"lad": a note on American usage

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 7 13:28:24 UTC 2014

In American English "lad" has long been relegated to literary or at least
journalistic discourse.

But not quite.

A few minutes ago Michael Smerconish of CNN was interviewing Lieutenant
General James Mattis, former commander of United States Central Command,
concerning the Bergdahl deal.

Mattis referred offhandedly to Bergdahl (age 28) as "this lad."
Immediately I deduced that the general (in civs) was a Marine.

This Sherlockian feat was possible because many decades ago I'd read words
to the effect that USMC officers frequently refer to enlisted men and other
younger marines as "lads."  And not for "literary" effect.

Just when this began is not clear. My SWAG is that it began in New Zealand
and Australia during WW2, where many US Marines were stationed and where,
unless I'm misinformed, the word "lad" still occurs in ordinary

HDAS research suggested that the usage was well established at the time of
the Korean War.


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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