Leatherneck [Was: antedating: jarhead]

Robin Hamilton robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM
Mon Feb 22 11:46:31 UTC 2010

The first citation in the long and detailed entry on LEATHERNECK in HDAS
suggests a complex American/British interaction in the early use of the
term, being from Fenimore Cooper's _The Pilot_ (1823):


"Fool! do you think a boat's crew could contend with fifty armed

"Soldiers!" echoed Tom, whose spirits had been strongly excited by the
conflict, snapping his fingers with ineffable disdain; "that for all the
soldiers that were ever rigged: one whale could kill a thousand of them!
and here stands the man that has killed his round hundred of whales!"

"Pshaw, you grampus, do you turn braggart in your old age?"

"It's no bragging, sir, to speak a log-book truth! but if Captain
Barnstable thinks that old Tom Coffin carries a speaking-trumpet for a
figure-head, let him pass the word forrard to man the boats."

"No, no, my old master at the marlinspike," said Barnstable, kindly, "I
know thee too well, thou brother of Neptune! but shall we not throw the
bread-room dust in those Englishmen's eyes, by wearing their bunting a
while, till something may offer to help our captured countrymen."

The cockswain shook his head and cogitated a moment, as if struck with
sundry new ideas, when he answered:

"Ay, ay, sir; that's blue-water philosophy: as deep as the sea! Let the
riptyles clew up the corners of their mouths to their eyebrows, now!
when they come to hear the ra'al Yankee truth of the matter, they will
sheet them down to their leather neckcloths!"


(I've extended the original citation in HDAS a little, to increase the
context of the final relevant phrase.  The entry there annotates lightly
within the citation, concluding:  "... they [Royal Marines] will sheet them
down to their leather neckcloths!")

If the absence of evidence can be construed as evidence of absence, there's
a curious lacuna in Hobson-Jobson -- no entry for "leatherneck" at all --
and a brusqueness in Vol. 4 of Farmer and Henley's _Slang_:

LEATHERNECK, _subs._ (nautical) -- A soldier.  For synonyms _see_ MUDCRUSHER

(As so often, F&H illustrate the utility of returning to the origins of
British lexicography in their use of definition by synonym, a practice which
perhaps deserves to be reinstated.)


[Current {6.26 am EST -- 22 Feb 2010} lowest prices on abebooks for HDAS
(before shipping):

        Vol. 1 -- $6.89
        Vol. 2 -- $40

For comparison:  _The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Of English Usage_ 1989.
Paperback. Book Condition: Near Fine  $3.  {But the HDAS is hardback, not
paperback, so the price-comparison with volume 1 of the HDAS actually
favours the latter.}   ]

----- Original Message -----
From: "Victor Steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, February 22, 2010 4:53 AM
Subject: Leatherneck [Was: antedating: jarhead]

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Leatherneck [Was: antedating: jarhead]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Longish post on LEATHERNECK--antedating US to 1908, Brit. to 1887 (at
> least), and also possibly correcting OED Brit. definition [I am quite
> convinced that the OED is wrong here--the original definition was picked
> up from a couple of period slang dictionaries, but they seem to be the
> only ones that actually use that definition], and adding a couple of
> possible other entries under "leatherneck".

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

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