2.01.2007

Word of the day: DRAGOON!!

I subscribe to the Word A Day listserv and it's always interesting. Today it's one of my favorite words, even though I misused it lo, these many years. DRAGOON. I thought it meant a regiment but no, it's one guy. Also coercion, another of my favorite words.

Herewith:


This week's theme: words with hidden animals.

dragoon (druh-GOON) verb tr.

To force someone to do something; coerce.

[From French dragon (dragon, to dragoon).]

This is a good example of how a term transferred from an object to a people to an action. Originally it referred to the firearms, either from the fact that they breathed fire like a dragon or from the shape of the pistol hammer. Eventually it began to be applied to a European cavalryman armed with a carbine. Today the term is used in the sense of forcing someone to do something against his or her will.

Today's word in Visual Thesaurus:

-Anu Garg (garg wordsmith.org)

"Canadians should not be dragooned into going down the same garden path. We should say no to no-fly lists."
Ground Canada's No-fly List Now;
The Gazette (Montreal, Canada);
Jan 16, 2007.

23 comments:

Katie said...

Well, that is a really dragoon piece of information. Thanks for dragooning it with us today. You learn something new every dragoon.

Ryan Field said...

I dated a dragooner about fifteen years ago.

Bernita said...

The term still survives in the names of certain regiments.

Anonymous said...

In the UK we stil have dragoons, as in The Royal Dragoon Guards.

Unless they got disbanded or amalgamated recently;)

Luc2 said...

I read somewhere that dragoons were called that way because their unit's symbol and flag had a dragon on it.

Interesting why it's coercion as well. Perhaps these soldiers didn't ask nicely. Shocking!

Bryan D. Catherman said...

Before laser guided rockets and F-16 fighter jets, the dragoon was a deadly military weapon-- the mounted rifleman. In the same spirit, the mounted rifleman of the Cavalry became the tip of the spear for most military forces, especially for the U.S. Army. The Cavalry and the cavalry scout is still a highly used soldier, only now they are light (HMMWVs or on foot) or heavy (tanks and Bradleys). The 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment has served two year-long tours in Iraq and is set to go back again. Brave Rifles!

fg said...

I've long had the vague (and possibly mistaken) notion that the verb to dragoon derived from dragoons being forced to serve. But luc2's suggestion that the dragoons were the ones doing the forcing may make more sense.

Bernita said...

According to my etymological dictionary (Chambers), "dragonnade" was the term for any persecution by military means. Term developed from the persecution of French Protestants under Louis XIV by dragoons.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

If I comment on this as I wish, I will stir controversy, insult people and get my little self in a wholelotta trouble. Let's just say I strongly object to the inclusion of a half-baked political statement as an example of word usage.

The United States had two regiments of Dragoons at the start of the Civil War. If I remember my history correctly that small number was the result of reduction in forces after the Mexican War. I'm uncertain when the term passed out of American usage.

In Britain The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) are an active unit of the British Army. I believe they are the senior Scots regiment. When Scotland is finally free and my family is restored to the throne, I'll be happy to get on my horsey and watch them parade....

Many of the older Dragoon regiments were merged into other regiments in the 1960s and 70s, but there are other active Dragoon regiments in the UK.

As to the reason being forced into some act is called being "dragooned," that probably comes from the practice of impressing men into military service under the British Recruiting Acts of the mid-18th Century. That's just a guess, but I believe it's a good one.

Anonymous said...

Dragoon.....good word. Now let's see...I'm sure I can fit it into my WIP somewhere. Must...fit....dragoon....must....hmmmm...

Robin said...

Dragoons are earthworms sent to keep the loonies in line!

I’m reading Robert Heinlein’s, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, right now, in which dragoons are soldiers sent from Earth to mind the inhabitants of a lunar colony. Great book!

Even though it was written in 1966, it’s not hard to find many parallels in today’s society, and the no-fly list is a good example.

I also assumed that ‘dragoon’ was like ‘troop’ and could be used to refer to an individual or a unit.

Interesting!

Torrey Meeks said...

No you idiots. It's because they're goons in drag.

I mean it makes perfect sense. No one who isn't seriously flaming is going to get dressed up in a silly hat, tight pants, and carry around a crazy S&M looking gun then prance around in public in front of, that's right, a Queen.

Think about it.

Not that there's anything wrong with being flaming, but I think everyone's overthinking how the word got started.

Tena said...

Word A Day has fabulous daily quotes too.

Kate Allan said...

One of my novels has a dragoon captain as its hero. It's historical but I didn't imagine that it would be a difficult word as we still have dragoons in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Yay Sha'el!

Shhhhh.

Sten Düring said...

But surely there can be only one valid definition of this worthy word.

From Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary:

DRAGOON, n. A soldier who combines dash and steadiness in so equal measure that he makes his advances on foot and his retreats on horseback.

Anonymous said...

I subscribe to a 'word a day' on- line dictionary service and enjoy reading about the history and roots of English words. Although there are many words I recognize, there are thousands to explore.

Alex J. Avriette said...

Hi, it's also used to refer to a 6x6 (six-wheel-drive) military truck with outstanding towing capacity (>15t). At least in the US.

gm said...

Oh Miss Snark, as soon as I saw this Word in my inbox, it dragooned me to think of you!

Richard Lewis said...

Some lack of sleep, cross-eyed, sick of manuscript, revision silliness:

The dragoon went on his honeymoon
To Hong Kong and Kowloon
But one afternoon on the lagoon
His bride ran off with the boatman's baboon
He returned home a simple goon
And now drinks pails of gin before noon.

(I can write, really I can)

Luc2 said...

Torrey Meeks: "No you idiots. It's because they're goons in drag."

LOL, that had me laughing

Anonymous said...

I'm too busy worrying Canada is going to let terrorists on planes. I'll have to bus it to the US and fly from there from now on...

David Greene said...

Epic novelists must be dragooned into writing really short synopses.