Squareheads, Blockheads and Different Epithets As Utilized to German Troopers of World Conflict I

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Listed here are among the generally used epithets for German troopers throughout World Conflict I:

Bosche–the pejorative French phrase for German is from the French “albosche,” and “caboche” (cabbage head or blockhead). This was very generally utilized to the German troopers by the French. They hardly knew the World Conflict I or II German soldier by every other title.

William Casselman, creator of Canadian Phrases and Sayings has this to say in regards to the expression Bosche:

“Boche is a French slang phrase for ‘rascal’ first utilized to German troopers throughout World Conflict One, and borrowed in the course of the early years of that battle into British English.

A definition is given in Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, revealed in 1930. I’ve augmented their be aware.

Boche is the popular and most typical English spelling. Bosche is a rarer English various spelling.

The phrase was first used within the phrase tête de boche. The French philologist Albert Dauzat believed boche to be an abbreviation of caboche, playful French slang for ‘human head,’ very very like English comedian synonyms for head comparable to ‘the outdated noodle,’ noggin, nut, numbskull.

One of many methods of claiming ‘to be obstinate, to be pigheaded’ in French is avoir la caboche dure. The foundation of caboche within the outdated French province of Picardy is finally the Latin phrase caput ‘head.’ Our English phrase cabbage has the identical origin, the compact head of leaves being an ideal ‘caboche.’

Tête de boche was used as early as 1862 of obstinate individuals. It’s in print in a doc revealed at Metz . In 1874 French typographers utilized it to German compositors. By 1883, states Alfred Delvau’s Dictionnaire de la langue Verte, the phrase had come to have the that means of mauvais sujet and was so used particularly by prostitutes.

The Germans, having among the many French a status for obstinacy and being a foul lot, got here to be named with a jesting model of allemande, specifically allboche or alboche. About 1900 alboche was shortened to boche as a generic title for Germans. In the course of the struggle, propaganda posters revived the time period by utilizing the phrase sale boche ‘soiled kraut.’

At first of WWI boche had two meanings in continental French: (a) a German and (b) cussed, hard-headed, obstinate. Rapidly in the course of the course of the struggle, this French slang phrase was taken up by the English press and public.

By the point of World Conflict Two, whereas boche was nonetheless utilized in French, it had been changed in continental French by different put-down phrases, comparable to ‘maudit fritz,’ ‘fridolin,’ and ‘schleu.’ These three milder pejoratives had been widespread in the course of the German occupation of France from 1941 to 1945.” 3

Fritz–a widespread German given title.

Phrases of disparagement in English throughout WWII utilized by British troops had been ‘Jerry’ and ‘Fritz’ within the British military and navy, and ‘Hun’ within the RAF. Canadian and American troops usually most well-liked ‘Heinie,’ ‘Kraut’ or Fritz. 3

Heinie–probably a type of Heinz, one other widespread German given title. Heinie or Hiney is dated by Lighter to Life in Sing Sing, a 1904 ebook and says it was in widespread utilization throughout WWI to indicate Germans. 1 Heinie can be outlined within the dictionary as being slang for buttocks. 2

Hun–a throwback to the instances of the barbaric German tribes generally known as the “Huns.”

Using “Hun” in reference to German troopers is a case of propaganda. As a way to totally dehumanize the enemy he should first be regarded as patently totally different from you and yours. It was initially fairly troublesome to get “first rate white folks” of Blighty riled up over the “in any other case first rate white folks” of central Europe. The answer, then, was to rework them philosophically into rampaging Mongol hordes from the East. One take a look at the simian options utilized to German troopers portrayed on the Allied propaganda posters drives the purpose residence. Who would you concern and hate more–a good blond-haired, blue-eyed boy from Hamburg or an apelike, rapacious brute from some distant and darkish land?”

“Huns” resulted from a comment made by Kaiser Wilhelm when he dispatched a German expeditionary corps to China in the course of the Boxer Revolt. He principally advised his troops to indicate no mercy, saying that 1,000 years in the past the Huns (an Asiatic nomad folks, not Germanic within the least) led by Attila, had made such a reputation for themselves with their depredations that they had been nonetheless thought-about synonymous with wanton destruction, and urging the German troops of 1900 in China to equally make a reputation for themselves that may final 1,000 years. When the Germans had been preventing the French and the British a mere 14 years later, this piece of ready-made propaganda was too good to move up for the Allied aspect, notably in view of the stories coming in from Belgium from the earliest days of the struggle.

Hun is outlined within the dictionary as being a barbarous or harmful individual and in addition as being offensive slang–used as a disparaging time period for a German, particularly a German soldier in World Conflict I. 2

Dutch–used by the American troopers, i.e., anybody who spoke with a guttural accent in America was generally generally known as a “Dutchman.”

