James A. Landau
JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Sat Feb 5 14:26:54 UTC 2005
In a message dated Thu, 3 Feb 2005 18:41:43 -0500, Wilson Gray
<wilson.gray at RCN.COM> writes:
> I've never heard this term ["heel-clicking"] used in a military context,
Jim. So, feel
> free to explain. But that reminds me. In the WWII anti-German
> propaganda of my childhood, the marine-style "jarhead" haircut, the use
> of a monocle, and clicking one's heels and bowing one's head when
> shaking hands were all considered to be stereotypically German.
Your problem is that you are too PC, in that you are knee-jerkingly
classifying as stereotype what is actually a widespread piece of Western European
culture. The Nazi Wermacht had a lot of non-verbal language, e.g. clicking heels,
that descends from the army of Frederick the Great. But so does the US Army!
Why? Because of a Prussian officer, Baron Friedrich William von Steuben, who
became Washington's drillmaster at Valley Forge. Von Steuben trained
Washington's troops until they were as good, if not better, than the Recoats on the
battlefield. The US Army has used descendants of von Steuben's Prussian drill
Don't you remember that coming to Attention, or performing Right Face/Left
Face/About Face, involved an actual clicking together of the heels?
"Heel clicking" therefore is, in my experience at least, a common metaphor
for military formality and/or military authoritarianism, and more generally, a
metaphor for any non-verbal actions that hint at authoritarian actions and
subjection responses. I might add that the metaphor is frequestly used
Aside on mobile radiotelephones: you don't seem to be aware of it, but by
the 1950's and perhaps earlier that US had a nationwide CIVILIAN network of what
were called "mobile phones". My next-door neighbor circa 1960, who was the
circulation manager for the newspaper my father worked on, had one in his car.
It fit easily between the transmission hump and the dashboard---presumably it
drew power from the car's own electrical system so batteries were not
included. I believe the Bell System operated this service. It was not widely
popular, due to few channels available and probably high price as well, i.e. the
technology for mass-market mobile phones did not exist until the cell phone was
The classic story is that Lyndon Johnson while Senate Majority Leader had one
in his limo. Everett Dirksen then got one and proceeded to place a call from
his limo to Johnson's. LBJ neatly one-upped Dirksen by saying, "I'm sorry,
Ev, I've got a call on the other line."
- Jim Landau
female voice: "Dress is business casual".
male voice: "What does that mean?"
female voice again: "It means you wear shoes"
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