On the Name “Gitmo”

Logo of the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay (Public Domain)

As President Biden moves to close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison, columnist Ben Zimmer explores the history of the name “Gitmo”. Zimmer writes:

“The origins of the “Gitmo” designation go back to the end of the Spanish-American War, when the U.S. arranged a permanent lease of land on Guantanamo Bay at the southeast end of Cuba. The lease agreement with the new Cuban government ensured a continued American military presence on the island. That presence was sometimes used to protect Cuba’s sugar industry … From then on, Guantanamo Bay became a crucial hub of operations, and with telegraphy used for essential communications, an abbreviated form of the name was pressed into service: “Gtmo.””

From this origin, Zimmer traces the history of usage in media and popular culture, noting that the word “may no longer have such a hold on the public consciousness” if the Biden administration is successful in closing the prison.

Read more over at The Wall Street Journal.