Sabre-rattling, according to Wiktionary, is from the early 20th century when a military officer would threaten to draw his sabre as part of an argument. But the metaphorical meaning is an overt show of military strength to prove a point or to imply a threat. It was recently used by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, to accuse Russia of unwarranted “sabre rattling” when Russia declared that it would be adding forty Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to its nuclear arsenal this year. That, of course, in response to increased US activity in NATO allied eastern European countries, which of course, Putin sees as a threat.
“This nuclear sabre-rattling of Russia is unjustified. This is something we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces,” Stoltenberg said.
What’s interesting about this whole debacle is that despite sanctions, despite constant pressure from the world, Russia is just marching forward without any regard for International rights. Putin’s plans, whatever they may be, have not been shaken by any level of threats from the US or any other country and it seems they’ll keep escalating till either the world watches as Russia assimilates eastern Europe back into its territories or someone lights a match and the whole barn goes up in flames.
But, till that happens, we can sit on the sidelines and watch as Russia continues to be defiant, Europe continues to be eloquent (who else uses sabre-rattling in speech any more?) and the US continues to be equally dull –
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed concern over Putin‘s missile announcement and said no one wanted to see backsliding “to a kind of a Cold War status.”
Of course, this word is interesting to me not just because of its infrequent use but also its origins. There was a time when military officers used to carry sabres or other types of swords and the threat of a drawing of weapons used to be a very real one. This is one of those iconic things that make future generations scratch their heads, much like why the phone icon is this weird looking receiver thingy and why when we end a call, we say “hang up”.
While the nuclear threat (and the territorial threat) from Russia is very real, we must remember that there are countries that have been dealing with Russia’s ‘sabre-rattling’ since decades, if not centuries. So, if and when the threat becomes real, there’ll be a little less sabre-rattling and a lot more sabre-drawing to deal with it.
P.S. Some of you might think, “aha! That’s not a single word, so how can it be word of the day?” Well, to you I have only two words to say – compound words.