Friday, January 13, 2012


Rob from Traverse City asked about the word balaclava The balaclava is a head covering that leaves only parts of the face uncovered. It is commonly referred to as a ski mask.

Balaclava is a city on the southern Crimean coast in the Ukraine. The town manufactured the distinctive head covering, which the British army distributed to their troops during the Crimean War (1853 – 1856). Not only did balaclavas protect soldiers from the cold, but they also served as helmet liners.

Today, balaclavas are a staple of winter sports, and race car drivers wear a flame-resistant version as a safety feature throughout the year. Balaclavas also seem to be the headgear of choice for bank robbers.

The Battle of Balaclava (1854) was memorialized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his Charge of the Light Brigade.

Oddly enough, two other articles of clothing have connections to the Crimean War. The raglan, an overcoat with loose armholes, was named after Baron Raglan, a British general. The cardigan, a knitted wool sweater that buttons or zips at the front., was named after the Earl of Cardigan, a British commander.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.

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