Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Tue Dec 14 14:29:20 UTC 2010

Paul Frank wrote:

> In German, the verb "einkesseln" has been around for quite some time.
> The eight-volume Duden (2nd edition, 1993) defines it as "völlig
> einschliessen" (to surround and enclose completely) and explains that it is
> mainly used in military contexts. The first citation is from 1973. But
> anyone who has read German accounts of the Battle of Stalingrad knows that
> the word was already in use in 1943. Grimm's Deutsches Wörterbuch
> (1838-1961) defines the noun Kessel as "bei jagden der rings geschlossene
> platz, wohin das wild getrieben wird" (roughly: encircled place where the
> wild game is driven during the hunt). My uneducated guess is that that is
> where the military meaning comes from in German.

That's very helpful. I now also see that Wikipedia Germany has an article
on the term "Polizeikessel", with exactly the same sense as the British
term. However, the implication is that it is rather older than the first
examples in the British press, from the G2 summit in April 2009. Sharing
of experience, and of vocabulary, between the two national police forces
seems plausible and this would make "kettling" a loan translation.

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words

The American Dialect Society -

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