I could use an adjutant

I tucked the word adjutant aside recently, though I can't remember where I came across it. Most likely in some news story I was editing, since I also saved the entry from The Boston Globe's stylebook with it:

  • This is a duty assignment, not a rank, and should not be capitalized or abbreviated: Major General Anthony C. Spadorcia, the state adjutant. It is Major General Robert M. Joyce, the adjutant general, in reference to the officer in charge of personnel records and administration in the main headquarters of an army or armed forces. The plural is adjutants general.

The American Heritage Dictionary gives this definition:

  • 1. A staff officer who helps a commanding officer with administrative affairs.
  • 2. An assistant.

Both the AHD and the OED also made reference to a bird, which the OED calls an adjutant-bird, adjutant-crane, or adjutant-stork and describes as "A gigantic species of stork (Ciconia Argala) native to India; so called from its stiff quasi-military gait when walking." The AHD calls this kind of bird a marabou.

I couldn't resist looking up the etymology for marabou. More on that tomorrow.