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I lead workshops at the British Library, on literature, language, art, history, and the culture of the book; and teach the history of printing at other institutions. I research language usage during the First World War, and lead the Languages and the First World War project. Author of Discovering Words, Discovering Words in the Kitchen, Evolving English Explored, Team Talk - sporting words & their origins, Trench Talk - the Language of the First World War (with Peter Doyle); How to Cure the Plague; The Finishing Touch; and Words and the First World War. As an artist I work in performance, public engagement, and intervention using drawing, curating, text, changing things and embroidery.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Other Ranks

Always (to me) rather surprising, the use of the term "Other Ranks" caught the eye of a correspondent for The Manchester Guardian in December 1919:

Your recent note in "Miscellany" regarding the magnificent service rendered by pigeons during the war (writes a correspondent) reminded me of a telegram once received at a certain R.A.F. headquarters where I was serving. It announced the arrival in Egypt of "300 pigeons and 3 Other Ranks." 

At least they warranted initial capital letters, as is still the case in the British Army. The earliest documentation of the term in the OED is from 1904 Regulations for Mobilization (with a z), in which it does not have capitals.

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