Jonathon Green slang at CRAYFORD.DEMON.CO.UK
Tue Apr 3 19:25:55 UTC 2001

Fraser and Gibbons, in Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases (1925): 'Blimp:
A small semi-rigid Coastal-Patrol airship, or Submarine Scout, introuced in
1915 for keeping watch along the coast, and locating enemy submarines
cruising submerged, or lying temporarily concealed on the bottom. The name
was probably suggested by the corpulent, stumpy shape of the Blimp.' This
seems to me to go round in uninformative circles. Brophy & Partridge (Songs
& Slang of th British Soldier, 1930) essay no ety. merely the description.
Paul Dickson, in War Slang (1994) offers various alternative etymologies. I
lack the time to scan his half-page-worth (pp. 42-3) but his final diktat is
that the term seems to have most likely been coined by one Lieut. Cunningham
of the Royal Naval Air Service and that it is onomatopoeic - the noise
'blimp' made when Cunningham flicked his thumb against the airship's
surface. (He pooh-poohs a limp, A or B version, noting that Goodyear, who
made blimps, reject any such theory).

Jonathon Green

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