Monday, November 19, 2012


Modern Americans may find themselves scratching their heads when they read that American infantrymen who fought in World War I were referred to as “doughboys”.

Why on earth would soldiers name themselves after chunks of dough?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is still unknown.

Theories have abounded ever since 1917 as to how this strange nickname was applied to Uncle Sam’s troops, and historians still can’t seem to agree on where the term originated. We do know that American soldiers were referred to as “doughboys” as far back as the Mexican War of 1846-48 and the term was commonly used during the American Civil War.

Theories as to why that was the case during the First World War include:

  • American soldiers were fond of donuts, hence the nickname “doughboy”
  • Uniform buttons from the time period resembled globs of dough
  • Soldiers used a white pipe clay to polish their uniforms that could turn into a dough-like substance whenever it rained
  • Foot soldiers marching in Northern Mexico stirred up so much dust that they took on the look of the abode buildings of the region. “Adobe” was shortened to “dobe” which somehow got mangled into the term “doughboy” (the great chronicler of the AEF, Laurence Stallings – himself a doughboy – held to this view)
One thing we do know is that the term was in common use as soon as the American Expeditionary Forces arrived in France.

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