Squareheads, Blockheads and Other Epithets As Utilized to German Soldiers of Globe War I


Right here are some of the usually utilised epithets for German soldiers through Environment War I:

Bosche – the pejorative French phrase for German is from the French “albosche,” and “caboche” (cabbag head or blockhead). This was incredibly generally utilized to the German soldiers by the French. They seriously understood the Earth War I or II German soldier by any other title.

William Casselman, creator of Canadian Terms and Sayings has this to say problem the expression Bosche:

“Boche is a French slang term for &#39rascal&#39 very first used to German soldiers through Globe War Just one, and borrowed through the early decades of that conflict into British English.
A definition is offered in Tracks and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918, edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, posted in 1930. I have augmented their notice.
Boche is the desired and most prevalent English spelling. Bosche is a rarer English different spelling.

The phrase was initially applied in the phrase tête de boche. The French philologist Albert Dauzat considered boche to be an abbreviation of caboche, playful French slang for &#39human head,&#39 really a lot like English comic synonyms for head these types of as &#39the old noodle,&#39 noggin, nut, numbskull.

A person of the means of declaring &#39to be difficult, to be pigheaded&#39 in French is avoir la caboche dure. The root of caboche in the outdated French province of Picardy is very the Latin phrase caput &#39head.&#39 Our English term cage has the exact same origin, the compact head of leaves remaining a fantastic &#39caboche.&#39

Tête de boche was applied as early as 1862 of obstinate people. It is in print in a document released at Metz. In 1874 French typographers used it to German compositors. By 1883, states Alfred Delvau&#39s Dictionnaire de la langue Verte, the phrase had appear to have the that means of mauvais sujet and was so utilized particularly by prostitutes.
The Germans, getting amid the French a standing for obstinacy and being a bad large amount, arrived to be named with a jesting variation of allemande, specifically allboche or alboche. About 1900 alboche was shortened to boche as a generic title for Germans. Throughout the war, propaganda posters revived the phrase by working with the phrase sale boche &#39dirty kraut.&#39
At the beginning of WWI boche had two meanings in continental French: (a) a German and (b) stubborn, hard-headed, obsinate. Promptly during the training course of the war, this French slang phrase was taken up by the English press and public.

By the time of World War Two, when boche was however utilised in French, it had been replaced in continental French by other set-down terms, these types of as &#39maudit fritz,&#39 &#39fridolin,&#39 and &#39schleu.&#39 These 3 milder pejoratives ended up popular in the course of the German profession of France from 1941 to 1945. “3

Fritz – a popular German provided name.

Phrases of disparagement in English for the duration of WWII made use of by British troops had been &#39Jerry&#39 and &#39Fritz&#39 in the British military and navy, and &#39Hun&#39 in the RAF. Canadian and American troops typically favored &#39Heinie,&#39 &#39Kraut&#39 or Fritz. 3

Heinie – probably a variety of Heinz, one more common German specified identify. Heinie or Hiney is dated by Lighter to Existence in Sing Sing, a 1904 e book and claims it was in common use for the duration of WWI to denote Germans. 1 Heinie is also defined in the dictionary as staying slang for buttocks. 2

Hun – a throwback to the periods of the barbaric German tribes regarded as the “Huns.”
The use of “Hun” in reference to German soldiers is a situation of propaganda. In get to fully dehumanize the enemy he will have to first be considered of as patently distinct from you and yours. It was in the beginning quite complicated to get “decent white folks” of Blighty riled up over the “other first rate white folks” of central Europe. The alternative, then, was to remodel them philosophically into rampaging Mongol hordes from the East. 1 glance at the simian characteristics used to German soldiers depicted on the Allied propaganda posters drives the stage home. Who would you panic and dislike extra – a great blond-haired, blue-eyed boy from Hamburg or an apelike, rapacious brute from some distant and dim land? ”

“Huns” ruled from a remark made by Kaiser Wilhelm when he dispatched a German expeditionary corps to China during the Boxer Rebel. He mainly claimed his troops to display no mercy, declaring that 1,000 yrs back the Huns (an Asiatic nomad people today, not Germanic in the least) led by Attila, had created these types of a name for them with their depredations that they had been nonetheless regarded synonymous with wanton destruction, and urging the German troops of 1900 in China to simply make a identify for by themselves that would very last 1,000 yrs. When the Germans were fighting the French and the British a mere 14 a long time afterwards, this piece of ready-produced propaganda was as well excellent to move up for the Allied side, specially in view of the studies coming in from Belgium from the earliest days of the war.

