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THE CENTURION

A series of pertinent – and impertinent—matters concerning the military. 

A brother in law sends along some interesting derivations of military terms:


THE WHOLE NINE YARDS
American fighter planes in WW II had machine guns fed by a belt of cartridges.  The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long.  If the pilot used up all his ammo,  he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.

BUYING THE FARM
This is synonymous with dying.  During WW I, soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000.  This was about the price of an average farm so if you died you “bought the farm” for your survivors.

SHIP STATE ROOMS
Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort.  Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered but instead they were named after states.  To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.

SHOWBOAT
These were floating theaters,  built on a barge and pushed by a steamboat.  They played small towns along the Mississippi River.  They had no engine.  They were gaudy and attention grabbing which is why people an aviator acting recklessly,  is “showboating”.

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One wise observer of military matters usefully suggests that PTSD should be renamed  post-dramatic stress injury.  That word would be more acceptable, she maintains, both in and out of the service and square better with a warrior ethos.  Damage was due to an injury, she argues, far more than a psychological “disorder.”

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The Reformer Martin Luther supposedly had a negative opinion about lawyers, saying something to the effect of:  “I have prayer upon it and have come to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible for a lawyer to be saved.” 

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Here’s a little-known bit of trivia from the old 1951 Manual for Courts-Martial.  Back then, charge sheets, afforded  space for an alias, along with the accused’s name.   We recall one mischievous military prosecutor years ago who tried to sneak such an alias past the defense in a larceny case.  The defense was aghast to see in the relevant space, ACCUSED:  JOHNSON, RALPH a.k.a. “Sticky Fingers Ralph.”

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