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Dead Marine

Posted by Geoff Cooper on May 30, 2008 at 12:17

Re: Dead Marine posted February 01, 2001 The story about the Duke of Clarence is perhaps too elegant to be true. The Oxford English Dictionary records the first use of 'marine' referring to an empty bottle in 1785. A 'marine' first referred to 'marine officer' -- 'marine officers being held useless by the seamen' as Francis Grose nicely puts it (A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue). Since words have usually been in general circulation for some time before they are included in dictionaries (which also take time to compile and publish), and the Duke would have been a mere 20 at the time of the publication of Grose's work, I doubt that a teenager would have conjured up such repartee and its becoming common parlance. Furthermore, would Grose have identified an heir apparent's witticism as "Vulgar" suggesting that it was a commonplace used by the lower-class? The usage "dead marine" (again OED) is first recorded almost one hundred years later in Australia.