words of the year

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sat Nov 22 11:09:15 UTC 2003

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
> Of Albert E. Krahn
> Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2003 12:56 AM
> Subject: words of the year
> Allan has said that there have been some nominations for
> words of the year, but I don't recall seeing them on ADS-L.
> I'm going to nominate the expression
> "on the ground" in whatever the name of the
> category is for most unneeded. Someone can
> help me out with the category.
> Has anyone else noticed this expression? If so, were
> there any clear meanings possible?

The phrase has been around for ages. I believe its roots are in miltary
slang. The first cite in Google Groups is from 17 Sep 1992 by Bob Hall,
(then) Deputy Asst. Sec. of Defense for Public Affairs:

"There will only be a very limited number of people on the ground, the Air
Force team, and some Marine communications people, as well as the helicopter

I believe it is akin to "ground-truth," with its roots in the idea that what
you actually fine "on the ground" is different from what you see on a map.
Alternatively, it could be from the idea of troops awaiting to arrive by air
or at sea awaiting to come ashore. Differentiating an "on-the-ground"
presence from an "over-the-horizon" one.

It's a difficult phrase to search on because it turns up an overwhelming
number of literal usages.

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