Ground Zero

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sat Jan 26 02:04:01 UTC 2002

resubmission - apparently did not make it to the List the first time

In a message dated 01/25/2002 10:00:36 AM Eastern Standard Time,
AAllan at AOL.COM writes:

> members and friends of the society voted "9-11" <snip>
>  as the word (or in this case,expression) of the year. In the final show of
>  there were <snip> 2 [votes] for "ground zero," the site of the collapsed
>  World Trade Towers after the attack. <snip>
>  3. Most likely to succeed: <snip> "ground zero" (5 [votes]) site of the
>  collapsed World Trade Center towers,

"Ground Zero" is not a new term.  Both the OED2 and the M-W 10th Collegiate
give a date of 1946.  I was able to antedate the OED2 entry by one week.

reference: The United States Strategic Bombing Survey  (published in multiple
Section dated 30 June 1946 on "The Effects of Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki", as quoted on URL

<begin quote>
some reinforced concrete buildings collapsed and suffered structural damage
when within 2,000 feet of ground zero, and some internal wall paneling was
demolished even up to 3,800 feet. (For convenience, the term "ground zero"
will be used to designate the point on the ground directly beneath the point
of detonation, or "air zero.") <end quote>

In addition, the Strategic Bombing Survey also uses a different expression:
"The zero area, where the damage was most severe, "

Two variations:

In the 1950's the Defense Department (or maybe the Atomic Energy Commission)
did some research on how soon soldiers could reoccupy an area after a nuclear
blast.  One soldier who participated in this research had a short-lived fame
as "the Mayor of Ground Zero"

The book _And the Band Played On_ about AIDS describes "Patient Zero".

              - Jim Landau

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