wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Sat Feb 5 20:45:45 UTC 2005
On Feb 5, 2005, at 9:26 AM, James A. Landau wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> Sender: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: "James A. Landau" <JJJRLandau at AOL.COM>
> Subject: Heel-clicking
> 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
> 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
>> 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
> ever since.
> Don't you remember that coming to Attention, or performing Right
> Face/About Face, involved an actual clicking together of the heels?
Of course. I also noticed immediately, to my great surprise, the very
first time that we practiced "dismounted drill," that the Army's
marching step for parades is - or, at least, was - only a modification
of the high-kicking, so-called "goose step," which was also considered
to be stereotypically Nazi. Our kicks - called "knee-snaps" by the
drill sergeants - were probably only about half as extreme as those of
I never had occasion to see the Bundeswehr on parade, but, in ordinary
marching, the soldaten were so tightly formed that not even the
American knee-snap would have been possible.
> "Heel clicking" therefore is, in my experience at least, a common
> for military formality and/or military authoritarianism, and more
> generally, a
> metaphor for any non-verbal actions that hint at authoritarian actions
> subjection responses. I might add that the metaphor is frequestly used
That sounds like what we called "chickenshit." The Army's coat of arms
was said to be crossed floor-buffing machines against a field of
chickenshit. When I first heard this word when I was in high school,
its meaning was "cowardly." But, in The War, it had nothing whatever to
do with that. It meant only the totality of the negative aspects of
> 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
Back in 1956, a guy offered me a lift across St. Louis's Mill Creek
Valley. (There was only a valley; the creek had been dried up some time
in the 19th Century, when St. Louis was the fourth-largest city in the
country. By weird coincidence, my birthplace, Marshall, was once the
fourth-largest city in Texas. Nowadays, they're both backwaters.) He
had what was called a "car telephone," which he proceeded to
demonstrate to me in all its intricacy. Since I had been just waiting
for the bus and not thumbing, I've always assumed that the guy offered
me a lift specifically so that he could show off his car phone. From
your description, it was the same as, or very similar to, what your
> 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
> Ev, I've got a call on the other line."
> - Jim Landau
> overheard yesterday:
> female voice: "Dress is business casual".
> male voice: "What does that mean?"
> female voice again: "It means you wear shoes"
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