Dog tags
Posted: 04 August 2008 01:13 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Watching ‘Foyles War’ last night (UK detective series based in Hastings, Kent, during World War 2, this episode set shortly after Pearl Harbour) reference was made to an American soldier’s ‘identity discs’ these were what today we’d call dog tags - when did they start to be called dog tags? I’m assuming the BBC programme makers were being careful to avoid an anachronism (rather than getting it wrong). Was ‘dog tags’ an American expression from earlier that came over to Britain during WW2 (or later) or did Americans call them identity discs at this date too?

Edit: sorry it’s not a BBC programme, its on ITV1 and by Greenlit Productions, my mistake

[ Edited: 04 August 2008 02:43 AM by flynn999 ]
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Posted: 04 August 2008 03:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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First cite in OED is 1918.

1918 Hatchet 22 Feb. 2/1 All that will be necessary will be to consult his finger print name and other matters of interest on the little steel tag around his neck, variously known as ‘*Dog Tag’, ‘license to live’, but to the Medical Department as an Identification Tag. 1947 Penguin New Writing XXIX. 159 If I should die to-morrow, I suppose this is where my bones, if not my dog-tag, would lie for ever.

I’m assuming that’s an American cite. (OED labels the term ‘U.S. slang’).

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Posted: 04 August 2008 05:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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HDAS also has 1918, but with different cites. So it appears to have been created and widely adopted in the US Army during WWI.

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Posted: 04 August 2008 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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flynn999 - 04 August 2008 01:13 AM

… or did Americans call them identity discs at this date too? ...

To turn it the other way, who/when were they called “identity discs” and were they ever even round?  I don’t remember seeing round ones (except for the tags for actual dogs, of course).

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Posted: 04 August 2008 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The ones on the programme weren’t round, they were the standard shape, which is another thing which made me wonder if the programme makers had been careful with the words they put into the mouth of a British policeman in the 1940s.

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