soldier = sailor

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Feb 4 22:23:53 UTC 2010

During The War, the term, "fighter-bomber," was in common use. It's
not as though this sort of thing is a new tactical development. But
what's now called a "fighter plane" - F-Numeral - was called a
"pursuit aeroplane," e.g., the Curtiss _P_-40 used by the Flying
Tigers. That change is (relatively) new. (No doubt, the
then-still-ongoing shift from "aero-" to "air-" annoyed purists of the
day. The only form that I have ever used is "airplane," though I can
recall that some people in Marshall used "aeroplane" [&@r at pl&In],
including my fella-chirren, and was still used in the dictionary and
in literature, by the time that I could read such big words.)  What's
new is no longer bothering to make the distinction, presumably on the
assumption that "a difference that makes no difference is no

As for submarines, I agree with Jon. During The War, there were only
submarines, pig-boats, and u-boats, in the funny-books of the era.

Merely asking for information: what is a howitzer, if not, like a cannon, a gun?


On Thu, Feb 4, 2010 at 12:23 PM, Dave Wilton <dave at> wrote:
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> Poster:       Dave Wilton <dave at WILTON.NET>
> Subject:      Re: soldier = sailor
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> There are different levels of error in "fighter plane" (referring to any
> combat aircraft) and "fighter sub."
> "Fighter" is the jargon term for a class of aircraft, it is not a jargon
> term for a class of submarine. The term the movie critic should have used is
> "attack sub," or perhaps "fighting sub."
> From the use of "fighter sub" I would not say that this movie critic had
> "professional-level skills," at least not in writing about naval subjects.
> The use of the term, in fact, displays remarkable ignorance of the subject
> matter. That said, I've seen many uses of "soldier" to mean "service
> member," "warrior," or "warfighter," subsuming sailors in its definition,
> but usually in email, conversational speech, or other non-editorial contexts
> and generally not in published writing.
> Also the CNN error is more understandable in that as years have gone by,
> fighter aircraft have taken on more and more of the bombing or ground-attack
> role. "Attack aircraft" (i.e., light bombers) have largely disappeared from
> the American military arsenal, replaced by multi-purpose fighters. (Case in
> point: the F-117 Stealth Fighter, which is designed for bombing, not
> air-to-air combat.) In the USAF and USN today, the two classes of combat
> aircraft are intercontinental-range strategic bombers and fighters (with a
> few older attack aircraft still hanging on). The CNN error is more akin to
> calling a "howitzer" a "gun" or "shell fragments" being called "shrapnel,"
> although not nearly as technically nitpicky.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
> Jonathan Lighter
> Sent: Thursday, February 04, 2010 8:37 AM
> Subject: soldier = sailor
> Weve already discussed whether or when marines are ever soldiers.  But the
> following ex., obviously written by someone with professional-level
> skills, shows that "soldier" now subsumes sailors too, at least for some
> people:
> 2007 _Moviefone_ [
> German director Wolfgang Petersen's U-boat drama realistically captures the
> claustrophobia and uncertainty of a fighter sub and portrays the German
> soldiers as real people, not Aryan monsters.
> Perhaps, as skeptics will chuckle, this is merely a slip. Maybe. But if so,
> it is a bizarre slip IMO. The writer obviously knows what the movie is
> about.
> Consider too the peculiar phrase "fighter sub." That supports the idea that
> the writer is not very familiar with even everyday military/naval usage, at
> least as little boys grew up learning it in the '50s.  I've heard Fox News
> refer to all combat aircraft as "fighter planes."
> (If you don't understand my point, you may be proving it.)
> The explanation (if one is needed) may be that over the past couple of
> decades, all members of the armed forces have come to be described in
> journalism as "warriors" generally. (There are several reasons for this.)
> But if "warrior" can subsume "sailor," why can't "soldier"?
> Inglish. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
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