GI: "Government Issue"?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Wed Dec 29 05:10:10 UTC 2004

On Tue, 28 Dec 2004 23:03:58 -0500, sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM> wrote:

>>> GI?
>>> What else might it mean?
>>Galvanized iron, perhaps? I have no idea. That's why I'm asking. In the
>>years of my service, the very early Vietnam era, there was nothing that
>>I ever came into contact with that was was referred to in either speech
>>or writing as "government issue" and the term "G.I." was never expanded
>>into "government issue." Furthermore, even in the immediate post-war
>>years, there were claims made that "G.I." was not derived from
>>"government  issue."
>>What sorts of things were referred to as "government issue" in your
>>husband's day?
>It wasn't that anything in particular was referred to as "government
>issue," or any other sort of issue.  Equipment items that were issued might
>well acquire sarcastic, derisive or scatalogical  nicknames, of course.
>These were Tenth Mtn, ski troops, and they had a lot of specialized
>equipment (which they tended to discard as useless a good deal of the
>time!). "Government issue" was simply *understood* to be the meaning of GI.
>As soldiers they themselves were GIs and anything pertaining to them was
>"GI this that or the other."

FWIW, this cite implies that the "government issue" expansion was
well-known as early as 1935:

 New York Times, Aug 29, 1935, p. 15 [also appeared the same day in the
 (Zanesville, Ohio) Times Recorder, p. 1]

 POCATELLO, Idaho, Aug. 28 - (AP) - The quartermaster for the CCC boys
 at Camp Stewart had a real order today -- one for 121 girls.
 It read:
 "Ship to each enrollee of Company 910, The Flats, Soda, Idaho, one each,
 girls, GI, complete with lines. Total number required, 121."
 They are wanted for a party. The quartermaster explained that a "GI"
 girl is about five feet tall and may be blonde, brunette or redhead.
 "GI" means "government issue," a term used on all government requisitions.
 The quartermaster will try to fill the order.

--Ben Zimmer

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