[Ads-l] Antedating of "Weapon of Mass Destruction"

dave@wilton.net dave at WILTON.NET
Wed Jun 7 12:25:38 UTC 2023

It's certainly not in the same sense as the use to refer to nukes, bugs, and gas, but it does fit into the wider sense of the term. Lots of things are referred rhetorically as WMD: landmines, handguns, essentially anything that statistically kills a lot of people. This and other pre-1945 citations show that the general sense was in place before the specific one.
-----Original Message-----
From: "Bill Mullins" <amcombill at HOTMAIL.COM>
Sent: Sunday, June 4, 2023 8:34pm
Subject: [ADS-L] Antedating of "Weapon of Mass Destruction"

I don't think I would count this. The general definition (and the OED one) of WMD is that class of weapons, specifically including atomic/nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, that indiscriminately target masses of people. It looks to me, from context, that the cite below only refers to armaments in general. I think that some WW2 uses of the phrase include mass aerial bombardment, but the modern usage does not.

(It's not clear that the OED's 1937 cite should be included, either.)

> 1934 _Cincinnati Enquirer_ 16 Oct. 4/2 (Newspapers.com) It may be that something effective
> can be done to regulate the international traffic in arms, and thus to modify the evils of an
> unrestricted trade in the weapons of mass destruction.
> Fred Shapiro

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

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

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