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Jargon or Ethnic Slur ?

Went to the flea market in Shawano last weekend.  By the way, the way you pronounce that name and some of the other local place names around here tells us locals who the foreigners are and more. For example when the 1977 TV docu-drama “Tail Gunner Joe” was aired we all knew it was going to be a hatchet job on our infamous senator Joseph McCarthy; but to me the film lost all credibility when the actors mispronounced this and two other place names.  Back to the intended topic. At the flea market I found a history of the 120th Feld Artillery published in the 1920’s which covers mostly their WWI history.  In the book is the cartoon illustrated below which deals with the unit’s first inspection by a regular army officer when the unit was called up into federal service. What he says leads me to think he is Irish.  “Yer a foine looking bunch of soldiers,— ye stand there wid yer bellies sticken oot loike a bunch of  ALDERMAN. Thats all I got to say to ye.”  Camp Douglas Aug. 1, ’17   signed by Rotier.

   I’ve never heard the word “Alderman” used as a put down before.  Was this military jargon of the time or an Irish anti-political slur? Anyone know?

About Fred Borgmann

Retired from KP after nearly 31 years as new issues editor and the Standard Catalogs.
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2 Responses to Jargon or Ethnic Slur ?

  1. Fred J Borgmann says:

    Hello Fred,

    Coincidentally, I’ve been re-reading James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan trilogy, written in the early 1930s about growing up in Chicago between WWI and the Depression. There have been several instances in the books in which characters refer to a gentleman’s pot belly as an “alderman.” I presume that is a bit of a dig at politicians for being, then as now, perceived as fat cats.

    Bob Lemke

  2. Fred J Borgmann says:

    Thank you Bob! A good response, rare and appreciated. Fred

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