#1
Old 01-15-2005, 02:59 PM
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Etymology of tank

The military vehicle that is. Why is it called a tank? Who first called it that?
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#2
Old 01-15-2005, 03:05 PM
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My understanding is that, when the British developed it during WW1, they used 'tank' as a code word in the descriptions of their work to disguise the fact that they were actually building self-propelled gun-carriers and mini-fortresses.

H G Wells, in a science-fiction story written before the war, has a tank force routing a cavalry force. The story was caled The Land Ironclads.
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#3
Old 01-15-2005, 03:06 PM
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When the British were first developing an armored vehicle to cross trenches and shell-broken countryside, they wanted their efforts to remain secret (there was a war on, y'know) so they referred to the vehicle as a means to deliver water to the front--a tank of water. Interestingly, the Germans did soething quite similar and their A7V armored vehicle took its name from Allgemeine Kriegsdepartment 7 Abteilung Vehkerwesen (which translated to War Department General Division 7 Transport).
#4
Old 01-15-2005, 03:08 PM
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Just from memory here but I think it's because the frist ones looked like huge fuel tanks with guns and tracks sticking out from them. I also think that the frist ones were made by a boiler/tank manufactuater.

I'm sure someone will come along shortly and give us some good links. I'm too tired to google right now . . .
#5
Old 01-15-2005, 03:12 PM
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Here's a background article:

http://michiganhistorymagazine.c..._the_tank.html

The "code word" story seems to be fairly well accepted, though versions of the story differ. From that:
Quote:
Two vehicles were built, a “land cruiser” and a “land destroyer.” After much consultation, it was decided that these tanks could be the weapon to break through the enemy lines. The name tank originated as a code word so eavesdropping Germans would not know what was being made. When the first vehicles were shipped to France, their containers were labeled “water tanks.”
#6
Old 01-15-2005, 03:14 PM
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Wikipedia claims that some parts manufacturers were told that they were for tanks destined for Mesopotamia.
#7
Old 01-15-2005, 03:19 PM
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Thanks for the informative answers!
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#8
Old 01-15-2005, 03:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yabob
Here's a background article:

http://michiganhistorymagazine.c..._the_tank.html

The "code word" story seems to be fairly well accepted, though versions of the story differ. From that:
The O.E.D. backs this up: "Special use of TANK n.1 adopted in Dec. 1915 for purposes of secrecy during manufacture." The sense mentioned in this etymology is that of a tank of water, for instance.
#9
Old 01-16-2005, 09:31 AM
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I've heard that they were called tanks in part because they looked like benzene tanks in addition to it being code. Not sure of its veracity though.
#10
Old 01-16-2005, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aesiron
I've heard that they were called tanks in part because they looked like benzene tanks in addition to it being code. Not sure of its veracity though.
And note that English is the only language that uses "tank" instead of a more descriptive term.

In French it's char, "chariot", which may be a shortened form of something else, I'm not sure.

In German, it's Panzer, meaning "armor"; the same word you'd use to describe the stuff that a knight on horseback would wear.
#11
Old 01-16-2005, 02:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 633squadron
And note that English is the only language that uses "tank" instead of a more descriptive term.

In French it's char, "chariot", which may be a shortened form of something else, I'm not sure.

In German, it's Panzer, meaning "armor"; the same word you'd use to describe the stuff that a knight on horseback would wear.

