The History of Flak (aka Flack)

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Wallace Darwin

New Member
American English
This is an interesting word that has evolved rapidly. I wonder if the flack that is a hack predates the flak pilots had to fly through during war. Given that a political flack is a person who takes on the media barrage on behalf of a politician it sounds as if, like so many useful and colorful words, it immediately morphed from the airwar environment into the vote war environment.
 
  • Wallace Darwin

    New Member
    American English
    Outstanding. I am certain that the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle applies to History. The "said to" and "but" shows how we can, if we are careful, trace the lineage of usage. I felt unqualified to look for what you found because my level of expectation was so high. I'm glad you have tentatively proved me right. Well done and thanks. I hope that my reply would not be less gracious if you had clearly demonstrated that the two words were tottlay unrelated.:)
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    From: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=flack

    flack

    "publicity or press agent," 1946, said to have been coined in show biz magazine "Variety" (but this is not the first attested use), supposedly from name of Gene Flack, a movie agent, but influenced by flak.
    The Farlex Free Dictionary gives the origin of 'flak' (in the sense of criticism or opposition) as the German term for anti aircraft guns/the exploding projectiles they fire:
    [German, from Fl(ieger)a(bwehr)k(anone), aircraft-defense gun.]
    If true, this would make the version without 'c' the more correct.
     

    Wallace Darwin

    New Member
    American English
    Thank you. That is what the OED says too. The other flack seems to be a case of onomatopoeia . There goes my theory that flack is a descendant of flak. {My theory done run into flak and has crashed and burned.;)}
     

    Wallace Darwin

    New Member
    American English
    An interesting question (to me anyway) is if flack is onomatopoeic word for noise; is calling a person a flack derogatory or merely descriptive?
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    I tend to think of 'taking the flak' as onomatopoeic, even if it does have some root in Gene Flack it sounds like the ak-ak of a gun.
    Calling someone a flack points towards a type of Gene Flack even if spelled without the 'c'. 'Don't be a flack' sounds like a state while 'take the flack' sounds active, it is the difference between the state verb 'be' and the active verb 'take'.
     

    Wallace Darwin

    New Member
    American English
    Your post is absolutely clear proof of what Aristotle has said about language. "a language is altogether arbitrary and functions in any society by convention and the common consent of its participants." I was so sure that flack descended from flack that it was tempting to say "Who cares what the OED says." Since I, and many others, believe that current usage trumps the dictionary we get to luxuriate in onomatopoeia
     
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