`Doughboy,' as in WWI soldier, may have several origins

Also, honeymoon is associated with trip, period of joy

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Distributed by Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service Q. I would really appreciate any information you could give me regarding the origin of the word "doughboy," used in reference to World War I infantrymen.

A. No one is certain how the term "doughboy" came to describe soldiers. We know of several theories, however, which we can share with you.

In its oldest sense, "doughboy," an alteration of "dough ball," means "a dumpling of raised dough." One widely accepted explanation for the military sense of "doughboy" holds that it was first applied humorously to the federal infantry by the cavalry during the Civil War, because the globular brass buttons on the uniforms of the foot soldiers reminded cavalrymen of doughboys (that is, dumplings). The date of the first recorded use of "doughboy" to mean "soldier" is 1867 and is at least consistent with this story.

Another wartime story relates the word to the adobe huts in which the infantry were frequently quartered during the Mexican War. "Adobe," meaning "sun-dried clay," is often pronounced "doe-bee"; hence the name "doughboy," according to this version.

Some believe that infantrymen were originally called "doughboys" because they used to clean their white trimmings with pipeclay. If the infantryman was caught in the rain after cleaning his trimmings, the whiting would run and form a kind of dough. Later, on the arrival in France of the first American troops during World War I, the Allies sought a name for their compatriots. The troops settled on "doughboys." In later years, the nickname was replaced by the tougher-sounding "G.I.," an abbreviation for "government issue."

Q. While friends of ours were telling us about their honeymoon, someone asked where this term comes from. Do you know?

A. It has been theorized that our word "honeymoon" derives from the Scandinavian custom of drinking honeyed wine during the first month (or "moon") of connubial existence. But while ancient northern Europeans did enjoy such a drink, there is no evidence to suggest that they observed the custom of the honeymoon as we know it.

As far back as 1546, when the term first appeared in print, people recognized the inconstant nature of married life. The "moon" in "honeymoon" is believed to represent a comparison between the fleeting joy experienced by newly married couples and the changing moon, which begins to wane soon after it enters its full phase. The "honey" in "honeymoon," then, would carry the meaning of "sweet" or "dear." Thus, a honeymoon would be a period of sweetness that lasted about as long as a full moon. It wasn't until the early 1800s that the term came to refer to the vacation taken by married couples after their wedding. Today, the term "honeymoon" is associated both with the trip and the period of joy. The latter sense even appears outside of the context of marriage, as in this example from our files: "MPs fear that the honeymoon between the troops and the civilians might be over."

Q. Whenever my wife and I dress up for a night on the town, I say that we're putting on the dog. Can you tell me where this unusual expression comes from?

A. The phrase "putting on the dog" can actually be traced back to the 19th century, when college students at Yale are said to have worn high stiff collars known as "dog collars" as part of required dress on formal occasions. This custom may account for the use of the phrase "put on the dog" to mean "get dressed up in elegant finery."

The following excerpt from the 1871 work Four Years at Yale offers confirmation: "Dog (means) style, splurge. To put on dog is to make a flashy display, to cut a swell." Of course, the expression may have existed before collegians put on the dog (in which case some other long forgotten custom may account for the phrase), but we have no earlier example of the phrase. One source associates "putting on the dog" with the action of showdogs of arching one side of their bodies while "performing highly intricate maneuvers with their feet."