Leatherneck [Was: antedating: jarhead]

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Feb 24 00:23:36 UTC 2010

I suspect that Kipling's use of _leatherneck_ in his 1903 story (reprinted
in at least one U.S. magazine) influenced American usage of the word. At the
time, Kipling was very probably the most popular short-story writer in the
English-speaking world.

The first evidently independent U.S. ex. in HDAS is from 1908.

Though the Marines garnered additional fame during the Spanish-American War
of 1898, I have never seen the word used in that context - or in any
American context before the reprinting of Kipling's story. By 1918, however,
it was in general use.


On Tue, Feb 23, 2010 at 4:25 PM, Robin Hamilton <
robin.hamilton2 at btinternet.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton2 at BTINTERNET.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Leatherneck [Was: antedating: jarhead]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Part-way through the composition of this excessively long post, I realised
> that it was profoundly misdirected, and that the "Victor Steinbok" to whom
> it seemed to be addressed and against whom it was patterned was a lay
> figure
> of my own creation.  The reason for this lies partly in my admiration for
> almost the entirety of Victor's original post, not simply in the material
> it
> discovers and deploys around the term "leatherneck", but because of the
> methodological implications of Victor's writing there.   These seem to me
> to
> quite legitimately to both challenge the usual restrictions of the
> dictionary elucidation of words, in drawing attention to the manner in
> which
> a knowledge of miltary history is necessary to even begin to understand
> "leatherneck", and to evince a profound scepticism about the way in which
> dictionaries are used *within dictionaries.
> Somehow, despite sharing this common ground with Victor, I seem to have
> managed to fasten onto the relatively small area of disagreement, a
> disagreement which could even be seen as the mirror-image of Victor's own
> approach, extract two passages from his second post in reply to mine, and
> use this to launch what then emerged as a quite irrelevant discourse on
> apparently only marginally related topics.
> I could, and perhaps should, simply abandon my post at this point.  My only
> excuse for continuing is that I think the issues I pursue are in some way,
> if this isn't too immodest on my part, related to those in Victor's own
> post, and that these are issues worth addressing.
> (In a sense, the question of the problematics of dictionary entries, and
> how
> to employ a dictionary, could even be seen as implicit in the beginnings of
> Jonathan Lighter's entry on "leatherneck" in HDAS with which I began my own
> response to Victor's original post.  There, Jon starts with a citation of
> Fenimore Cooper's _The Pilot_, a passage which fails to contain the word
> "leatherneck" itself.  How apparently alien to what a dictionary normally
> does -- and equally, how admirable and essential in context this is.  My
> own
> extension of Jon's citation to greater length was made possible by the
> freedom of the internet, in that there was no publisher breathing down my
> neck, insisting that I truncate material to the limit to save space and
> reduce publication costs.  If this is recognised as a factor in the
> production of virtually any reference text, then it should become almost
> standard practice to return to the context of any citation, and expand it.
> Thus doth google and cyberspace enable us all.)
> That said, and with a reiterated apology to that Victor who is a member of
> this list (and to the list itself, both those members of it who may have
> the
> patience to continue with me in this post, and those who may already have
> deserted my verbosity), I will now return to my over-impassioned dialogue
> with a "Victor Steinbok" largely of my own creation ...
> +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> > And I did come across the Farmer entry, but ignored it--not so much
> > because it was contrary to my theory, but because it simply followed the
> > entry in the 1890 slang dictionary that I did cite, and because, as you
> > say, it appeared rather brusque. (In fact, Farmer also lists
> > "leatherneck" as a synonym for soldier, along with a dozen other terms,
> > including "mudcrusher" and "fly-slicer", under that entry.) Given the
> > incestuous relationship between many of these dictionaries, I've also
> > made clear my suspicion that the OED entry was also mistakenly based on
> > Barere/Leland and Farmer.
> ...
> > I am also now more inclined to distrust Farmer and other period
> > dictionaries--particularly when they are in conflict with earlier
> sources.
> I'm inclined to agree with much of what's contained in the above two
> excerpts from your post, Victor, but I'd state the conclusions to be drawn
> in a totally different way.
> What does it mean to say that there is an "incestuous relationship between
> many of these dictionaries," other than that Farmer and Henley draw on
> Grose, and that their work is in turn drawn on by Partridge, a relationship
> exhaustively studied by Julie Coleman in her (to date) three volumes of an
> ongoing history of cant and slang dictionaries?  How is this different to
> the situation with regard to English lexicography in general before the
> first edition of the OED appeared, and one which won't be remedied by
> fiddling at the edges of the current incarnation, a work not after all
> intended to be a dictionary of cant or slang, but awaits the appearance of
> the first fully-cited dictionary of slang, with regard to the United
> Kingdom, at least.
> Dismissing these texts because they show an "incestuous relationship" is
> all
> too easy, and can manage to obscure what's important in the differences.
>  It
> would be possible, and even correct, to characterise the relationship
> between Head's _Canting Academy_ (1673), _The New Canting Dictionary_
> (1725), and _Bacchus and Venus_  (1737) in this fashion, but this would
> obscure the manner in which, while drawing on Head's text, _The New Canting
> Dictionary_ also extends it in quite significant ways, while _Bacchus and
