Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis

Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis Cover Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis
The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases

Written by Graeme Donald
Osprey Publishing, October 2009, 280 pages.
ISBN: 978-1-84603-300-1

Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis: The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases...

In this months selection of new Osprey titles that arrived this week I came across an interesting little book called Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis. This is one of those books that when you are feeling a little curious and wanting to give your brain a rest from digesting too much information in one go and it is a delightful read. I was in such a mood the other night and managed to get through a good half of it in one sitting. Now not all of the things I read have stuck permanently but reading through the origins and corrections of some popular myths (see Ninja) held within the book were very enjoyable. Whether you have a hunger for knowledge like me or somebody who needs to simply know the truth, this book would make a good addition to your library.

~ John-Paul.
For your enjoyment, here are a few excerpts from the book:


Place of forced internment; popularly, extermination centre.

The most successful piece of propaganda put out by Joseph Goebbels is the story the British invented the concentration camp during the Boer War (1899-1902); many still accept this is the truth, whereas the first internment camps for high concentrations of people were in fact set up in Cuba by German serving in the Spanish Army during the 19th century.

In 1896 most of the inhabitants of Cuba were in open revolt against the Spanish occupation, so the right-wing government of Antonio Canovas del Castillo sent out Prussian General Valeriano Weyler (1838-1930) to re-establish order. Although of a Prussian military family, Weyler decided to imprison vast numbers of the civilian population to make it increasingly difficult for the rebels to hide out in the crowd or to find support in the few left in circulation. He rounded up 300,000 people in stockades he called his Reconcentrados, or reconcentration centres. According to the Cubans, his forgetfulness regarding food, sanitation, and medical back-up was quite deliberate; vast numbers perished in these hell-holes, so if the Cubans were right then it is fair to say that the first extermination camps were run by a Spanish-born general of Prussian ancestry.

The next people to use the concentration camps were indeed the British during the Boer War. Infuriated by the repeated success of the Boer Kommando squads, General Lord Kitchener ordered the burning off of all the homesteads and crops throughout the Transvaal and the Orange River Territories to deny these units support and supplies. By the time the world got to know what was happening in Kitchener’s concentration camps, more than 50,000 people, mostly women and children, had died, and it was only unwelcome focus of world attention that forced a change to the regime.

The kind of concentration camps in which the death of the inmates is an open and organized policy first made an appearance in Russia during the early days of Stalin’s regime; he killed as many as 25 million of his own people. Goebbels circulated pictures of the atrocities in Stalin’s gulags to discredit communism and, after 1938, he circulated the exact same pictures with a new title: Genuine Concentration Camp Scenes from the British Camps in South Africa.


Casino Dealer

Medieval knights travelled light, with just a servant or arms bearer riding pillion on the croupe, as a horse’s rear is known in French, gaining them the title croupier. When several knights camped together they invariably fell to gaming as a form of entertainment. The croupiers drew lots to see who would be appointed dealer for the night and who would therefore profit from the tips. A directly related word is croup a collection of symptoms that includes a strange cough fancied to resemble the kind of noise heard from a horse’s croup.


Spy or saboteur

As his army of four columns advanced on Madrid in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, General Emilio Mola (1887-1937) was asked by journalists is he felt such a force  up to the task of taking the city. He replied that he had a fifth column of spies and saboteurs in the city who were ready to rise up when they where attacked. Mola failed to take Madrid and died in a plane crash June 3, 1937 after becoming too popular and powerful for the liking of Francisco Franco, who was head of the Falange Espanola Tradicionalista. Several members of the Junta who mounted the revolution and presumed they would sit in council after success died in other plane crashes, such as Jose Sanjurjo Sacanell in 1936. Nothing was found to link Franco to either incident.


German or fuel can

Used in World War I but not popular until World War II, Jerry was a British dig at the shape of the pudding-bowl style of helmet that was standard issue in the German Army, and which was similar in profile to a chamber pot, then nicknamed a jerry. That in turn was based on the biblical Jeroboam, the mighty man of valor, whose name is still used for any large bowl or wine bottle. As for the fuel can, it refers to the 5-gallon fuel cans carried by Rommel’s long-range desert patrols, and the nickname has stuck on to this day.



Nom de guerre does mean war name but never used in such a literal way by the French, to whom it meant something more like pen-name. Failing to understand, the English adopted nom de guerre in the 1670s when they wrongly thought it denoted as assumed name of a combatant, and in the 1820s coined the tautological expression nom de plume for pen-name. The English misunderstanding of nom de guerre and the unnecessary nom de plume became the accepted usages, forcing the French to adopt them to stay in tune with the rest of Europe and America.

Noms de guerre are most associated with the French Foreign Legion, but it is myth that joining up under a nom de guerre can place a barrier between fleeing criminal and the law. So strong is the myth that any aspiring member has to remain a guest of the Legion to make sure there are no outstanding warrants. That done, the applicant is allowed to assume a nom de guerre, but his real details must be logged with the Legion.


Gesture of recognition or respect

The word is ultimately rooted in the Latin base word for Safety, health or salvation, salutare, and the gesture was born of the hand movements of a knight lifting his visor to show his face and indicate respect and lack of intent to engage. Thus to salute has much in common with the civilian handshake, which was derived from negotiating commanders meeting in the mid-ground between their respective forces and holding each other’s right hand to preclude the drawing of weapons. Both knew that they were being keenly watched by their lieutenants, who would order the attack if either relinquished his grip. In time, this gesture became a token grip of friendship. While it is widely believed to date from the Roman Empire, the Nazi-style salute, given with the right arm extended straight at 45 degrees, was first employed in 19th-century America. (No one knows how the Romans saluted, or if indeed they did.) It was then known in America as the Bellamy salute, after Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) who drew up the Pledge of Allegiance and advocated the use of what he believes to be the Roman salute, symbolic of fidelity to the state. It was used by Americans from 1892 until 1942, when the Flag code decreed that civilians should stand with their right hand over their heart. Hitler adopted the American salute because he too thought it dated back to the glories of the Roman Empire.

Last Updated On Friday, May 7, 2010 by Blake at Battlefront