Re: RARA-AVIS: Nominations -- The word "Hard-boiled"

From: George Upper (
Date: 18 Apr 2002

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> I'd heard that the first use of the term was in
> reference to professional drill sergeants during
> WWI,
> who, once the US entered the war, had to turn a
> large
> group of untrained citizens into citizen-soldiers in
> reocord time. That was well after 1886, however.

OED agrees on the 1886 date, and attributes it to Mark Twain. The next nine references all date to the WWI / Depression era (1919-1934), however, and one of them refers specifically to "two hard-boiled Irish sergeants." Odd that they would include one citation from 1886 through 1918 and then nine for the next sixteen years, unless (as I suspect) they simply couldn't find any other uses from 1886 to 1918. I'd say the phrase was coined by Twain but didn't really catch on till WWI.

G.--794 emails and counting down!

===== George C. Upper III, Editor The Lightning Bell Poetry Journal

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