Hun is outlined in the dictionary as becoming a barbarous or destructive particular person and also as getting offensive slang – utilized as a disparaging time period for a German, particularly a German soldier in Entire world War I. 2

Dutch – made use of by the American soldiers, ie, any one who spoke with a guttural accent in The us was normally regarded as a “Dutchman.”
Dutch is described in the dictionary as getting a phrase of or relevant to any of the Germanic peoples or languages. 2

Kraut – an clearly abbreviated variety of sauerkraut. Kraut, krout, crout as in use in The usa by the 1840&#39s to refer to Dutchmen and by American soldiers in the course of WWI and II to refer to Germans with its origin discovered in sauerkraut. 1 Kraut is described in the dictionary as currently being offensive slang and used as a disparaging expression for a German. Amid Individuals this is the principal identified use of the term. 2

Squarehead or Blockhead – Most attention-grabbing of all was the appellation of “Squarehead,” or “Blockhead,” as applied to the German soldiers and mostly by the American troopers. I have usually questioned if these two appellations experienced any anthropological origin. There are quite a few references in literature and by American soldiers to the influence that the condition of the skulls of the German soldiers appeared to be “blocked,” or “squared.” Just one doughboy states that he made an beginner research of the condition of the skulls of German troopers and that, to his eye, they certainly ended up &#39blocked,&#39 or &#39squared&#39 in configuration. I can have an understanding of the expression to have 1&#39s “block knocked off,” or “I&#39ll knock your block off,” – “block” currently being the slang for one&#39s head. Seemingly there was a causual romantic relationship concerning these two expressions and “blockheads,” or “squareheads.” German male skulls experienced some connection to the physical positions in which they slept as infants? Allow us seem at some of the origins of “squarehead” and “blockhead.”

The plan has been ventured that “squarehead” and “blockhead” resulted from the condition of the German metal helmet of Globe War I. No proof has so significantly been collected to assist this observation.

Blockhead goes again to the 1500&#39s and defines a silly individual, a block of wood for a head. I think it was almost certainly mistakenly applied to Germans mainly because of its similarity to blockhead and inevitably the text turned familiar. Squarehead has been utilized to describe Germans and Scandinavians and was used as a delicate pejorative for Danes and Swedes in the American midwest. It is considered to be of Austrian origin from the late 1800&#39s. It does outline an ethnic bodily characteristic of a squarish-shaped confront exhibited by some Northern Europeans. Its genetic, not from how a person slept. The related boxhead appeared in the early 1900&#39s prior to WWI.

Squarehead is listed in The Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1919: An Historical Glossary by Jonathan Lighter, American Speech: A Quarterly of Linguistic Utilization, Vol. 47, Figures 1-2, Spring / Summertime 1972 as in use in The usa to describe Germans and Scandinavians just before WWI. Lighter does not mention blockhead and presents no origin for that term.

The typical German armed service haircut seemed to make the “sq.” or “block” seem. This would also be in line with the phrase “jarhead” for a US Maritime, all over again because of this design of hair. “Squarehead,” at minimum, remained a term in vogue in the postwar era for any one of German origin. Of course, just about every race and / or nationality had its individual conditions by which it was explained, most of which would these days be regarded as derogatory or racist.

Of training course, when a single considers the phrase-origins of “Squarehead,” and “Blockhead,” the rational issue arises, &#39What about “Roundheads,” an expression that attained recognition during the English Civil War? Is this more in the way of actual physical anthropology or how the &#39spherical&#39 skull was formed in infancy?

Essentially, the expression “Roundheads” for the Parliamentarians was a derogatory (and, it sees, course-centered) reference to the quite limited hair worn by the London apprentices, with which the Royalists seemingly lumped all their opponents. (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 War refers to the haircuts of the extra Puritan customers of the Parliament forces – your simple bowl look, close-cropped and incredibly conservative. It distinguished them from the usually elegantly-coiffed” cavaliers “(Royalists) , gentlemen of noble beginning, and usually of discretion prosperity – on the other aspect, with their lengthy and flamboyant locks.

“Roundhead” as a propaganda epithet for Parliamentarian troopers appeared to originate in the reality that they kept their hair slash short as in opposition to the archetypal flowing locks of Royalist cavalrymen. Though this was not often the circumstance (in truth there is a well known van Dyke portrait of George, Lord Digby and William, Lord Russell, the previous in the dandified &#39Cavalier&#39 outfit and flowing most important, the other in the sombre Puritan black – the former assumed for Parliament, the latter for the King) it was enough of a stereotype for both equally &#39Roundhead&#39 and &#39Cavalier&#39 to be employed by propagandists as conditions of insult while this did not halt each the sets of troopers from having the terms to their hearts as compliment. If a person is to believe these two fantastic historians Walter Carruthers Seller and Robert Julian Yeatman: The Roundheads, of course, were being so known as since Cromwell had all their heads designed perfectly spherical, in buy that they must current a uniform look when drawn up in line . Below this, if any person lost his head in action, it could have been employed as a cannon ball by the artillery (which was performed at the theft of Worcester).

As to appellations, we see that the German was much less affectionately referred to as Huns, Boche and Jerries. American troopers were being referred to as Yanks and Doughboys, while the British were referred to 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, Figures 1-2, Spring / Summer months 1972.

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

3. http://www.billcasselman.com and specially his world wide web internet site http://www.billcasselman.com/wording_home/boche.htm . Content employed with the permission of Mr. Casselman.

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


Resource by David Homsher