Sam Browne belts, designed by Samuel James Browne and originally worn by commissioned army officers, were first used in the 19th century. From the term Sam Browne belt arose the U.S. military slang term Sam Browne meaning simply ‘a commissioned officer’. The first evidence we have for this slang usage is from 1919:
You..went to the movies chaperoned by a Sam Browne.
1919 Company Fund, p. 26/1
It is likely that the term was used during the First World War; can you help us find earlier evidence for the term in this sense?
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To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the OED is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help. Our first quotations are often from newspapers and magazines, and we know that there may well be earlier evidence in less-easily-accessible sources such as letters, diaries, and government records, many of which are now being made available in digital form for the first time.
Posted by OED_Editor on 31 January 2014 15.03