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The French writer and all-around anti-Semite Maurice Barres (1862 - 1923) had some opinions regarding the word "Poilu" (the popular and affectionate slang term for the French front line soldier, which translates into English as "hairy guy"). In the following one page essay he presented a history of the word and continued with an explanation as to why it bugged him:

"It lacks dignity. To my taste it belittles those whom it is meant to laud and serve. A hero can hardly be expressed by this brazen-faced and slanderous epithet. And yet, since it has taken root in our battlefields now for more than a year, one hesitates to speak ill of this word, in which so many admirable acts are somehow visible. It is winning it's historic titles".

In the end, no one really cared what Maurice Barres had to say on this topic and the sobriquet "poilu" remained.

     


'Poilu' is not the Right Word! (New York Times, 1916)

'Poilu' is not the Right Word! (New York Times, 1916)

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