[Ads-l] G.I.

Peter Morris peter_morris_1 at BLUEYONDER.CO.UK
Mon Dec 7 07:38:52 UTC 2015

The Online Etymology Dictionary says 


G.I. also GI, 1936 as an adjective meaning "U.S. Army equipment," American English, apparently an abbreviation of Government Issue, and applied to anything associated with servicemen. Transferred noun sense of "U.S. Army soldier" arose during World War II (first recorded 1943) ...
... GI Joe "any U.S. soldier" attested from 1942 (date in OED is a typo).

I've found a few possible antedatings. Usual disclaimers about Google dating apply.

Interesting point - two early sources say that G is for General, rather than Govt.


I was fitted out in a G.I. (General Issue) uniform - old leftover war stock.

Been Places And Seen Things
Kenneth MacKenzie, 1935

Googling appears to confirm date of publication.



You can, after a few visits to the Quartermaster, understand that "G. I.'' cans are made of galvanized iron and that "G. I.'" soap is general issue soap; but it is pure idiom to call a large artillery shell a "G. I. can.

This appears to be from article Notes On Soldier Speech dated July-August 1932




"I was pretty nearly strangled
by the G.I. Uniform"

possibly 1926.  I found a joke about a car dealer, the punchline is that he can deliver in 1927.




Example of G.I. Joe in a volume of collected issues dated 1938-41. And it looks as though it's early in that period.


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

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