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DateOriginal Topic
6th April 2004SQUADDIES?
By Mike McCabe
Can anybody trace the first general appearance in contemporary literature or media reporting of that awful word 'Squadie'.
It is now very surprising to find the wider spread use of the word 'Squaddie' or 'Squaddies'; especially by newspaper journalists - who often appear to use it to infer insider knowledge or (coy) familiarity with the military. Traditionally, it is a form of insult or disparagement by the professional Regular Army soldier towards a 'green' new recruit or otherwise unsatisfactory soldier. The inference is that the individual concerned can either only be trusted to be marched about in the (recruit) squad, or deliberately merges into the background (amongst the squad) and seeks to avoid the acceptance of responsibility. It is primarily associated with the times of large scale mobilisation or conscription when the professionally motivated 'Trained Soldier' would observe much to criticise in a 'Squaddie'. That said, many modern dictionaries, erroneously, try to pas off the term as a colloquial reference to a Regular soldier. It is also more popular in some parts of the country rather than others (Aldershot for example), and is more likely to be used in describing themselves by members of less discriminating regiments. Units with high esprit de corps themselves, will usually only use it about the soldiers of other units, never themselves - except as an insult. Interestingly, the word does not appear in the poems of Kipling, nor does it feature much in primary sources from both World Wars.
Any ideas?

MC McC
DateReplies
6th April 2004ron clayton
Mike,
sadly what else can we refer to our lads in khaki more affectionately? Thomas Atkins/Tommy are obsoloscent these days.[IWhat do the French call their private soldiers these days?] I hate the phrase 'toms'.The Services seem to be the one institution these days that this countryhas any confidence in[Thankfully the days when the forces were not welcome at certain events in the Republic of South Yorkshire are long gone] Like you I loathe the iliteracy of poupular jounalism which dumbs our culture further every time I glance through its pages [theres not alot worth reading in most of em] and how we refer to cops or cop.Bringback bobbies,Polis or Peelers or even Rozzers.How aboutGentlemen in Kharki/They have proved that in Basra.
6th April 2004richard
Is squaddie the correct spelling? I have seen the word written as swaddie, this was in an item written in the twenties so I wonder if it may be an Indian word?
6th April 2004AMB
Mike, Ron, et al,

I must admit to a great dislike to the word Squaddie. A phase that those delightful media types use - bless them!
Some current terms in use within the Army include:
Pte soldiers are called Toms within some [English] inf bns (esp in the Para Regt), whilst Jocks are ptes in certain Scottish bns. Signallers are scalleys, RA are gunners, RLC are truckies, RMP are still Monkeys, Rozzers or Redcaps - sometimes a lot worse, but generally only after several beers!

The spelling of Swaddie might suggest Indian origin - many indian words are still in use in the Army. It would be fascinating if someone could supply the answer.

AMB
6th April 2004Peter Ewart
I quite agree, Mike. An absolutely awful term - always hated it. First heard it in the 1960s but no doubt, as you infer, it goes back to at least the early days of National Service.

Much prefer "Tommy" but it seems that expression has long had it's day and was probably used by the French & Germans long after its general use by the British.

Mind you, it's not quite as bad as an even worse term - "Brits." What a horrible, ghastly, inane expression. I cringe very time I hear it used and that's almost all the time these days. I suppose every nationality dislikes certain words referring to themselves, and "squaddies" for soldiers and "Brits" for British both take a lot of beating in my book. Mind you, I suppose even terms such as Jock, Taffy and Paddy might be disliked by some of those so described, although I hope not as they have a long history as affectionate terms of endearment.

Peter
7th April 2004Ian
I believe 'Swaddy' is a Hindi word for soldier, coined in the mid 19th century in the song 'The young recruit' (& elsewhere).
8th April 2004Ian
Possible translation of Swaddy - after the tight leg puttees that Indian soldiers wore, the word also found in swaddle to wrap a baby in tight cloth.
9th April 2004Peter Quantrill
I am unaware of any connection of the word Swaddy to that of Puttee.The latter, used in lieu of a gaiter, originated from the Himalaya.
Puttees are also known as " puteahs"as appeared in the old trade list and "Patawa."
The Hindi word for soldier is "Sipahi." The origin of the word is Persian.
The word Squaddy or Squaddie ( spelt either way) is British slang for a private soldier and originates from the word Squad. There is no Indian connection that I can source.
9th April 2004AMB
Peter,

Thank you!

AMB
10th April 2004Ian
Peter,
Sipahi, sepoy words for the soldiers. Also slang words erupted, which I am lead to believe Swaddy is one, which refers to the tightly wrapped bandaging of Sepoy's legs, something that was identifiable with a sepoy. As with a lot of Hindi words not a direct translation, but wonderfully described.
10th April 2004Peter Quantrill
Ian,
Sepoy is not in current usage ---Sipahi is ( both in Gurkhali and Hindi.) Having spent 15 years in India, which included the learning of Nagri script and a reasonably fluent grasp of the language, I have to admit of no knowledge of Swaddy being identified with Puttees. Could you give your source.? Certainly" "Hobson Jobson" which is a Glossary of Colloquial words and phrases does not list the word Swaddy.
11th April 2004Ian
Peter,
I can't profess to have any real knowledge of Indo-Iranic or Sanskritic languages. Siloti Nagri looks well interesting though, aren't Nagri manuscripts called puthis?Quite a coincidence!
12th April 2004Richard
As regards swaddy being slang for puttees could it be a derivative of swaddling?
13th April 2004Mike McCabe
I was told about 30 years ago aboard HMS Victory by a veteran Fleet CPO that 'swaddie' or 'swabbie' is a Naval equivalent - apparently alluding to a sailor (or marine) so unskilled that he could only be left to swab the decks.

MC McC
15th April 2004ron clayton
spahis were north african troops in french/spanish service were they not?