Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Military Language

Remember when the French were the military masters?  The ones to beat?  The English language gained some terms in milspeak, borrowed from the French:  latrine, enfilade, bivouac, Minie, petard, that sort.

What happened when America became a dominating military force?  Acronyms!

And when the Germans were the big dogs?  The names didn't stick.  Blitz, sorta.  I always wished Auftragstaktik would have stuck.  It means decision point. There are other that non history non military people know, but aren't employed in the English language.  Panzer, for instance

Russian hasn't loaned hasn't English language much from their Zenith of military power.

So why has French given us the most new terms? 

Just been thinking on it. 

I guess one explanation is that 1066 Francais has been the biggest contributor to English, perhaps (Latin being the runner up, even deader Saxon roots earlier).  Those Normans sure are persistent. 


Borepatch said...


Anonymous said...


Bill Anderson said...


French though? Language of diplomacy, inheritor of Latin, cult of Napoleon, etc.

Anonymous said...

"Norman? Is that you?"

A boy's best friend IS his mother...



NotClauswitz said...

Panzerfaust! :-) Bier!

Dave said...

Auftragstaktik doesn't mean decisive point. The best translation in American mil-speak is 'mission command' or 'mission tactics.' Basically, tell your subordinate what needs to be done, and let him go about doing it. (As Robert Citino points out, this sometimes had the rather bad effect of the commander just going off and attacking the nearest enemy unit, overall plan be damned. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it got them in serious trouble.)

The closest word to 'decisive point' would be Schwerpunkt, which more literally translates to 'point of concentration.'

Geodkyt said...

French was the "international language", PERIOD when books really exploded, enormously wide circulation of "self improvement" books occurred, military service became professionalized, and when "modern" military (i.e., reliable firearms completely dominating the military horizon) techniques were first being developed. As well, France was a major military force to be recloned with at the time. Much larger land force than Britain had, and regularly employed. (Plus, lots and lots of exposure to and professional exchanges between every other military force of note at the time.)

It isn't surprising that English ended up absorbing a lot of French military words at that time -- especially since a firm graspe of French was deemed an essential part of a good English education, and sprinkling one's speech with French a mark of distinction for the upper classes.

German was never such a prestige language in England, and most German military works reached England (and later, America) in French and English translations.

Geodkyt said...

Dave -- and that weakness is why, in a proper OPORD, "commander's intent" is critical to ensure that your subordinates (two echelons down) can properly formulate the proper mission oriented tactics.

Commander's intent: The brigade will disrupt the enemy attack by spoiling attacks and be ready to counterattack across the river to rout and annihalate the enemy.

Mission: Company will take the heavy traffic bridge across the river at coordinates XY123456.

The Cdr's intent tells the captain he can't just blow the bridge or render it unfit for heavy traffic -- because the colonel is gonna want to use that bridge later. Without that intent, the captain might well hit the bridge with ICM and sieze it with dismounted infantry. . . but the bridge would be useless to heavy forces and second echelon logistics trains until the engineers can clear and certify it stable.