Red Baron
Posted: 20 August 2018 05:05 AM   [ Ignore ]
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When was the Red Baron? is an interesting bit of research by Brett Holman.  The basic point is this:

Nevertheless, it seems that up until 1960 or so, it was quite rare to call Richthofen the Red Baron. Conversely, from 1970 or so, it was almost impossible not to: I don’t think I’ve found a single book about him from the last half-century which does not also have ‘Red Baron’ somewhere in the title.

Spoiler: Snoopy is to blame.

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Posted: 20 August 2018 05:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Fascinating. The data in BYU’s corpora back this up. Neither the Corpus of Historical American English (COHA) or the Time magazine corpus have any hits for Red Baron prior to 1960. That means that Time didn’t use the phrase at all prior to that decade, and any use elsewhere was so rare that it doesn’t show up in COHA’s representative sample. (Note: Time didn’t start publishing until 1923, so it doesn’t cover the war years.)

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Posted: 20 August 2018 09:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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FWIW, running “Richtofen” and “Red Baron” through genealogybank does turn up pre-1865 examples:  “A highlight of Captain Sergeant’s memoirs is his acquaintanceship with Capt. Roy Brown, of the 209th squadron.  Brown it was who exploded the myth of the Red Baron Von Richtofen, Germany’s superman in the clouds.” Greensboro Daily News November 15, 1942.  That being said, I find it entirely plausible that Peanuts popularized an existing but rare usage.  See also:  Warner Bros. and “nimrod.”

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Posted: 20 August 2018 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I believe you mean pre-1965, and yes, that’s what the article itself says: “quite rare” does not mean “nonexistent.”

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Posted: 20 August 2018 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I have been doing 19th century baseball too long.  I often automatically type 18-- even when I mean 19--.

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Posted: 22 August 2018 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I’ve added it to the Big List

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Posted: 22 August 2018 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I was hoping you would!  Inevitable proofreading nitpick:

The nickname Red Baron did exist during war

...should be “the war.”

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Posted: 22 August 2018 01:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Thanks. Fixed.

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Posted: 23 August 2018 12:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Do you suppose the sudden uptake in use of the term was due to the 1966 hit song ‘Snoopy vs. the Red Baron’ by the Royal Guardsmen (a Florida group)?

Dunno about America and rest of the world, but it was a huge hit in Britain at the time.

Can be heard here:

Snoopy vs the Red Baron - on YouTube

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Posted: 23 August 2018 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yes, as mentioned in the Big List article, the song was part of Peanuts picking up the idea the year previously.

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