The Brit is 'Tommy', the German 'Fritz', the Russian 'Ivan', the American...?

Slang names for soldiers, from the World Wars, used by enemies and allies alike. But I can’t find the equivalent for the U.S. serviceman, the closest I can find is ‘doughboy’, of uncertain etymology and largely used in the First World War.

Are there any other nicknames American soldiers were/are given by themselves, their allies, their enemies?

Joe. (GI Joe?)


Here’s a previous thread that has a lot of info:

Interestingly Wiki says that the original names of the GI Joe figures were ““Rocky” (marine/soldier) “Skip” (sailor) and “Ace” (pilot), before the more universal name G.I. Joe was adopted”, wonder where they got those from.

Cheers for the link, some interesting reading, I’d be interested in non derogatory slang terms too - ‘Tommy’ for e.g. was used by the British themselves.

During WWI “sammies” was sometimes used, mostly by the British, although I have also seen some US examples.

During the American Civil War, the stereotypical names were Johnny Reb and Billy Yank.

The old American stereotype that predated Uncle Sam was Brother Jonathan. But this was more of a national icon rather than a specifically military one.

Personally, I find it odd that in the old cartoons, we’re supposed to empathize more with Jerry the mouse over Tom the cat… but in the wars, we sided with Tommy against Jerry.

On the continent, the/les/der Amis seem familiar — maybe used semi-ironically (in a light fashion ), as it would come not only from it’s obvious derivation, but also from the French word for friends, Amis; and not even the French were totally fond of the Americans.
CF, our British, more upper-class usage in the secret services and military, of The Cousins.
For average people in Britain, Yanks did well enough ( and was more affectionate; especially as until their deaths very many ordinary Britons were very grateful to US participation, regarding it as both generous and un-self-serving — which if not the entire truth, did very well for those people ).
Quite possibly some called them Johnnies, but it’s been years since I read anything on the second world war. And Home Front discussions are as interesting as the lives of ‘Ordinary People’ in narrating history, a concept beloved of leftist didacts, but fricking dull in practice.


FWIW, GI Joe action figures premiered in 1964 ( :eek: ). Screws the timeline, durnit.

Huh? We’re not. Tom is the one on the doomed, Sisyphean quest. He has by far the broadest emotional range and the most character development, and plays the more important part in most storylines. Tom is a complex and human character. We can recognize ourselves in him. Jerry is just a smug, annoying mouse. It’s a Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner relationship, although more complex and less extreme.

Unless I’ve completely missed something.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Johnny Get Your Gun

Stereotypical American name… I dunno Brad (or possibly Chad). That sounds like the most generic, non-ethnic “dude bro” name, off the top of my head.

Back then, apart from the common Anglo names, Jack, John, Will etc. etc., specifically American male names included Otis, Earl, Alvin, Glen, Willard, Lowell, Clyde and Harvey.
In fact I remember some thriller where for a cover story someone was advised to blame a crooked American quartermaster named Harvey, on the grounds that every base had a crooked American quartermaster named Harvey.

In any group of American soldiers there’s always one with a drawl named Tex and a Jewish kid named Brooklyn.

^ And an Italian kid named Bandini. :slight_smile:


But the phrase “G.I. Joe” originated even earlier: in the 1942 comic panel of that name created by Dave Breger.

That sounds good, but did the comic book birth the phrase, or did the phrase get co-opted by the comix? I can’t tell, but I’d be interested in knowing.

I don’t know if it pre- or post-dated the comic, but, IIRC, there is some iconic 'bedraggled-dogface-tired-but-still-willing-to-keep-plugging-for-democracy-etc…" speech that some GI made to some babe (in a movie?) where he says “I’m just your average GI Joe…” Joe being a generic term for ‘guy’.