Masses of e-mail on this from servicemen and ex-servicemen (and a couple of
servicewomen) (and may I please be forgiven for having referred in a
previous post to my buddy as “ex-USMC”… there is, of course, no such thing
as an “ex-Marine”), but I think the following, from a retired military
gentleman, deserves some kind of prize:
“I offer an amusing & relevant anecdote of days gone by.
“My grandfather was an officer of the Imperial & Royal Cavalry of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire [’13th Kaiser- und Koenigliche Husaren-Regiment’]
and related to me his experience in 1912 when the varied headgear of the
ethnically-diverse army [Franz Kafka worked for one of its FIVE SEPARATE
Ministries of War!] was standardized to a very latest fashion: a flat cap.
“He observed Croat Pandurs, Czech Line Infantry, Slovak Uhlans, Austrian
Grenadiers, Slovene Grenzers, and his own Magyar Hussars being issued this
piece of gear and they all did EXACTLY the same thing: they held it
vertically and opened & closed it repeatedly and then loudly named it in
their native tongues, all the while convulsed in rough soldierly mirth.
“As a result, he knew how to name this item the improper way in six
languages! Actually seven, as I taught him the English version in ‘71.”
[Incidentally, “Kaiser- und Koenigliche,” or “KUK” (pronounced “kah-oo-kah”)
was what the later Austro-Hungarian Empire called itself–literally
“Imperial and Royal.” This followed a complicated compromise in 1867 when
the Hapsburg Emperor cut a deal that gave the Hungarians effective
self-rule, provided they continued to acknowledge his title as