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United Nations

The term United Nations was coined by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill while the British Prime Minister was sitting in a bathtub.

Churchill was in Washington over the New Year’s holiday 1941-42 and the two men were struggling with what to officially call their alliance. The term alliance was unacceptable in a formal document because, according to Churchill, it posed constitutional problems for Roosevelt – evidently a formal alliance would require Senate approval. Neither liked the alternative Associated Powers.

On New Year’s Morning 1942, Churchill, who was staying in the White House, was taking a bath when Roosevelt knocked on the door, was wheeled into the bathroom, and proposed the term United Nations. Churchill instantly liked the term, recalling the lines from Byron’s Childe Harold.

Later that day Roosevelt and Churchill, along with representatives of the Soviet Union and China, signed the United Nations Pact, pledging to fight Germany, Italy, and Japan to the last and to make no separate peace. Eventually, twenty-two other nations signed the agreement and the name was taken later on for the post-war international organization.

At the Mansion House on 10th November 1942, speaking about the bond between the English speaking nations, Churchill said:

I recall to you some lines of Byron, which seem to me to fit the event, the hour, and the theme:

[Thou fatal Waterloo*]
Millions of tongues record thee, and anew
Their children’s lips shall echo them, and say
Here, where the sword united nations drew,
Our countrymen were warring on that day!
And this is much – and all – which
Will not pass away.
From Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
*This line added to give the context.

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