Archive for June, 2008


June 8th, 2008 3 comments

by Mort Castle

We writers know that research is absolutely essential if we are to create works of either non-fiction or fiction that do not trigger the reader’s built in BS detector.

So, let’s examine the etymology of the outdated slang term doughboy to see what we might learn about the nature of research and its uses in our work.

Before mostly lovable and resoundingly dim Homer acquired the title D’oh Boy, for reasons obvious to anyone who knows THE SIMPSONS, there was considerable debate about the origins of the term doughboy, meaning a US infantry soldier.

Some claim the term originated during the Civil War, with the big brass buttons on the uniforms of Union soldiers. Big brass button = Lump of Dough … hence, doughboys. A number of scholars accept the word’s Civil War roots, but instead say that the cleaner used to polish those buttons was a clay-like blob not unlike wall paper cleaner or Silly Putty. It was that lump of dough which gave us …

Another school of doughy thought maintains the expression originated with the soldiers led by Black Jack Pershing on the incursive foray into Mexico in 1916 to find and punish Pancho Villa, who had led a raid into the USA. Covered in the white dust of Old Mexico, our soldiers looked like The Clay People from the Flash Gordon serial — or Doughboys on the march!

Then there are those who believe that doughboy began with the draft of World War I, which brought into our military ranks many fine young lads of healthy appetite fresh from farms and yokelburgs; when they saw hearty breakfasts every morning, gazing droolingly on “all the biscuits y’all could eat” – Some wag observed, “Those guys fill up on dough!”

Enough speculation: I, fortunately, learned the true facts regarding doughboy and because I’m the kind of guy I am, I will share those true facts with you, because you are the kind of guy you are.

The above mentioned General Black Jack Pershing led the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. He is credited, perhaps wrongly, with uttering the classic, “Lafayette, we are here,” upon his arrival in Paris.

But Pershing was less than satisfied with the quality of troops at his command. They had been too quickly and poorly trained. They were proverbial lambs to slaughter. That is why one day, after reviewing his soldiers, Pershing shook his head sadly and said, “Lord, look at them, these callow youths, these innocents, these doe-eyed boys.”

Get it? Doe-eyed boys? A little corruption and …

It was a Noted Journalist (Wired and MSNBC) who must remain anonymous, who told me about Doe-eyed boys. And if anyone ought to know about this issue, it’s the Noted Journalist–because he made it all up.

Black Jack Pershing and “Lord, look at them, these callow youths, these innocents, these doe-eyed boys …”

Nowhere is it recorded that BJ ever said anything like that. He did not say, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he did not say, “It takes a heap o’ heapin’ to make a heap a heap,” and he did not say jack about doe-eyed boys, doughboys, or d’oh boys.

But the Noted Journalist proclaimed Pershing did in on a call-in radio show. What the hell. Sounds plausible, right? Voila! The power of modern communication! You can find this explanation both hither and yon and also on a number of websites that aren’t even about conspiracy theories: Why the Swedes sunk the Lusitania …

The facts in your writing?

I am directly borrowing–and crediting–our Noted Journalist: The facts are very important–so always make up good ones.

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