March 20, 2006
Brand Naming: Operation Swarm or Swarmer?
Operation Swarmer is the name given by the U.S. Military to its new Iraqi initiative, the largest air and ground combat operation since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Let me be clear, I’m not questioning the intended meaning of this brand name (yes, this is a brand name) but, I do question its grammatical legitimacy.
Drawing a metaphor from the agitated movements of a swarm of bees, the concept of swarm may be appropriate. However, the use of swarmer is not. According to the OED, a swarmer is
1. One of a number that swarm
2. A flagellated motile cell produced by the stalked cell of certain species of stalked bacteria
3. One beehive adapted for swarming from which a swarm is sent forth
Since there are more than 1500 troops involved in this operation, the first definition cannot apply. And, because we are talking about soldiers and not biological weapons, the second definition is also out.
The third definition only fits if all the troops are coming from one concentrated location and heading in a concentrated manner to another as a single entity. While this might have been semantically appropriate for the original Operation Swarmer (a series of airborne maneuvers in 1950 in North Carolina after which a swarm was deployed to Korea to provide airborne capability to General Douglas Macarthur) it is not the case in Iraq, where troops are coming from all over Iraq by air and by land to swarm in on one northern operating area.
I have no way of knowing who in the U.S. military developed the brand name Swarmer, but some brand name research may have been in order. I have a feeling it wasn’t Dick Cheney. Dick, as you know, is more practiced in the fine art of English. After all, he Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
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