Special Report

Popular Phrases That Originated in the Military

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11. “In the trenches”

Opposing armies have fought from trenches for centuries, but trench warfare was seared into the public consciousness during World War I, when “in the trenches” was used to describe that grinding style of combat.

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12. “Lock and load”

“Lock and load” means to load a weapon and engage its safety catch. The phrase appears as early as 1793, describing flintlock weapons, but owes its modern popularity to John Wayne, who said it in the 1949 film “Sands of Iwo Jima.”

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13. “No man’s land”

The USO says the phrase dates from 14th-century England, where it was used to indicate the location of burial grounds on maps. It came into usage during World War I to mean the area between the trench lines of the opposing sides. The English war poet Wilfred Owen described the area “like the face of the moon, chaotic, crater-ridden, uninhabitable, awful, the abode of madness.”

14. “On the double”

“On the double,” whose origins are in the early 1800s, meant doing something in double time in the military – i.e., marching twice as fast.

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15. “On the front lines”

This phrase is one of the oldest in military history. It is recorded as early as 1520, but was first used to describe the first row of an approaching group of troops or the point at which opposing forces meet in 1842.

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