Posted by ESC on October 18, 2002
There was discussion on Larry King Live today on whether "sniper" is a good thing or bad. Here's what I found in a reference:
SNIPER - "One who attacks or criticizes from a hidden position. The word 'snipe' came into English in the thirteenth century via Middle English from the Old Norse 'snipa,' for the bird, and sniper soon meant a hunter or killer of snipe. The puzzling aspect of this derivation is that fowlers do not usually snipe at snipe but walk directly up to this darting little marsh dweller and shoot it as it flies into the air. There is nothing circumspect or secretive about the procedure. By Shakespeare's time, however, snipe was a term of abuse; in 'Othello,' Iago uses it to complain of Rodrigo's stupidity, and Iago was indeed a stabber-in-the-back. It may be from this usage that we get the modern military meaning - one who shoots from a hidden position. This variety of sniping has been a lethal tactic in modern warfare, especially in rough terrain or in towns and cities, which afford many hiding places." From "Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and other Combative Capers" by Christine Ammer (NTC Publishing Group, Chicago, Ill., 1989, 1999).