One of the joys of working for TidBITS is that we learn more about the words we use. In last week’s issue, I wrote an article about what to look for when buying a laptop bag. So tonight I received an email from one of our translators asking, “I see the term ‘ballistic nylon’ everywhere, but nobody, not even people with English as a first language could tell me, why it is called ‘ballistic’. For me it has only associations to missiles and bullets, but I guess ballistic nylon is not ‘bullet-proof’ nylon.”
I assumed that the term was probably just marketing drivel, coined to make the fabric sound tougher than it really is (though it is pretty tough). But a little Googling produced A History of Body Armor – Bullet Proof Vests, which says:
The next generation of anti ballistic bullet proof vest was introduced during World War II. The “flak jacket,” constructed of ballistic nylon, provided protection primarily from munitions fragments and was ineffective against most pistol and rifle threats.