The Green Zone and Related Terms

Fri Mar 31 14:59:27 UTC 2006

        The 4/6/2006 issue of The New York Review of Books includes a
brief discussion, on page 65, of Baghdad's Green Zone and some related

        <<Several people told me that the Green Zone's name was derived
from military parlance:  when a soldier clears the chamber of his M-16,
he is said to have his weapon "on green," while "red" means that a rifle
is "locked and loaded" and ready to fire.  Hence, this relatively safe
zone occupied by American "liberators" came to be known as the Green
Zone, while everything else outside, where weapons were ubiquitous and
gunfire was almost incessant, came to be known as the Red Zone.

        When one first lands "inside the wire," as the world inside the
Green Zone is known, one has the feeling of having gained access to some
large resort in which soldiers have been turned into staff.>>

        The Review of Books, in spite of its intellectual credentials,
historically has not been a reliable guide to etymology.  (For example,
"jazz" does not derive from the jasmine perfume worn by prostitutes.)
Can some of our members, more knowledgeable than I about the military,
confirm or rebut this information?

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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