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SHRAPNEL

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SHRAPNEL

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:50 am

• shrapnel •


Pronunciation: shræp-nêl • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)

Meaning: 1. Fragments from an exploded artillery shell, mine, or bomb. 2. Metal balls or chunks of metal in an antipersonnel shell that explodes above enemy troops; a shrapnel shell. 3. (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa slang) Pocket change, metallic money.

Notes: There is nothing unusual or interesting about today's Good Word, except for the Australian, Kiwi, and South African slang usage. I held this word back in hope something more would turn up, but, alas, nothing has.

In Play: The problem with shrapnel shot is that it dispenses its load randomly and is highly inaccurate: "Harry had put his helmet on awkwardly in his rush to the battlefield, but a piece of shrapnel set it straight for him." I like the way the word is used on the other side of the Earth: "Major Slaughter always put a bit of shrapnel in the offering plate when it passed him on Sundays."

Word History: Lieutenant Henry Shrapnel began working on his new antipersonnel weapon in 1784, but it wasn't until 1804 that the British first used it in the war against the Dutch at Fort Amsterdam in Surinam. The British high command was so pleased with it that they made Shrapnel a major and his name an eponym as well. Until that time, armies were limited to using "canister shot". This involved loading a canister of shot instead of a ball into the cannon. The disadvantage of this was that the canister split open as soon as it came out of the cannon and was effective for only about 300 meters. Shrapnel's invention carried two charges: one to carry it out of the cannon and another, fitted with a timer, that caused it to empty its load over the heads of the enemy. (Chris Stewart, who always has a bit of shrapnel in his pocket, should be congratulated for submitting today's Good Word and pointing out its usage in South Africa.)
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Re: SHRAPNEL

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:53 am

Monica Freund, a subscriber from Germany, dropped me this note this morning:

Good morning Robert,

You forgot the fourth meaning of this word: A
Schrapnell in the Cologne dialect [means] a shrew!!! I think it is very descriptive....
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Re: SHRAPNEL

Postby MTC » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:13 am

Yes indeed, shrews can be sharp-edged like shrapnel, shrewd even. And this brings to mind the question whether shrew is an eponym? Probably not because a shrew is neither a person nor a place as required under the definition. But as with an eponym, the perceived qualities of the shrew ("beastie") have been transfered to a broader category, shrewish women that is. (One lash for the politically incorect pun.)

Still under the branching spell of yesterday's word, ramify, I thought the Goodwordians would appreciate a list of "nym" words , including eponym, along with their definitions: http://www.fun-with-words.com/nym_words.html
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Re: SHRAPNEL

Postby Slava » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:02 pm

For readers of the Hornblower books, where does "grape shot" fall in the evolution of how this concept? I always took it as being a cannon ball filled with shot that scattered wildly on impact.
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Re: SHRAPNEL

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:24 pm

I think grape shot preceded canister shot and might have been more deadly, but perhaps less easily handled. The small balls were sewn in a canvas bag and shot from a cannon. What people won't do to kill and main other people. But I am guilty of a childhood interest in Horatio Hornblower. I read his stories serialized in the Saturday Evening Post.
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Re: SHRAPNEL

Postby call_copse » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:07 am

Grapeshot IIRC is like an oversized version of a shotgun. The more regular balls are more damaging than irregular scattershot, a la blunderbuss, and could punch through a ship's hull reasonably effectively. Also devastating at close range for scything through infantry and cavalry charges. Shrapnel might work better at longer ranges. 'Better' not really being my judgement on these affairs simply a statement of efficiency for the unpleasant matter at hand - I believe your side of the pond still enjoy firing projectiles at each other, but it is not a well regarded pursuit here.
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Re: SHRAPNEL

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:01 pm

Most of us, even in Texas, are not eager to strap on our six shooters and walk the streets at high noon. Knives also do a lot of damage, as proven today on a Houston college campus.
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Re: SHRAPNEL

Postby call_copse » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:15 am

Shrapnel in the sense of loose change is commonly used here in the UK also BTW - for perhaps the last ten years I have heard this in the wild.
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