words of the year

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Nov 22 19:35:29 UTC 2003

References to putting troops "on the ground" go back at least as far
the early days of air warfare -- when I was looking at this a while
ago, I found a cite from a 1948 article in Military Affairs, and it
would probably be easy to find antedates from the mid-1930's, when
the coordination of air and ground operations was first being
discussed. The shift from that use of "on the ground" to a use to
describe a source close to the field of operations seems pretty
straightforward -- my bet is that it will show up in the military
language of WWII.

Geoff Nunberg

>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Beth Simon <simon at IPFW.EDU>
>Subject:      Re: words of the year
>i picked up "how this plays out on the ground" at a 1997 NEH 6-week
>summer seminar dominated by poliscientists.  "X's inability to forsee
>how Y policy would play out on the ground" occurred daily.
>beth lee simon, ph.d.
>associate professor, linguistics and english
>indiana university purdue university
>fort wayne, in 46805-1499
>voice 260 481 6761; fax 260 481 6985
>email simon at ipfw.edu
>>>>  sod at LOUISIANA.EDU 11/22/2003 2:09:09 PM >>>
>In community development venues "on the ground" takes on a sort
>of "in the trenches" meaning. That is, what happens "on the
>ground" is often very different from what is intended by policy
>directives from above (government, etc.).
>Sally Donlon
>"Albert E. Krahn" wrote:
>>  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.
>>  I'm sure I'm going to hear more of it the rest of the year.
>>  I've just started keeping track, though. The expression
>>  seems to mean something like
>>  "there" or " in that location" or "now," but
>>  it is quite mushy. I'm sure it is NOT a contrast to
>>  "in the air."
>>  Bush used it on 15 Nov.
>>  "The enemy has changed tactics on the ground."
>>  Gwen Ifil on 14 Nov. on Wash Week in Review
>>  "On the ground we saw a renewed military offensive."
>>  Guest on 18 Nov on Nightly News
>>  "In addition to efforts on the ground, . . . ."
>>  ". . . on the ground, in his face, Michael Jackson . . . .
>>       Hollywood Access 21 Nov 03
>>  This reminds of that old "at this point in time" phrase
>>  because it also seems like a long cut for a short word.
>  > Has anyone else noticed this expression? If so, were
>  > there any clear meanings possible?
>  >
>  > akra

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