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Phrase " nap-of-the-earth" origins

Posted by Barney on January 27, 2003

In Reply to: phrase " nap-of-the-earth" origins posted by TheFallen on January 27, 2003

: : Nap of the earth, as a military phrase refers to low level contoured fight over the earth surface.
: : A friend contends that the phrase is older than it usage in the Vietnam war era, usauly pretaining to helicopter tactics.
: : Have been unable to find the origin of this phrase, and would welcome any help. E-mails welcome.

: I've not heard of this phrase, but a number of the meanings of the word "nap" would seem to be relevant. Nap can mean the soft or fuzzy surface of a fabric - for example, the "nap of the cloth" is important to professional snooker/pool players when gauging how to pace their shots, dependant upon whether they're playing with or against the nap. To "nap" something also means to cover it with a sauce.

: Both derivations of "nap" in this sense seem to come from the French "nappe", meaning a covering or tablecloth.

I've heard of "lap of earth" from that great poet Thomas Gray (1716-1771).
In his 'Elegy from a country churchyard':
..."Here rests his head upon the lap of earth,
A youth to fortune and to fame unknown:"...