Dutch is outlined within the dictionary as being a time period of or associated to any of the Germanic peoples or languages. 2

Kraut–an clearly abbreviated type of sauerkraut. Kraut, krout, crout as in use in America by the 1840’s to consult with Dutchmen and by American troopers throughout WWI and II to consult with Germans with its origin present in sauerkraut. 1 Kraut is outlined within the dictionary as being offensive slang and used as a disparaging time period for a German. Amongst People that is the principal acknowledged use of the phrase. 2

Squarehead or Blockhead– Most attention-grabbing of all was the appellation of “Squarehead,” or “Blockhead,” as utilized to the German troopers and largely by the American troopers. I’ve usually questioned if these two appellations had any anthropological origin. There are quite a few references in literature and by American troopers to the impact that the form of the skulls of the German troopers seemed to be “blocked,” or “squared.” One doughboy states that he made an beginner examine of the form of the skulls of German troopers and that, to his eye, they undoubtedly had been ‘blocked,’ or ‘squared’ in configuration. I can perceive the expression to have one’s “block knocked off,” or “I will knock your block off,” – “block” being the slang for one’s head. Seemingly there was a causual relationship between these two latter expressions and “blockheads,” or “squareheads. Presumably there was an anthropological origin for German male skulls being extra ‘blocked,’ or ‘squared’ in form. Might or not it’s that the looks of German male skulls had some relationship to the bodily positions wherein they slept as infants? Allow us to take a look at among the origins of “squarehead” and “blockhead.”

The concept has been ventured that “squarehead” and “blockhead” resulted from the form of the German metal helmet of World Conflict I. No proof has to date been gathered to assist this remark.

Blockhead goes again to the 1500’s and defines a silly individual, a block of wooden for a head. I believe it was most likely mistakenly utilized to Germans due to its similarity to blockhead and ultimately the phrases turned synonymous. Squarehead has been used to explain Germans and Scandinavians and was used as a light pejorative for Danes and Swedes within the American midwest. It’s believed to be of Austrian origin from the late 1800’s. It does outline an ethnic bodily attribute of a squarish-shaped face exhibited by some Northern Europeans. Its genetic, not from how one slept. The same boxhead appeared within the early 1900’s earlier than WWI.

Squarehead is listed in The Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1919: An Historic Glossary by Jonathan Lighter, American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Utilization, Vol. 47, Numbers 1-2, Spring/Summer time 1972 as in use in America to explain Germans and Scandinavians earlier than WWI. Lighter doesn’t point out blockhead and presents no origin for that time period.

The usual German navy haircut appeared to supply the “sq.” or “block” look. This may even be consistent with the time period “jarhead” for a US Marine, once more due to this model of hair. “Squarehead,” at the least, remained a time period in vogue within the postwar period for anybody of German origin. In fact, each race and/or nationality had its personal phrases by which it was described, most of which might right this moment be thought-about derogatory or racist.

In fact, when one considers the word-origins of “Squarehead,” and “Blockhead,” the logical query arises, ‘What about “Roundheads,” an expression that gained recognition in the course of the English Civil Conflict? Is that this extra in the way in which of bodily anthropology or how the ‘spherical’ cranium was fashioned in infancy?

Truly, the time period “Roundheads” for the Parliamentarians was a derogatory (and, it appears, class-based) reference to the very brief hair worn by the London apprentices, with whom the Royalists apparently lumped all their opponents. (The counter-insult, “Cavalier,” likened the Royalists to caballeros–i.e., the servants of Catholic authoritarian Spain.) see Martyn Bennett, The Civil Wars in Britain and Eire 1638-1651, Blackwell, 1997, pp. 104-5.

Roundheads” from the English Civil Conflict refers back to the haircuts of the extra Puritan members of the Parliament forces–your primary bowl look, close-cropped and really conservative. It distinguished them from the customarily elegantly-coiffed “cavaliers,” (Royalists), gents of noble delivery, and infrequently of appreciable wealth–on the opposite aspect, with their lengthy and flamboyant locks.

“Roundhead” as a propaganda epithet for Parliamentarian troopers seems to originate in the truth that they saved their hair lower brief as towards the archetypal flowing locks of Royalist cavalrymen. Whereas this was not all the time the case (certainly there’s a well-known van Dyke portrait of George, Lord Digby and William, Lord Russell, the previous within the dandified ‘Cavalier’ outfit and flowing most important, the opposite within the sombre Puritan black–the former fought for Parliament, the latter for the King) it was sufficient of a stereotype for each ‘Roundhead’ and ‘Cavalier’ for use by propagandists as phrases of insult though this didn’t cease each units of troopers from taking the phrases to their hearts as praise. If one is to imagine these two nice historians Walter Carruthers Vendor and Robert Julian Yeatman: The Roundheads, after all, had been so referred to as as a result of Cromwell had all their heads made completely spherical, so that they need to current a uniform look when drawn up in line. In addition to this, if any man misplaced his head in motion, it might be used as a cannon ball by the artillery (which was accomplished on the siege of Worcester).

As to appellations, we see that the German was much less affectionately known as Huns, Boche and Jerries. American troopers had been known as Yanks and Doughboys, whereas the British had been known as Brits or Tommys, and the French as Poilus.” 4


1. “The Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1919: An Historic Glossary,” by Jonathan Lighter, American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Utilization, Vol. 47, Numbers 1-2, Spring/Summer time 1972.

2. The Free Dictionary, http://www.thefreedictionary.com

3. http://www.billcasselman.com and particularly his web page http://www.billcasselman.com/wording_room/boche.htm. Materials used with the permission of Mr. Casselman.

4. Chenoweth, H. Avery & Brooke Nihart, Semper Fi: The Definitive Illustrated Historical past of the U. S. Marines. NY: Major Avenue, 2005, web page 142.

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