The author, Peter B. Kyne, mentions in his book, Soldiers, Sailors and Dogs, New York: HC Kinsey & Co., 1936, what appears to be a series of expressions that probably originated during the Spanish-American War and could have it survived into the early part of the American involvement in World War I. Kyne evidently had some military experience or knowledge of it. In his book, some of the fictional stories take place in the United States and France during the World War. Kyne uses expressions like:
“Bluebird”: obviously a reference to someone who left the service for a period of time and then re-enlisted in the military. The connotation could be made here with the hunting instinct of a blue bird, which returns to the same nest year after year. Lighter does not mention this term.
“Bob” -a dishonorable discharge from the service. To receive a “bob” or to be “bobbed” was to obtain a dishonorable discharge. “Bobtail” is Indian Wars slang for a dishonorable discharge. “His bobtail of his returns in the mail, O’Reilly has gone to hell.”
In Paul Dickson’s book, War Slang… we read: “bobtailed. Dishonorably discharged; from the practice of removing (“bobtailing”) the honor-conferring portion of discharge papers. Dickson, Paul. War Slang. ..Pocket Books, 1994, page 44. Also the act of cutting off the discharge below the character section denoted “no character.” Rickey, Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay.
Elting’s “A Dictionary of Soldier Talk” presents the definition “bobtail discharge-bobtail (Old, Old Army). A discharge from service under less than honorable conditions. Not a dishonorable discharge, but the following. The term comes from the practice of cutting out the final section of the discharge form, which covered the character of the discharged.In World War II it was called a “discharge without honor.”
In his article “Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1919 (American Speech, 1972) Jonathan Lighter identifies:
–bobtail as dishonorable discharge, an expression that dates back to the US Army of the late 19th century.
Paul Dickson’s “War Slang” has “bobtail hotel, an army disciplinary headquarters.”
“Soldier to the fist” was to be an exemplary soldier. To the “handle” of what?
“Fogie” – a service strip. Lighter does not mention this term.
Elting also has “fogy, fogey, fogie (All Services). A word whose origin and history would probably be very interesting, if known precisely. The oldest form, which is civil and from the mid-18th century, is “fogram , “meaning a retired person, an old fuddyduddy. 1. (Late 18th-early 19th century, British and American). An elderly or invalid soldier; therefore, a garrison soldier. 2. (19th century, with some survivals; US) Longevity pay, increased pay for length of service “I’m getting another fogy next month, but my wife is already spending it.” Also called fogy pay, fogy pa. Both fogy and fogy pay (with variants) are now becoming obsolete.
Dickson’s “War Slang” offers a similar definition, much shorter, with no reference to date or background. Lighter says that Fogy or fogy was a longevity bonus paid to officers and NCOs dating back to the Civil War; of “old old”.
In the late 1960s, a “fogie” was an incremental step in salary due to longevity. It might be the consequence of the service strip, as service strips were awarded for longevity.
One correspondence forwarded the fact that her father was in the US Army from 1910 to 1940 and that during that time period, Army slang for a “loose woman” was “cookie shooter.” Nothing is known of the origin of this expression.
Are all these expressions of the Spanish American war army and did any of them survive until the First World War? Although the author Kyne uses these expressions in the context of Spanish-American war veterans serving in the US Army during World War I, I have never seen these terms used in any other American WWI writing. World.
Dickson, Paul. War slang. New York: Paperbacks, 1994
Elting, Dictionary of soldiers’ conversation.
Kyne, Peter B. SOLDIERS, SAILORS, and DOGS. New York: H. C. Kinsey & Co., 1936.
Lighter, Jonathan. “Slang of the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe, 1917-1919. American speech, 1972.