Query: "military brat" prior to 1981?

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 5 17:30:51 UTC 2011

[Two more messages came in while I was typing this. My apologies for any

Are you specifically looking for the "military brat" or "brat" used in the
same sense more generally? "Army brat" predated WWII and was generic for
"military" for a long time.

Caveat--before it was applied to /children/, it may well have applied to
career military, bounced from camp to camp, station to station, unit to
unit. This matches the meaning I was given by an "army brat" friend back in
1984 (I'm quite certain of the date--I'll go further and claim it was
September 1984)--not merely being a child in a military family, but having
lived in multiple locations over a fairly short period of time.

Compare that to the following excerpt:

Yank Tank Cowboy Round up Nazis in Italy. Milwaukee Sentinel. May 29, 1944.
Part I. p. 2/3
> In direct command was Lt. Col. Bogardus Cairns, born an "army brat," and
like a typical West Pointer he claims to have no legal residence.

[Note that although GNA finds three instances of "army" on the same page, it
missed the one location where it appears in "army brat", so the selection is
not highlighted.]

But, by then, "army brat" was already applied to children.

An Army Post Seen Through a Boy's Eyes. Reviewed by John Shelby. Youngstown
Vindicator. Apr 25, 1943. p. B-8/1
[Review of Army Brat, by Tommy Wadelton]
> It is a story of Jim Tucker, the flyer out in China. It begins as far back
as young Jim can remember, which is his third birthday at Fort Sill, and it
ends with young Jim a young father. ... It contains, in the first place, the
accurate picture of life on an army post as seen through a kid's eyes. ...

Although Shelby does not mention "army brat" in his review except for the
book title, it is clear to whom this tag refers. I am assuming the
expression was in circulation in this context well prior to the publication
of this book. (I find hits of more ambiguous nature much earlier.) That
assumption is warranted is quite clear:

> Four Spotlight Army Men
> $3.95 - New York Times - Dec 28, 1941
> Like MacArthur, who is a year younger, Drum was an "Army brat"--his father
> was an officer, and for the last 100 years the Army has never been without a
> Drum ...

> 1942 Speedup: West Point To Altar To War
> Pay-Per-View - The Sun - ProQuest Archiver - May 24, 1942
> Another cadet who will be mar- ried in the Chapel is Richard L. Hennessy,
> an " army brat" -- son of an officer -- whose father now is sta- tioned in
> Panama ...


> Pay-Per-View - Daily Boston Globe - ProQuest Archiver - Feb 12, 1939
> Drum was what the army affectionately callsan army brat He was born at Fort
> Brady in northern Michigan and much of his boyhood was spent at various
> frontier ...

Mothering" the Army Cadets
> Pay-Per-View - Christian Science Monitor - ProQuest Archiver - Apr 17, 1935
> ... son ol an army officer and therefore known asarmy brat and wise to
> things military Bob immediately suggested that Jimmy should see the Cadet
> Hostess ...


The earliest GNA full text hit of either kind:

Young World Traveler Wants Parents To "Stay Put" Here. By Virginia Eason.
The Miami Daily News. 29 December, 1940. p. 6-B/1
> "A spoiled army brat" is what Miss Bobbie Jane Crim terms herself. ...
Major Crim, a retired officer in the coastal artillery division of the U. S.
army, has taken his family all over the world with him. They have been
stationed in nearly every state in the union, plus many foreign countries,
China, Philippines, Japan and Hawaii, where Bobbie Jane was born.

[Again, GNA fails to highlight the right selection here.]

Don't see any GNA hits prior to 1935.

The earliest I find for "Navy brat" is 1960:

> Hottest act in show business
> Pay-Per-View - Boston Globe - ProQuest Archiver - Dec 4, 1960
> Nick Reynolds is a Navy brat, and in the Navy they measure success by rank.
> not money. In addition. Nick's old man plays a very swinging guitar, ...


"Air-force brat" pops up around the same time:

> Tv Actress Swoosie Kurtz Sees Her Life As Colorless Boring' .
> Kentucky New Era - Google News Archive - Dec 26, 1961
> ... right over my head Besides she was too busy moving to notice as an Air
> Force brat she attended 17 different grade schools around the country had my
> own ...


"Military brat" follows not too much later:

There is a possible 1963 hit:

> Pay-Per-View - Chicago Tribune - ProQuest Archiver - Apr 23, 1963
> He doesn't have to explain to his children that their shoes have to outlast
> the military brat s next door. With the Kennedy adminis- tration and the
> House ...


Then a definite in 1965:

She Makes Her Home All Over The World. By Mary Wideman. The [Charlestown,
SC] News and Courier. May 29, 1965. p. 5-A/2-3
> Accustomed to traveling, Mrs. Fouche calls herself a "military brat." Her
father is a retired major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, and he and Mrs.
Strother now live in Alabama.


On Thu, May 5, 2011 at 12:26 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu>wrote:

> I've received an inquiry about "military brat."  OED3 gives 1981 as its
> first attestation.  Can any earlier attestations be located?
> And what might have occurred in 1981 to catapult the term into popular
> consciousness?
> Any help would be much appreciated.
> G. Cohen
> P.S. For easy access, here's what OED3 has about the term:
> 1) The Oxford English Dictionary (3rd edition; online) says of "military
> brat":
> military brat n. N. Amer. colloq. a child with a parent, or parents, in the
> armed forces; esp. one who exhibits behavioural problems associated with
> the
> unsettled and itinerant nature of military life.
> 1981    N.Y. Times <javascript:void(0)>  11 Oct. vii. 36/3   Arias's style
> reflects his cosmopolitan background-his travels with his family as a
> *military brat, his education in urban schools and at Berkeley [etc.].
> 1991    M. E. Wertsch Military Brats <javascript:void(0)>  x. 321   But
> both
> overachievement and underachievement by military brats can be read as
> efforts by outsiders to reach out for recognition.
> 2000    Ottawa Sun <javascript:void(0)>  (Electronic ed.) 3 Aug. 16   It's
> been several decades since they last saw their friends. This won't affect
> spirits, they say, because no one knows how to party like military brats.

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

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