David L. Hoof

Strictly Speaking

Word Origins: When things aren't what they're called.

June 26, 2014

Tags: word origins, war, weapons, generational changes, secrecy, curiousity, tank, tank suit

TANK

The most common use of this word refers to an armored assault vehicle driven by tracks and topped by a rotating gun turret. Almost no one remembers that the application of the word was the British code applied to a machine that appeared capable of delivering potable, nonpoisoned water to the trenches in World War I. But its intent was never that. It was designed and operated as a war machine to break the deadlock and futility of deadlocked front lines, an indestructible, terrifying vehicle with murderous firepower, and also a shield for advancing infantry.

Certain vestiges of the original meaning of tank as a reservoir of water remain. During the 1950s, nylon racing suits used by swimmers were called tank suits. Eventually, the reference of tank to a form containing water became so rare that elevated municipal water tanks became referred to as water towers, although the contained water is in a tank at the top.

Some believe that getting tanked is being so drunk that it seems a tank has run over them. More likely, if any relationship to tanks exist, it's probably because with car's we "fill up the tank." With beer. Which is served in tankards. Least desirable is a tank driver who's tanked.

Few today even question why it is that we refer to mechanized war machine as a tank. This may be taken, and fairly, as an index of indifference, to a lack in curiosity in the past. Perhaps if the code name for the war machine under development had been eggplant, people would be more puzzled as to how we reached the Abrams M-1 Eggplant. Or perhaps no one would have found this absurd incongruity hard to swallow.

Selected Works

suspense mystery
For every emerging independent woman today, men can be little better than annoying at best and downright monstrous at worst. A creation of a stolen NSA computer program, Fiona Halloran is launched into the present to assist faltering novelist Andy Delaney capture the market that has evaded him, the one for and about women. But there’s an emerging risk: increasing personal danger to them both. This doesn’t stop when they finish his latest novel, Babes & Bastards. It just spills over to the next best seller in a series starring Fiona Halloran, Nun No More. Look for it soon in a bookstore near you.
In the dying Montana town of Sanctuary, helf-Crow Deputy Redfawn Kravitz relentlessly tracks the killer of Senate candidate Jeb Holloway, who then starts picking off the best suspects, one-by-one.
Using only sounds as clues, a blind man must locate his six-year-old niece before kidnappers kill her.
historical mystery
Just before Oktoberfest in 1931, Adolf Hitler's niece and secret lover is found dead in a locked room in the Fuhrer's Munich flat. Pressured by the Nazis, the police rule it a suicide, but evidence suggests a cold blooded execution. If the killer can be outed, widespread outrage will thwart a maniac's rush to power.
Satire
A cheated wife goes way overboard to get revenge on - and a fair settlement from -- her uberrich husband, with terrifyingly hysterical results.
literary mystery
Little Gods is prep school noir, like A Separate Peace as if it were written by Alfred Hitchcock.
action adventure
A clandestine biowar attack on America reduces society to medieval chaos.
Fiction
Approaching Christmas, a winter blizzard locks Chicago in snow. Among its residents, retired FBI poisons expert Tad Lindholm is a haunted man. Haunted by his past, haunted by his recently dead lover Yvette, haunted by the long shadows of too many empty booze bottles, haunted by depression, and tempted by an arsenal of deadly doses to end it all. At the same time, he is trapped by lingering suspicions that he alone synthesized the traceless toxins responsible for recent deaths. Numb with stubbornness, encircled by intersecting mysteries, Lindholm pursues the real killers among his enemies, only to discover an unimaginably personal betrayal.