> Venus_ is not simply *indebted to _The New Canting Dictionary_  but
> corresponds exactly to the original typeset pages of the earlier work, and
> as a result has an evidential value of exactly zero.
> Even the execrable _The Slang Dictionary of New York, London, and Paris_ of
> 1881, which carries its debt to Matsell's _Vocabulum, or, The rogue's
> lexicon_ of 1859 well into the realms of what even in the late nineteenth
> century would have been considered plagiarism, has its moment of
> significance -- why does the author of that work feel it necessary to
> perform, among one of his few changes, a toning down of a tale Matsell
> tells
> in cant in order to obscure the way in which a police officer takes a
> bribe?
> Had standards of conduct changed between 1859 and 1881?  Or was Matsell
> more
> prepared to make compromises over the conduct of his officers than we might
> expect?  (Not *directly a linguistic point, but Matsell the man inevitably
> intersects with Matsell the lexicographer.)
> I think, to come back to Farmer, it's partly to do with the double status
> of
> the text.  As a dictionary, _Slang and Its Analogues_ should be treated
> with
> a proper degree of scepticism (though put beside his _Musa Pedestris_, it's
> almost a model of scholarly decorum!), but it also exists as a text, and as
> such shows that Farmer, in the late nineteenth century, a civilian drawing
> presumably on a restricted knowledge of written sources, possibly even a
> recently-issued dictionary, took "leatherneck" to mean "a soldier".
> Approaching Farmer in this way may seem to be special pleading on my part
> --
> but when it comes down to it, Farmer *isn't just a Joe-Bloggs-in-the-street
> of his time, but has some kind of authority -- as did Grose before him.
> Once dictionaries are considered as texts in themselves, the very aspect of
> them which Victor quite rightly draws attention to, their interdependence,
> becomes a positive aspect.  The five editions of Grose, in 1785, 1788,
> 1796,
> 1811, and 1823, show the increasing prominence of the term "blowen"
> (meaning
> among other things "someone's particular wench") across the stretch of
> texts.  Subordinate to its earlier variant of "blowing" in the 1785
> edition,
> "blowen" gradually becomes more prominent in the course of the three texts
> edited by Grose himself, before virtually exploding in the first edition
> not
> to be directly edited by Grose, that of 1811, both as a headword and more
> especially as an element of illustrative quotations to other headwords.
> (Though it has to be said that Grose, in his character as poet rather than
> dictionary-maker, is more innovative in practice than precept, opting
> firmly
> to use "blowen" rather than "blowing" in a poem published postumously in
> _The olio_ of 1792.)  Even the thoroughly derivative edition by Pierce Egan
> in 1823 has its part here -- one of Egan's few innovations is to note the
> term "blone", a Scottish variant of the word which Egan took from the text
> and glossary of David Haggart's _Life_ published only two years before,
> shortly after young David had been hanged at Edinburgh.  Egan is thus seen
> to be sharper than he is sometimes given credit for, and the distribution
> of
> Haggart's _Life_ instanced.
> A dictionary citing *from a dictionary is performing a very different act
> from a dictionary citing from any other text.   All too often, as Victor
> points out, such a thing can be an instance of parasitism, but this need
> not
> always be so.  On the simplest level, really a commonplace, a dictionary
> most probably records already existing usage, and this should be taken into
> account.  Earlier dictionary makers may also be more obviously
> self-interested that is commonly the case today.  James Hardy Vaux glossing
> "blowen" as a prostitute in 1809 or 1812 introduced an wholly false stress
> on the term, even as it was used in his own time.  Whether Vaux's attempt
> to
> present himself in his _Memoirs_ as a *reformed criminal, and thus emerge
> as
> holier-than-thou in his treatment  many of the terms he glosses, should be
> treated as a flaw, or an example of how words are used by Vaux, is of
> course
> open to argument.
> The failure of a present day dictionary to include the term "leatherneck"
> would rightly be considered a failure by omission; the absence of
> "leatherneck" in Hobson-Dobson should be considered a datum.
> As to the OED's reliance on previous dictionaries when it comes to slang
> and
> cant terminology, I am inclined to say, "Would that they had done so more!"
> The OED's coverage in this area could be improved at a stroke by replacing
> whatever dependence it shows on Partridge's _Dictionary of Slang and
> Unconventional English_ by reference to his later _Dictionary of the
> Underworld_.  I have long since passed the point of bafflement as to why
> there is an almost religious reverence for Partridge's earlier work, and an
> unnerving avoidance of even admitting that the later, more fully cited text
> even exists.  Perhaps it has something to do with the title -- A Dictionary
> of Slang and Unconventional English sounds almost respectable, whereas a
> Dictionary of the Underworld ...  Criminals as the Undeserving Poor of the
> verbal otherworld, wandering beggars and cheerful vagabonds inhabiting an
> idyllic rural neverwhere, who are acceptable when pickpockets and cutpurses
> are shunned.
> Why am I not surprised?
> I realise, Victor, that part of what has happened with this email is that,
> if it's not too presumptuous of me to say so, I agree with 95% of what you
> said in your original post, and was deeply impressed by both the content
> and
> some of the methodological implications you raise there -- distrust of
> dictionaries and extension of dictionaries among these.
> What I seem to have done is take that 95% of agreement as if it were read,
> and focus on the 5% where I diverge from you.  I should have begun by
> saying
> how much I enjoyed, appreciated, and was enlightened by your post on
> "leatherneck".  If I didn't start with that observation, at least I can end
> with it.
> Robin
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