"collateral damage"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 10 01:53:55 UTC 2009

I can't be categorical about this, but an examination of Google Books
strongly suggests that, as a military idiom, this phrase was first used in
strategy discussions in the late 1940s referring specifically to the use
of nuclear weapons. "Collateral damage" was a fairly straightforward phrase
for any and all death, destruction, short- and long-term damage, radioactive
fallout, etc., beyond the immolation of the immediate target.
If I read the evidence correctly, the phrase gained wider currency in the
upper echelons of the military during the Vietnam War and general
currency only during the Gulf War of 1991.


"There You Go Again...Using Reason on the Planet of the Duck-Billed

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

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