Fatigue (and dollars & cents)

April 18, 1918 – Full diary entry:

“Fatigue: Set up stores in a.m. Raked in p.m. 

Midday wrote to Elinore.

Short drill.

Played poker, won 75¢

Wrote to Elinore”

I wasn’t completely clear on Robert’s use of “fatigue” here. I had only ever seen the word used to mean “the state of being tired” (fatigued) or referring to military clothing (fatigues). Merriam-Webster helped me out.

The noun was used to mean both “the state of being tired” and “labor,” “effort,” or “trouble”—a sense that seems old-fashioned today. Early uses of fatigue meaning “effort” or “labor” often were in military contexts.

These senses led to two military-specific uses of fatigue. First, it came to mean “manual or menial work performed by military personnel,” and then, consequently, “the uniform or work clothing worn on fatigue detail and in the field.” This is how fatigues came to mean “uniform” in the military. When your job seems to be all work and no play, even your clothes are tired.

The symbol following “75″ in this entry sure looked like a dollar sign to me. But $75 back in 1918 is more than a thousand dollars today. And I’m not sure about how these symbols were used in 1918, but today a currency symbol that comes after a number is more likely to be a “cents” sign. That would make Robert’s poker winnings 75 cents, which is more like $10-15 today and that seems more likely to me.

If you’re curious, here’s how it looks in the diary:


Where was Robert today? See the timeline.

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