Why were the German's referred to as "Huns"???

Discussion in 'WWII' started by Miss Neecerie, Oct 16, 2007.

  1. Teekay44

    Teekay44 One of the Regulars

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    According to my Grandmother, when my Great grandmother (Florance Shackleton) married my Great grandfather (Walter Hanf) her family in England was upset that she, an English girl, was marring a HUN. I have seen the letter from them. An they were both Americans and they were still upset. Of course this was early 1917!
     
  2. Dieter

    Dieter New in Town

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    OK, just to put this topic to bed and educate everybody reading this on a largely forgotten bit of historical trivia that I learned 30+ years ago from an ACTUAL World War I doughboy veteran when I asked him "where did 'hun' come from?"

    According to dear old Mr. Lacy (who was in his 80's and still possessed full memory of his time on the front line in France, but refused to discuss those experiences, instead lapsing into a sad, thoughtful silence), the word "Hun" was derived from the German Soldier's issue Belt Buckle, which was inscribed with the motto, "Gott Mit Uns" ("God With Us"). "Uns" was slowly over the course of the first year of the war being mispronounced "Huns" and the nickname was appropriated and stuck for use regarding the soldiers of the Kaiser's Armee.

    Where the term "Doughboy" came from, I still have no idea, because I forgot to ask him. :eek:
     
  3. Andykev

    Andykev I'll Lock Up Bartender

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    Huns

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.....

    "he term "Hun" has been also used to describe peoples with no historical connection to what scholars consider to be "Huns", in particular Germans.

    On July 27, 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion in China, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany gave the order to act ruthlessly towards the rebels: "Mercy will not be shown, prisoners will not be taken. Just as a thousand year ago, the Huns under Attila won a reputation of might that lives on in legends, so too may you assert the name of the Germans in China in such a way that no Chinaman will ever again dare so much as to pull a face at a German."
    This speech gave rise to later British use of the term for the German enemy during World War I. The comparison was helped by the Pickelhaube or spiked helmet worn by German forces until 1916, that was reminiscent of images depicting ancient Hun helmets. An alternative reason sometimes given for the British use of the term was the motto Gott mit uns (God with us) on German soldiers' belt buckles during World War I. It is suggested that the word "uns" was mistaken for Huns. This usage, emphasising the idea that the Germans were barbarians, was reinforced by Allied propaganda throughout the war. The French songwriter Theodore Botrel described the Kaiser as "an Attila, without remorse", launching "cannibal hordes".
     
  4. Chas

    Chas One Too Many

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    Kipling wrote something in 1914 that went

    "For all we have and are,
    For all our children's fate,
    Stand up and take the war.
    The Hun is at the gate!"


    So I'm thinking that either he coined it, or the Germans were being referred to as such before Kipling wrote it, and he referred to it.
     
  5. Lincsong

    Lincsong I'll Lock Up

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    Didn't "doughboy" come into slang usage as a way to describe how fast the U.S. was turning out soldiers? Turning them out like dough????
     
  6. Haversack

    Haversack One Too Many

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    Well, there is documentation that the term 'doughboy' referring to a U.S. Army Infantryman goes back to the Mexican-american War of of 1846-47. At least two sets of memoirs of that campaign make it pretty explicit that this was the case. The following page from a site on WWI examines all the theories how the name evolved:

    http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/origindb.htm

    Haversack
     
  7. Lone_Ranger

    Lone_Ranger Practically Family

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    Hessian, goes back to the Revolutionary War. The British employed Hessian (An inhabitant of the German state of Hesse.) Mercenaries. When Washington crossed the Delaware, on Christmas Day 1776, it was to attack the Hessian garrison, at Trenton.

    The Headless Horseman was a "Hessian mercenary." On the other hand, Baron von Steuben, was Prussian.

    As far as the term "Hun" it was more prevelant in WWI, but did carry over to WWII..

    "Now there's another thing I want you to remember. I don't want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position. We're not holding anything. Let the Hun do that. We are advancing constantly and we're not interested in holding onto anything -- except the enemy...."

    ~George C. Scott, as General George S. Patton
     
  8. interesting nicknames!

    what a great thread! running through it i couldn't stop smiling. i know the nickname "hun" from (some) german and (a lot of) british war literature and i am 99% sure the root is referring to the wild (and cruel) bunches of huns (German term: "Hunnen") back in the first centuries. it always ashames me that all european neighbours have that certain look at us for beeing murdering, slaughtering and raping monsters. i can tell you - it's a challenge to show them a different view!

    but - just to give you something to smile about - german forces also had nicknames for their trench opposites: GIs = Ami, Britisch = Tommie, Russian = Ivan, Italian = Spaghetti.

    sounds a bit more friendly - but what can be friendly in a war? one thing i remember is that my grannie was happy for the rest of his life beeing captured from american forces - he loved their cigarettes for the rest of his life!

    dennis
     
  9. Haversack

    Haversack One Too Many

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    cloudspotter schreibt: "but - just to give you something to smile about - german forces also had nicknames for their trench opposites: GIs = Ami, Britisch = Tommie, Russian = Ivan, Italian = Spaghetti."

    Giving a colloquial name to members of foreign military forces has been pretty common among English speakers as well. In the US, ‘Ivan’ = Russians was also used at least into the 1980s. ‘Fritz’ = Germans as well. During the 1960s and ‘70s, ‘Charlie’ was used to refer to the Viet Cong. ‘Jock’ = Scottish still has some currency. In a way, it is sort of the opposite of the ‘dehumanizing the enemy’ process referred to earlier in this thread.

