antedating: "war of nerves"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 16 01:43:13 UTC 2014

OED: 1939

1915  Frederick Palmer in _Collier's_      (Apr. 17) 30:  A War of Nerves
 ...It's a war of nerves, and in this age of nerves the highly civilized
and organized man is standing what would utterly demoralize a savage.
 Ibid. (May 15) 32:  If this be a war of nerves, and victory to the side
which has the stiffest nerves, the English ought to win.

Modern usage is more likely to refer to a "cold" war, but Palmer is talking
about a shooting war of attrition that demands exceptional soldierly

Palmer's article was widely excerpted, but the phrase seems to have lain
dormant for a generation.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list