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Lone wolf

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 11, 2007

In Reply to: Lone wolf posted by Charles Hall on March 11, 2007

: In the review of an old movie from the 1930's they made the claim that the phrase "lone wolf" is directly traceable to a series of "Lone Wolf" mystery movies. Surely the phrase predates this? Has anyone every seen info on the origin of the term "Lone Wolf"?

The Lone Wolf movie series begin in 1917 with the filming of the first novel of Louis Vance's series of eight Lone Wolf novels begun in 1914. Subsequent films were made in the 1930s and 1940s, and in 1948 the series was adapted to radio. In 1954 it made the transition to television. In 2002 the character underwent a considerable mutation. The series appeared in comic book forme, and the hero in the body of a luscious female.

Lone Wolf and the Cub are the subject also of a series of six "samurai" films in anime style, beginning in 1972-73. It also gave rise to a manga version. Both were immensely popular in Japan.

For the handful of possible readers unfamiliar with the terms "anime" and "manga," anime (pronounced as though animé) means simply "animated," as in film cartoons. The distinctive Japanese anime style is owing to the great prestige of a particular animator, whose style continues to be imitated. It is a style familiar to virtually every American child.

Manga also refers to a genre and a style, namely the comic book genre and the style of a particularly successful comic book artist. In English, a Japanese comic book, or a Japanese employing some pages in manga style, would be called a manga book.

So, knowing that a book about "Lone Wolf" appeared in 1914, how early can we trace the written use of that phrase with the meaning associated with it in 1914 and today? The answer, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is 1909. Here are a few examples that the OED cites.

"1909 F. H. TILLOTSON How to be a Detective 130 Occasionally the police run across Panhandlers known as 'lone wolves'{em}that is they do not mix with others of their class. 1927 Dialect Notes V. 454 Lone wolf, a bandit or house breaker who works without confederates. 1931 Times Lit. Suppl. 28 May 415/3 He was the 'lone wolf' of the campaign for federation. 1938 Amer. Speech XIII. 195 Lone-wolf v. 1938 E. BOWEN Death of Heart II. iv. 249, I am quite enough of a lone wolf as it is. 1944 R. F. ADAMS Western Words 93/1 Lone-wolfing, living alone, avoiding companionship of others...."

For more on the Lone Wolf movies see lone_wolf.html

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