graeme Donald

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6212191,731 (3.7)10
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  1. 10
    Names on the Land: A Historical Account of Place-Naming in the United States by George R. Stewart (Joles)
    Joles: If you enjoy finding out where words come from, you may also be interested in how our places were named the way they are. Along the same vein of Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis is Names on the Land (although it isn't set up quite as accessibly as the former.)
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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! ( )
  iluvvideo | Mar 9, 2013 |
Review originally written for Fashionista Piranha Book Blog.

Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis is a collection of words with military origins, and their history and dissemination into the common vernacular. Author Graeme Donald is very thorough in his explorations; for each word he provides its definition – both at the time of origin and in our modern language – and how that word evolved in the intervening years. Take, for example, his report on the origin of the word ‘buff’:

Buff: Enthusiast.
In the 17th century a buff coat, made of any stout leather, formed the main part of a soldier’s defensive garb and continued to do so in America until the turn of the 20th century. A good buffalo hide coat was the closest thing a trooper had to body armor.
Before fire brigades were regulated forces, fire-fighting duties fell to soldiers in local barracks who found their buff coats effective fire-protection and the additional pay most welcome; there were frequent and unkind reports blaming acts of arson on local soldiers greedy for fire bonus payments, but that is another matter. The professional fire-fighters who emerged in 1850s America were irked by the constant appearance of those they called “Buffs,” soldiers turning out to fires to “help” but only succeeding in getting in the way. By 1900 the term had broadened in firefighters’ jargon to include the kind of person who turned out regularly to watch some poor person’s house burn down, and from this term rolled out into general parlance to denote enthusiasts in any field: film buff, opera buff, and so on.


Donald brings a subtle humor to many of his entries, all of which are crammed with little stories and facts about military. But he takes his research one step further by embracing the larger world outside the military to fully explain the evolution of each word. For example, in his entry for ‘ninja’ Donald reveals that the word is of Western origin, a combination of two Chinese words. He continues to unravel the mystery of the ninja, examining the truth behind the myth of Japan’s shinobi.

Trivia buffs, military enthusiasts and word nerds will have a lot of fun exploring the hundreds of words in Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis. The length of each entry varies, but reading about a few words each day will keep you entertained for quite a while. Scattered throughout there are also several black and white illustrations. ( )
  makaiju | Jan 24, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is a lot of fun. It's neat to discover the military origins of popular phrases (and some not so popular). There have been several times when I thought I knew where a phrase came from only to be VERY wrong.

I'm sure that since this book already came out someone noticed that though it's mentioned on the back cover, the word "ghetto" is not actually listed in the book. ( )
  etoiline | Jan 13, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoy learning about the development of our language. It is interesting to understand how word and phrases originated. This book does a good job describing the original meanings of many phrases, and is quite interesting. The format it uses does not do justice to the subject, however. Alphabetized, individual entries work well in a dictionary when you know what you are looking for. When you are reading just for entertainment, it becomes dry very quickly. At for using this book as an academic resource, it has no index or resource to cross reference by theme or origin other than occasionally at the bottom of an entry.

This book is brimming with interesting information. I just wish I could find it. ( )
  ASBiskey | Dec 16, 2008 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
An interesting look at the history behind some words and phrases commonly used. It really made me wonder about other words and phrases I use in not only verbal communication but written as well. This is a book that is best consumed in small bites, a few passages here and there, not all at once. ( )
  sunfi | Oct 16, 2008 |
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Did you know they started 'hearing through the grapevine' during the American Civil War, that 'ghettos' originated in Venice or that 'deadline' has a very sinister origin? Jam-packed with many amazing facts, Fighting Talk is a fascinating trip through the words and phrases that came to us from the military but nowadays are used by soldier and civilian alike. The sources of many are surprising and their original use is often far removed from that of today. From 'duds' to 'freelancers' and 'morris dancing' to 'bikini' this enthralling book describes the military origins of words and phrases that we use on a daily basis. Language, literature and biography. Warfare and defence.… (more)

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Osprey Publishing

Three editions of this book were published by Osprey Publishing.

Editions: 1846033004, 1846034558, 1849081573

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