Showing some discipline

Well, my wife and I are settled in our apartment in Quincy, Mass., the city that borders Boston to the south.  The job is going well, the boxes are unpacked, and it's time to start Talking Wordy again. I finished reading David Halberstam's The Longest Winter early last month. In it was a word that I come across a lot when I am reading military history, especially if it includes a chapter about boot camp: martinet. In The Longest Winter, it wasn't used in that context:

  • "For the men of Second Division, [General Ned] Almond had gained an unwelcome 'reputation as a martinet who often commanded by instilling fear in subordinates.' "

I always got from the context that a martinet was a hardass, be it a drill sergeant or a general. I looked it up in the new OED Online (review upcoming once I've had a chance to use it a bit more):

  • Originally: a person who leads others in military drill. Later: a military or naval officer who is especially concerned with strictness of discipline; generally a rigid, inflexible, or merciless disciplinarian

The OED etymology:

  • The name of Jean Martinet (died 1672), French soldier, whose attention to drill and training as Inspector-General of the infantry helped to shape the regular army of Louis XIV.