22 Words and Phrases You Had No Clue Originated in the Military
The term “feeling blue” originated in the Navy. Who knew?
Bikini: Named after the site of atomic bomb testing
In the summer of 1946, the United States tested its new atomic bomb on the Bikini atoll in the Marshall Islands. At the same time, French swimwear designer Louis Reard decided he needed an attention-grabbing name for his two-piece swimsuit invention. Reard likely chose the term “bikini” because he believed the style would be just as explosive as the bombs that were tested on the island of their namesake. Check out these 10 famous phrases you never knew were trademarked.
Deadline: A Civil War threat
Now a synonym for “due date” or “time limit,” the word “deadline” was originally used much more literally. During the Civil War, prisoners at one camp were confined to a pen and surrounded by a “deadline”; so called because if a prisoner crossed it, he would be shot dead.
Run amok: From Malayasian warriors
To “run amok” is to “go wild.” The phrase originated in the 18th and 19th centuries, when European explorers to Malaysia caught wind of a Javanese and Malay warrior class called the Amuco. This group of fighters believed those who lost a battle and survived would be punished with dishonor and death. Unsurprisingly, this belief led to maniacal and frenzied fighting tactics. For western onlookers, to act with disregard for consequences was to “run amok.”
Blockbuster: Named after a bomb
During World War II, this modern-day term for a box-office hit had a more sobering definition: A bomb big enough to take out an entire city block. Check out some surprising words you had no idea originated in New York City.
Bitter end: Coined by John Smith
This term first appeared in Captain John Smith’s 1627 publication, Seaman’s Grammar: “A Bitter is but the turne of a Cable about the Bits, and yeare it out by little and little. And the Bitters end is that part of the Cable doth stay within boord.” Basically, a bit is a post on the deck of a ship to which rope is wrapped around. When a rope is pulled out to the “bitter end,” it means there is no more rope left to be used.
Cup of Joe: The Navy’s drink of choice
When Josephus Daniels was appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1913, he abolished the idea of alcohol being served aboard ships. From that time on, coffee was the strongest drink available to sailors; over time, the drink became known as a “cup of Joe.” Learn some more stories of how iconic foods got their names.
Avant-garde: Troops that lead the pack
With a literal French translation to “forefront,” this term refers to the small party of troops sent out ahead of the main body of troops in order to plot a course and develop a plan of action.
SOS: Began with Morse code
While you might already know that SOS is a universal military distress signal, there are a few notable details surrounding it. First used by the Germans in 1905, this code isn’t actually an acronym. The letters were chosen for their striking Morse code transcription: dot-dot-dot-dash-dash-dash-dot-dot-dot. These are other common acronyms you’d never figure out.
Pea coat: Sailors’ coats
When sailors stood watch in the blistering cold, they often wore heavy coats made of pilot cloth, a course, twilled material. The fabric was sometimes referred to as p-cloth for short, and the coat that was made of it a p-coat; later, a pea coat.
Wallop: Comes from a huge defeat by a British admiral
After the French burnt down the town of Brighton, England, in the 1500s, King Henry VIII sent Admiral John Wallop to retaliate. Wallop is said to have sailed his fleet to Normandy and burnt down 21 towns and villages along the coast. Ever since, a “wallop” has meant a good beating.