Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Apr 1 15:08:58 UTC 2005

One reason I submitted the "flak" cite (n.b., not "site") is that over a forty-year period I must have seen one million exx. of the word used in context  and this is the *very first* I've noticed that equates it with anything other than gunfire from Triple-A (i.e., "AAA" or "antiaircraft artillery").

Did it take sixty-odd years for this broadening of meaning to occur ?  One doubts it.  But it does appear that those who understand the broadened sense only ( the majority of living English-speakers, for all we know) - have not published much.

The author of the quoted passage is British, by the way.

My impression is that "flak vests" were not known as "flak jackets" until after WWII, but that's just my impression.  I believe they were issued to ground troops during the Korean War, but won't swear to it.


"Rex W. Stocklin" <stocklin at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "Rex W. Stocklin"
Subject: Re: flak

At 5:58 PM -0800 3/31/05, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

>Not at all - it's absolutely true. "Flak" means exploding shells
>from antiaircraft artillery(something of a quaint notion in the
>missile era).
>But "flak vest / jacket" as worn by ground troops reasonably allows
>for the idea that it merely means shrapnel, bullets, etc.
>This is the sort of semantic broadening which is utterly abhorrent
>to geezerly types like yours truly, but must seem absolutely
>inconsequential to any nonspecialist born after 1970 or even 1960.

Gee, I think as long as they get worn, and they do the job, that's a
blessing. Any extrapolation from a pure airborne projectile origin
doesn't SEEM to be a slight to keepers of the language arts. I mean
when you get right down to it, all ammo is airborne at sometime
(usually the precise time the wearer thanks his lucky stars for the
flak jacket). Words in a heated exchange are often characterized as
"flying", thus the concept of "catching flak".

Now, being a nonspecialist (however, born in '56), I realize that I'm
in over my verbal head. But I just cannot see what all the fuss is
here, when there are some serious verbal crimes being committed every

I 'spose I'm prepared to catch some flak over this.

Getting he lead out...
Lexy Rexy
Fishers, IN

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