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

Listed here are some frequent epithets for German troopers throughout World Battle I:

Bosche – the pejorative French phrase for German is from the French “albosche” and “caboche” (cabbage head or blockhead). This was fairly often utilized by the French to the German troopers. They hardly knew the German soldier of the First or Second World Battle by another identify.

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

Boche is a French slang phrase for ‘scoundrel’ that was first utilized to German troopers throughout World Battle I and borrowed into British English throughout the early years of that battle.
A definition is given in Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, printed 1930. I’ve supplemented their observe.
Boche is the popular and commonest English spelling. Bosche is a rarer English alternate spelling.

The phrase was first used within the expression tête de boche. French philologist Albert Dauzat believed that boche was brief for caboche, playful French slang for “human head,” just like English comedian synonyms for head corresponding to “the outdated noodle,” noggin, nut, numbskull.

One of many methods to “be cussed, to be cussed” in French is avoir la caboche dure. The foundation of caboche within the historic French province of Picardy is finally the Latin phrase caput ‘head’. Our English phrase cabbage has the identical origin, the compact leaf head is an ideal ‘caboche’.

Tête de boche was already utilized in 1862 by cussed folks. It’s in print in a doc printed in Metz. In 1874, French typographers utilized it to German typesetters. In 1883, says Alfred Delvau’s Dictionnaire de la langue Verte, the expression got here to imply mauvais sujet and was thus primarily utilized by prostitutes.
The Germans, who had a fame among the many French for being cussed and a nasty bunch, had been known as with a joking model of allemande, specifically allboche or alboche. Round 1900, alboche was shortened to boche as a generic identify for Germans. Through the warfare, propaganda posters revived the time period through the use of the phrase sale boche ‘soiled kraut’.
Firstly of World Battle I, boche had two meanings in continental French: (a) a German and (b) cussed, cussed, cussed. Quickly in the midst of the warfare, this French slang phrase was adopted by the English press and the English public.

By the point of World Battle II, whereas boche was nonetheless utilized in French, it had been outdated in continental French by different condescending phrases, corresponding to “maudit fritz,” “fridolin,” and “schleu.” These three milder pejoratives had been frequent throughout the German occupation of France from 1941 to 1945.” 3

Fritz – a standard German given identify.

Phrases of contempt in English utilized by British troops throughout World Battle II included ‘Jerry’ and ‘Fritz’ within the British Military and Navy, and ‘Hun’ within the RAF. Canadian and American troops usually most popular ‘Heinie’, ‘Kraut’ or Fritz. 3

Heinie – most likely a type of Heinz, one other frequent German given identify. Dated by Lighter to Life in Sing Sing, a 1904 e book, Heinie or Hiney says it was generally used throughout WWI to indicate Germans. 1 Heinie can also be outlined within the dictionary as slang for buttocks. 2

Hun – a throwback to the instances of the barbaric German tribes generally known as the ‘Huns’.
Utilizing “Hun” in reference to German troopers is a case of propaganda. To totally dehumanize the enemy, he should first be seen as distinctly completely different from you and yours. It was initially fairly troublesome to rile up Blighty’s “first rate whites” over the “in any other case first rate whites” of Central Europe. So the answer was to philosophically rework them into rampaging Mongol hordes from the East. One take a look at the monkey options utilized to German troopers on the Allied propaganda posters drives the purpose house. Who would you concern and hate extra – a fair-haired, blue-eyed good boy from Hamburg or an ape-like, predatory brute from a land far and darkish?”

“Huns” was the results of a comment made by Kaiser Wilhelm when he despatched a German expeditionary corps to China throughout the Boxer Revolt. He was truly telling his troops to indicate no mercy, saying that 1,000 years in the past the Huns (an Asiatic nomadic folks, under no circumstances Germanic) led by Attila had made such a reputation for his or her depredations that they had been nonetheless used synonymously. regarded with wanton destruction, and urging the German troops of 1900 in China to equally make a reputation for themselves that might final 1,000 years. When the Germans fought in opposition to the French and the British barely 14 years later, this piece of ready-made propaganda was too good for the Allies to go up, particularly given the messages that got here in from Belgium from the beginning of the warfare. warfare.

