[Ads-l] antedating Geronimo

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Jan 18 12:50:10 EST 2017

Bill Mullins recently antedated "Geronimo" with the anecdote about an army paratrooper shouting the word in 1941 to demonstrate to the ground crew did not lose his nerve in a jump.  In the story, "Geronimo" appears as an apparently random word with no particular prior connection to jumping.

In John Ford's film, "Stagecoach" (1939), in which John Wayne and others traverse Apache territory during Geronimo's War, Geronimo is described as having "jumped the reservation" - perhaps suggesting the the word choice of "Geronimo" was not entirely random.

"To jump the reservation", meaning the same as to go "off the reservation", dates to at least 1878 (Arizona Silver Belt, June 13, 1878, page 2), when it was used in relation to Indians at the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona, where Geronimo would eventually live.   It was used with respect to Geronimo, specifically, as early as 1886 (referring to his having left San Carlos the year previous). St. Joseph Weekly Gazette (Missouri), July 22, 1886, page 3.

The expression was used idiomatically and regularly during the decade leading up to 1941.  Initial search on Newspapers.com suggests that it appeared in about one fifth the frequency of "off the reservation" (a couple hundred hits as opposed to a thousand hits).

A different sense of the expression "jumped the reservation" - related to claim-jumping - was used in 1883 to describe a General Logan's having stolen part of a Zuni reservation in New Mexico for his own use. Chicago Inter-Ocean, May 2, 1883, page 9.

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Bill Mullins <amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2016 1:06:22 PM
Subject: antedating Geronimo

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Bill Mullins <amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject:      antedating Geronimo

OED has 30 Nov 1942

HDAS has July 1941

Bridgewater NJ _Courier-News_ 29 Apr 1941 p 12 col 5
[AP article]
"The battlecry of the Army's new 501st Parachute Battalion is "Geronimo," a=
 word that puzzled many until it was explained.

On the day of the first jump, Aubrey Eberhardt, a jumper, and Leo Brown, of=
 the ground crew, arranged to test Eberhardt's nerve.

He was to shout a certain word if unafraid.  It was assumed he'd forget it =
if he were scared.

That's right, his yell of "Geronimo" made it the battalion's battlecry."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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