What Does Hurt Locker Mean?

Posted on March 10, 2010

The Hurt Locker won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director at the 82nd Academy Awards on Sunday night. The BBC has an interesting article about the meaning of "hurt locker." The BBC says the press kit for the film indicates that hurt locker is GI slang for a severe injury. The article says the first recorded usage example from the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1966 in a newspaper story about the Vietnam war.

The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal told the New Yorker, "If a bomb goes off, you're going to be in the hurt locker. That's how they used it in Baghdad. It means slightly different things to different people, but all the definitions point to the same idea. It's somewhere you don't want to be."

The term originated in 1966 according to Fiona McPherson, senior editor of the Oxford English Dictionary's new words group. She told the BBC, "It's from a Texas newspaper and it says 'If an army marches on its stomach, Old Charlie is in the hurt locker'. Old Charlie is the Viet Cong. It is similar to the phrases 'world of hurt' or 'world of pain.'"

The term hurt locker has also been used in sports journalism to indicate players on the disabled list.

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