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Dodged the column

Posted by ESC on June 13, 2010 at 17:45

In Reply to: Dodged the column posted by ESC on June 13, 2010 at 17:41:

: : I recently encountered, in a book written in the 1950's, the phrase "dodged the column." I have looked for it on this site and the internet generally; I see it in use on various webpages, but do not see anything which gives a meaning or a derivation. It does appear to be English, and I suspect that it may have originated during one of the World Wars, but that is speculation, not fact. Does anyone know recognize the phrase and know what it means, and why? Thanks for any help!

: It is listed under World War I slang in one reference and is defined as "To shirk; to avoid work." No details on what column, etc. "War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases from the Civil War to the War in Iraq," Second Edition, by Paul Dickson, 2007, First Bristol Park Books, New York. Page 55. I found the phrase in a second reference that says it originated around 1919. But still no details on the origin.

Here we go. "...The expression originated as army slang. A soldier may be counted as present when mustered for a task but then slopes off unobserved as the column leaves the parade ground." "Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable" revised by John Ayto (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2005, Seventeenth Edition).Page 400.