poss. antedating of "shrapnel" (exploding fragments)

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 17 13:53:26 UTC 2010

During WWI, grenades were used that contained fragments, such as
splinters, of metal. It is entirely possible, therefore, that all the
references provided refer to the fragments contained within the grenade.

Only the third of your three references seems to support the claim of
shrapnel being used in a more general sense.


On 2/15/2010 9:31 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society<ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter<wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      poss. antedating of "shrapnel" (exploding fragments)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> OED: 1940.
> 1917 _Wellsboro [Pa.] Agitator_ (Jan. 3) 8: Charles Foster is confined to a
> hospital in France as the result of...being struck with a piece of shrapnel.
> 1917 _Ft. Wayne [Ind.] News_  (Jan. 6) 6: Sergeant Middlemiss wears dangling
> from his chain a charm in the form of a small jagged piece of shrapnel
> ...[from] the bursting of a hand grenade.
> 1917 _Tyrone [Pa.] Daily Herald_ (Jan. 12) 1: Many persons probably were
> killed and a large number injured by flying shrapnel in a series of
> tremendous explosions in the munitions plant of the Canadian Car and Foundry
> company at Lyndhurst, in northeastern New Jersey.
> NewspaperArchive of course turns up many exx. of _shrapnel_ during WWI, but
> the above, which appeared within a period of nine days, strongly suggest
> that the nontechnical sense had become established by 1917.  (These are just
> three samples.)
> Many other exx. speak of "bullets" or "balls" of "shrapnel."  The
> above speak instead of "pieces" - ambiguous perhaps.  However, even though
> the Jan. 12 explosions took place in a munitions plant, the context hardly
> suggests that the victims were hit only by literal "shrapnel."
> However careful the military might have been in its usage of the word during
> WWI, it's hard for me to imagine that the general public would have shared
> that desire for accuracy.
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
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