Devil Dogs

In my post about the apocryphal ‘ladies from hell’ a few years back, I mentioned the US Marine Corps nickname ‘Devil Dog’ in the same breath as being an invention of the press adopted by the fighting men themselves. They form part of a larger trend of applying names to your own military units that you imagine your (hopefully) fearful enemy might choose. I’ve just picked up on this piece from 2011  that deals specifically with that very nickname, and agrees with my own findings. I found it via this more recent article, which although missing the point that it’s an invented term, seems to suggest that its veracity is becoming a moot point, with ‘Devil Dog’ has actually fallen out of favour, and is only really used ironically, even to the point of being a term of abuse during training. That’s really interesting – some sayings and terms persist, some change their meaning, and others disappear entirely.

If anyone’s come across any other terms like this that they suspect might be similarly invented, post a comment below and I’ll look into them. I have some other items to write up and post soon on other subject, as I’m aware I haven’t been very active online lately.


6 thoughts on “Devil Dogs

  1. This has set me to wondering about the origins of some of the nicknames acquired by sportsmen. How did Michael Holding become ‘Whispering Death’, Shoaib Akhtar the ‘Rawalpindi Express’ or Harbajan Singh ‘The Turbanator’? I suppose that some of the names might have arisen organically, as it were, in the dressing room, but ‘The Haryana Hurricane’ (Kapil Dev) just smells to me too much of the lamp. Is a similar process at work here, do you think?

  2. Ever since you started this thing about military nicknames I have been racking my brains to remember the source of this quotation: I’ve found it at last, and it is from Philip Hensher’s ‘The Mulberry Empire’.

    ‘[Sir Robert] Sale affected to believe, and told anyone who showed any interest, that the men all called him ‘Fighting Bob’, but he was mistaken; on the whole, they called him ‘that c**t.’

  3. I can’t believe this discussion took place so long ago. However, when I came upon this news item, I immediatley thought of you.

    “US Army makes ‘Harlem Hellfighters’ nickname official … after more than a century.

    They called themselves the “Black Rattlers” and the French dubbed them “Men of Bronze,” but the Army now officially recognizes a historic Harlem unit by what the enemy called them in World War I — the “Hellfighters.”
    The “Harlem Hellfighters” is now the official special designation for the 369th Sustainment Brigade, the New York National Guard said Friday..”

    (How ‘Hellfighter’ might be deemed an appropriate name for a unit of not-especially-feline reservist ‘loggies’, is another matter).

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