grapevine (quoting from "jarhead")

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Feb 22 02:12:43 UTC 2010

"HDAS (which also features _grapevine_ and _grapevine telegraph_ among its many wonders). . . ."

JL rightly chastizes me for not checking HDAS on this, all the more an oversight because Vol. 1 of HDAS was sitting within reach when I sent my first message.  My only excuses are, that I was not thinking of it as slang -- but why wasn't I? -- and I was distracted by the fairy-tale origin set in NYC.
In penance, I will offer contemporary sources for his earliest site, which he took from a secondary source.

Gale's Nineteenth Century American Newspapers has:
By the Grape Vine Telegraph Line, in connection with Virginia Fence and Mason & Dixon's Line, we have received the following interesting correspondence. . . .  [political satire directed against Lewis Cass]
The Cleveland Herald, (Cleveland, OH), June 09, 1852
Readex's America's Historical Newspapers has the same text, from the State Gazette (Trenton), June 22, 1852, which credits "The Pittsburgh Dispatch makes itself responsible for the following jeu d'esprit".


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at>
Date: Sunday, February 21, 2010 8:38 pm
Subject: antedating: jarhead

> A _jarhead_, as most people know since the 2006 film of that name, is
> a U.S.
> Marine.  HDAS (which also features _grapevine_ and _grapevine telegraph_
> among its many wonders) long ago took it back to 1943.
> Rather curiously, HDAS also includes an earlier sense, dated 1933, "a
> member of the U.S. Army." The editor suggests that the designation
> came from
> the Army football team's mule mascot ("jarhead" already meant mule) ,
> as the
> following still earlier exx. makes fairly clear:
> 1926 _Oakland Tribune_ (Oct. 21) 23: Broncos Meet Army at Ewing Field
> Sunday....Army's Jarheads and the University of Santa Clara Broncs
> meet on
> the gridiron of Ewing Field, San Francisco, next Sunday afternoon....[T]here
> is nound to be some scars on the mule and the bronc when the smoke of
> battle
> clears away.
> 1929 _Oakland Tribune_ (Nov. 12) B-4: U.C. Stadium Jammed With Color
> as Grid
> Teams Battle....A splash of vivid color filled the gigantic California
> Memorial Stadium yesterday for the annual battle between the Army and
> Navy
> football teams. There's no doubt about it - the service classic outrivals
> any game in the west when it come to atmosphere and setting, and the rivalry
> is as keen bewteen the gobs and jarheads as between the California
> Bears and
> the Stanford Cardinals....The Army mule eyed the Navy goat warrily
> [sic] and
> the game was on.
>  The same 1929 sports page conveniently contrasts "jarheads" and
> "leathernecks":
> SAN DIEGO MARINES DEFEAT BOAT TEAM...The San Diego Marines defeated the
> U.S.S. Tennessee 12-7....A touchdown...field goal...and a safety gave
> the
> Leathernecks their points.
> It would seem, then,  that "Jarheads" was originally a sports page
> nickname for the West Point football team. It was then occasionally
> extended to the army generally. These usages appear to have been restricted
> to the Oakland-San Francisco area.
> Exactly why "jarhead" should come to mean "U.S. Marine" is unclear, unless
> it resulted from some confusion in contexts like "gobs and jarheads."
> But
> exx. of that collocation may have been too infrequent to have had any
> lasting influence. Perhaps enough West Coast sailors in the late  '20s
> still
> regarded marines as "soldiers" to encourage them to apply the term in
> derision.
> The enormous growth of the armed forces in WWII and the word's
> appearance in
> the Randolph Scott movie _Gung Ho_ (1944) helped establish it in its current
> sense, though it seems not to have become very general till the early
> 1950s.
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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