Their is outlined within the dictionary as a barbaric or harmful individual in addition to offensive slang – used as a disparaging time period for a German, particularly a German soldier in World Battle I. 2

Dutch – utilized by the American troopers i.e. anybody who spoke in a guttural tone in America was generally generally known as a ‘Dutchman’.
Dutch is outlined within the dictionary as a time period of or associated to one of many Germanic peoples or languages. 2

Kraut – a distinctly abbreviated type of sauerkraut. Kraut, krout, crout as utilized in America within the 1840s to seek advice from Dutch folks and by American troopers throughout WW I and II to seek advice from Germans with its origins present in sauerkraut. 1 Kraut is outlined within the dictionary as offensive slang and is used as a disparaging time period for a German. Amongst Individuals, that is the primary acknowledged use of the phrase. 2

Squarehead or Blockhead Most attention-grabbing of all was the designation “Squarehead” or “Blockhead” as utilized to the German troopers and particularly by the American troopers. I’ve usually questioned if these two designations had an anthropological origin. There are quite a few references within the literature and by American troopers claiming that the form of the German troopers’ skulls seemed to be ‘blocked’ or ‘squared’. One pastry boy says he made an novice research of the form of German troopers’ skulls and that in his eyes they had been positively “blocked” or “squared” in configuration. I can perceive the expression to “knock somebody’s block off” or “I am going to knock your block off”, – “block” is the slang for somebody’s head. Apparently there was a causal connection between these final two expressions and “blockhead” or “sq. head”. There might have been an anthropological origin for German male skulls being extra ‘blocked’ or ‘sq.’ in form. Might it’s that the looks of German male skulls had a relationship to the bodily positions they slept in as infants? Let us take a look at a number of the origins of “squarehead” and “blockhead”.

The thought has been floated that “sq. head” and “blockhead” are a results of the form of the World Battle I German metal helmet. To date, no proof has been gathered to assist this commentary.

Blockhead goes again to the 1500s and defines a silly individual, a block of wooden for a head. I believe it was most likely wrongly utilized to Germans due to the resemblance 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 1800s. It does outline an ethnic bodily characteristic of a square-shaped face exhibited by some Northern Europeans. It is genetic, not how somebody slept. The same boxhead appeared within the early 1900s earlier than WWI.

Squarehead is talked about 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 season 1972 as utilized in America to explain Germans and Scandinavians earlier than WWI. Lighter doesn’t point out blockhead and gives no origin for that time period.

The usual German army haircut appeared to provide the “sq.” or “block” look. This is able to even be per the time period “jarhead” for a US Marine, once more due to this coiffure. At the very least “Squarehead” remained a time period in vogue within the post-war period for anybody of German descent. After all, every race and/or nationality had its personal phrases by which to explain it, most of which at this time can be thought of derogatory or racist.

When one considers the phrase origins of “Squarehead” and “Blockhead”, the logical query naturally arises: “What about ‘Roundheads’, a phrase that turned standard throughout the English Civil Battle? Is that this extra in the way in which of bodily anthropology? or how the ‘spherical’ cranium was shaped in childhood?

Really, to the Parliamentarians, the time period “Roundheads” was a derogatory (and apparently class-based) reference to the very brief hair worn by the London pupils, with whom the Royalists had apparently lumped all their opponents collectively. (The counter-insult, “Cavalier,” likened the Royalists to Caballeros, ie, 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 Battle refers back to the hairstyles of the extra puritanical members of the Parliamentary Forces – your fundamental bowl look, cropped shut and really conservative. It distinguished them from the usually elegantly coiffed “cavaliers” (royalists), gents of noble start, and sometimes of appreciable wealth – then again, with their lengthy and flamboyant locks.

“Roundhead” as a propaganda time period for Parliamentarian troopers appears to stem from the truth that they stored their hair brief versus the archetypal wavy locks of Royalist cavalrymen. Though this was not at all times the case (there’s certainly a well-known Van Dyke portrait of George, Lord Digby and William, Lord Russell, the primary within the dandified ‘Cavalier’ outfit and flowing headdress, the opposite within the sombre Puritan black – the previous fought for Parliament, the latter for the King) it was stereotyped sufficient for each “Roundhead” and “Cavalier” for use as offensive phrases by propagandists, although this didn’t cease both group of troopers from utilizing the phrases to their very own hearts as a praise. In the event you consider these two nice historians Walter Carruthers Vendor and Robert Julian Yeatman, the Roundheads had been after all so known as as a result of Cromwell had made all their heads completely spherical in order that they might look uniform when lined up with one another. . As well as, if a person misplaced his head in motion, it could possibly be used as a cannonball by the artillery (which was performed throughout the Siege of Worcester).

As for the names, we see that the German was much less affectionately known as Huns, Boche and Jerry’s. American troopers had been known as Yanks and Doughboys, whereas the British had been known as British or Tommys, and the French Poilus.”


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, Points 1-2, Spring/Summer time 1972.

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

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

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

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