army ranks [was: assorted comments]

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 29 07:07:01 UTC 2006

Time certainly flies. I can remember when the former Soviet Army [Sovetskaia
Armiia] was still known as the Red Army [Krasnaia Armiia], long before and
long after 1940. The historical meaning of the adjectival stem, _krasn_, was

This is why the name of Red, i.e. "Beautiful," Square [Krasnaia Ploshchod']
predates the political use of this adjective.


On 3/28/06, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      Re: army ranks [was: assorted comments]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> There have been "colonel-generals" as well, notably in the Soviet Army
> (and at least some of its descendants) since 1940.
>   JL
> "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET> wrote:
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> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Joel S. Berson"
> Subject: Re: army ranks [was: assorted comments]
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The duties (for British and colonial military) are described in
> various military manuals of the 18th century (naming only the century
> that I have perused a little).
> In military or "command" contexts (such as commanding assistance in
> apprehending a criminal), a colonial governor was referred to as
> "captain-general and governor".
> But where does the colonel fit into this hierarchy? How is he
> distinguished from the major? (A question that actually bears upon a
> current project of mine; I don't have a good answer.)
> Joel
> At 3/28/2006 08:47 PM, you wrote:
> >Someone once explained army ranks to me this way:
> >Back in the days of spearmen, when proper formation was a necessity for
> >winning battles, the sergeant was the man who was responsible for lining
> up
> >a company (or equivalent-sized unit, anywhere from 50 to maybe 200 men)
> >properly. Companies were formed into battalions, and the man responsible
> >for lining up the entire batallion was therefore a
> >more-important-than-usual sergeant, hence a "sergeant-major". When that
> >duty was given to an officer rather than an enlisted man, the officer
> >dropped the "sergeant" part and became simply a "major".
> >
> >The man captaining the entire army was the captain-general, soon referred
> >to simply as the "general", "general" in this case meaning he was the
> >top-ranking captain in general charge of all the other various captains
> in
> >the army.. His assistant was rather obviously the "lieutenant-general".
> >The man who lined up the entire army was more important than a mere
> >sergeant-major, and since there was only such, and in general charge of
> all
> >alignment sergeants, he became the "sergeant-major general", later
> >abbreviated to "major general".
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