True, the French term is char d'assaut ('assault cart') but the word tank (English spelling) is often used.
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Old 01-16-2005, 03:51 PM
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Isn't panzer an alternative contraction of panzerkampfwagen (also abbreviated to PzKpfw, as in the PzKpfw VI Tiger)?
#13
Old 01-16-2005, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 633squadron
And note that English is the only language that uses "tank" instead of a more descriptive term.
It's "tank" in Hebrew, too. Plural: "tankim".
#14
Old 01-16-2005, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Isn't panzer an alternative contraction of panzerkampfwagen
Well, yeah, but that is just typical agglutinative German: panzer = armor, kampf = battle, wagen = wag(g)on.
#15
Old 01-16-2005, 09:42 PM
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Harry Turtledove wrote a series of alternate history novels where the South won the civil war and the two countries fight against each other in WWI. In his book the USA develops armored vehicles and conceals the project by saying it's building "storage barrels". As a result, "barrels" becomes the subsequent colloquial term for armored vehicles.
#16
Old 01-17-2005, 05:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 633squadron
And note that English is the only language that uses "tank" instead of a more descriptive term.
The official (used by the military) Norwegian word is "stridsvogn" (battle waggon), but "tanks" (borrowed in the plural as usual) is in common enough use to be included in dictionaries. It's pronounced in Norwenglish and is the same in singular and plural.
#17
Old 01-17-2005, 07:55 AM
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The word tank originally came from the Gujarati language, (Gujarati tankh, from Sanskrit tadagah, possibly of Dravidian origin), and referred to a pool of water or a small reservoir. They use these in India to have a water supply during the dry season. They fill up during the monsoon and hopefully last the rest of the year. In India they still use the word tank in this sense. The colonial British, having learned the word from India, then applied it to a water supply container built above ground.

However, the "tank top" refers to a swimsuit, used in a swimming pool, which harks back to the original Indian meaning of tank as a pool.
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#18
Old 01-17-2005, 10:20 AM
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Despite the fact that, that doesn't answer my question, it's interesting.
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#19
Old 01-17-2005, 12:28 PM
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I don't know if this helps any, but the British Mk I used riveted steel plates, giving it a boiler/large water tank appearance (until people saw the guns poking out of them, I suppose).
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#20
Old 01-17-2005, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 633squadron
In French it's char, "chariot", which may be a shortened form of something else, I'm not sure.
.

"Char" is the french word for the english "chariot", used on battlefields during the antiquity. As mentionned previously, the exact name is "char d'assaut", which would translate as "assault chariot".

The french "chariot" is the english "cart", used by farmers one century ago. It's not used for military vehicles.


"Blindé" ("armored", vehicle being implied) is also in use.


Besides, "tank" is commonly used in french too, but not in the military. There are "regiments de chars", regiments blindés" but no "régiment de tanks".
#21
Old 01-17-2005, 07:45 PM
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Now that that question's been more or less answered, what about the verb "to tank"?
#22
Old 01-17-2005, 10:29 PM
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At a guess it's derived from the expression "to tank up." As in, fill your tank, be it a fish tank, water tank, fuel tank, etc. Or, colloquially, your stomach. So eating and drinking to your fill can also be called "tankin' up." Or, for the time impaired, "to tank."

Just don't fill your Tank; the mechanicals would probably fare okay, but the electronics, while fairly waterproof, were never meant for total immersion for any period of time.

It's a land combat vehicle, not a friggin' submarine.
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#23
Old 01-17-2005, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by dotchan
Now that that question's been more or less answered, what about the verb "to tank"?
Of course, in Everquest, "to tank" is to assume the role of a tank, e.g. an armored warrior whose job it is to fight at the front lines and dish out and receive the most danage. Of course, the term "tank" comes from, well, tanks.

So, a tank tanks. Others can tank if they want, but they don't tank nearly as well as a tank. When someway says "gp looking 4 tank" they want someone to tank who's really a tank.

But then you can, in real life, tank in the sense of failing miserably. The New York Yankees really tanked in the ALCS against the Red Sox. It was, indeed, a tanking of historical levels of tankosity. So, they tanked too, but they did not tank the way a tank tanks; they just tanked the way you tank if you're just someone who tanked.

#24
Old 01-17-2005, 11:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Strinka
Thanks for the informative answers!

You missed a pun opportunity.




[in advance] You're welcome.
#25
Old 01-18-2005, 01:57 AM
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The Random House Word Maven on "To Tank"
He does not make an explicit connection, but I always figured that it came from going "into the tank" as in a carnival dunk tank.


(And NoClueBoy, a million.)
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