    Your mention of ‘Italian = Spaghetti’ is interesting as it is an example of the very common trait of calling a member of a different culture by a name of what is seen as a typical food. American English is full of them: ‘Kraut’ = German, ‘Limey’ = Englishman, ‘Frog’ = Frenchman, ‘Beaner’ = Mexican, ‘Mackerel-Snapper’ = Roman Catholic, ‘Granola’ = Hippy. For that matter, the term ‘Yankee’ evolved from a term the English-speaking colonists in America called the Dutch-speaking colonists: ‘Yankee’= ‘Jan Kees’ = ‘John Cheese’. This trait is found in other languages as well. A common nickname for Tuscans in Italy is ‘mangiafagioli’ or ‘Bean-eater’ ‘Garlic-eater’ is used by some in Japan to refer to Koreans. If you dig into most languages you will find other examples. Naming the ‘Other’ for what the ‘other’ eats, (and by extension, what ‘we’ do not), is another way of separating ‘them’ from ‘us’. Hence, most of these expressions are considered insults to a greater or lesser degree. Use at your own risk.

    Haversack
     
  10. Lone_Ranger

    Lone_Ranger Practically Family

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    Indeed! Or so the legend goes......

    The Battle of Belleau Wood was fought in France in the summer of 1918, in the midst of a heat wave. At some point during the battle, the Marines were ordered to take a hill occupied by German forces. As the Marines prepared to charge the hill, word came down from command that the Germans were preparing to use mustard gas to repel the attack. As a precaution, the Marines were ordered to put on their gas masks and take the hill. As the Marines fought their way up the hill, the heat caused them to sweat profusely, foam at the mouth and turned their eyes bloodshot. Additionally, at some points the hill was very steep, which caused the Marines to have to scramble on all fours to make their way up.

    Consequently, from the Germans' vantage point, they witnessed a pack of tenacious, growling figures whose lower faces were obscured by gas masks (which at the time had a prolonged shape that somewhat resembled a snout) but left open their bloodshot eyes and mouth foam seeping from the sides, advancing up the hill, sometimes on all fours, and killing everything in their way. As the legend goes, the German soldiers, upon seeing this spectacle, began to yell that they were being attacked by "dogs from hell."

    Teufelshunde!
    Dogs from Hell....

    Devil Dog!

    At least that's what Gunnery Sgt Hartman told me.
     
  11. ethanedwards

    ethanedwards One of the Regulars

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    With the greatest of respect, the source of your anecdote does not automatically preclude any
    accuracy as to this words particular entomology. I believe this inscription on the belt buckle was parodied by the English as " we got mittens too" and anyway the pattern dates back to at least the Franco-Prussian war. The corruption of "uns" to "huns" seems very tenuous at best and seems to ignore the far more probable association with Attila the Hun, ie rampaging barbarous hordes. As has already been said in some earlier posts, essentially it is meant as a derisory term for a barbarian, and much was made in the propaganda war as to the barbarous conduct of the German Army - a theme repeatedly exploited to incite moral outrage and to harness support for the war amongst civilians. Demonization of the enemy as savage barbarians - or huns - were used as focuses of hatred and constantly stoked up in the media via a stream of gruesome atrocity stories. As you know, the French used the term Boche, a word not present on the belt buckle...............

    Sorry, I remain uneducated and not yet ready for bed.
     
  12. Chas

    Chas One Too Many

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    I have a theory that it's true origin came from the late Roman Empire period when a couple of Roman Legionaries were watching some German women bathe in a river, and one of them said

    "You know, some of those German women are real Honeys....."

    And over time, it was shortened to Huns.
     
  13. raiderrescuer

    raiderrescuer One of the Regulars

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    As long as we are throwing theories out how about Hun is shortened from Hund - the German word for Dog.
    After all we had airplane "Dogfights" and the saying "Cry havoc and let slip the Dogs of War" and the insult "You Dirty Dog" and the US soldier's "Dog Tag" and the WW2 US 3rd Division's "Dogface Soldiers"
     
  14. Lincsong

    Lincsong I'll Lock Up

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    This thread keeps getting more and more intriguing.
     
  15. taggers

    taggers New in Town

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    It is important to see how the British viewed their Empire at the time. They were well-educated about Rome- in their own terms, because they saw themselves as natural successors to it. Gibbon was a tremendously important text at the time, and the idea of a patriarchal, civilising Empire always vulnerable to maurauding, violent hordes, was very strong.

    Of course, we don't view either Empire the same way now. But when it came to setting up a familiar, sub-human stereotype to label your enemy with, it must have been very handy.

    The Huns were Barbarians. The term "Barbarian" comes from the Greek (Barbaroi) and really just means someone from outside the Empire. No more judgemental than that. The derogatory use for uncultured people comes from a similar time to "The Hun".

    The origin is supposed to be an imitation of the outsiders language- it all sounds like "bar-bar-bar". Just keep an eye on the Beachboys, that's all I'm saying.

    "Hunnish" was a popular insult of the First War; "Hunnish behaviour" was uncultured, rough, underhanded, violent.

    A fairly Hunnish business, I'd say.
     
  16. Story

    Story I'll Lock Up

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