Parking tanks on the lawn
Posted: 16 November 2009 07:52 AM   [ Ignore ]
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In the sense of bringing pressure to bear. My feeling is that it’s more often seen in the negative, well, he hasn’t parked his tanks on the lawn yet. Any idea how far back the phrase goes?  One thinks of the much-televised images of North Vietnamese tanks rolling up to the Presidental Palace in Saigon or Chilean tanks outside Salvador Allende’s palace.  I wondered if perhaps those images had given birth to the phrase, or did it predate that decade?

It’s a slippery customer to search for on Google Books, I turned up one hit from 1984 for the exact phrase ‘tanks parked on the lawn’ (I’m sure it goes back further) but of course there are many variants on the wording and entering tanks and lawn in the All the words box just floods me with irrelevant hits. I must work on my googlefu on the ABS!

BTW I couldn’t find anything useful in OED, but again, I may have missed something.

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Posted: 16 November 2009 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Searching on “tanks on the lawn” gives a couple of pages of hits (link) with little dross. One (Forgotten skies: the story of the Air forces in India and Burma by Wilfrid W. Russell) from 1946!

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Posted: 16 November 2009 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, but that Russell quote is about real tanks on a real lawn

The earliest I’ve found so far for the metaphorical sense is from The Times (of London) Saturday, Mar 10, 1973; pg. 1; Issue 58728; col A - “It has never been denied that [Harold Wilson] told Mr Hugh Scanlon, leader of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, to ‘take your tanks off my lawn’”, which uses the phrase in the sense I have most often heard it, as an instruction to someone to stop making extremely aggressive threats. That particular piece refers to what Wilson is alleged to have said to Scanlon in 1969, but I’ve not been able to find a reference from that year. Later reports of Wilson’s remarks say he prefaced the “tanks” bit with “‘I do not intend to be another Dubcek,”, referring to the crushing of the Prague Spring by the Russians the previous year, so that looks to be where HE, at least, took the metaphor from.

[ Edited: 16 November 2009 08:43 AM by zythophile ]
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Posted: 16 November 2009 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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More to the point, the 1946 quote appears (based on what’s available in Google’s snippet view) to be about a tea party where military equipment was placed on display for the guests. A very different context and a random collocation of the words.

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Posted: 16 November 2009 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Well found, zythophile!  I should have remembered that famous Wilson quote.

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