Talk:Private (military rank)

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 Definition The lowest rank in most Armies of the world [d] [e]

Why...

...are they called "privates," anyway? They don't have a lot of privacy, do they? --Larry Sanger 05:44, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Perhaps I should have clarified that this is the English-language term. As I understand the tradition, when a medieval captain or other officer that did not have feudal followers needed troops, he hired "private" individuals for the lowest positions. In other words, they were from what we would call the "private sector", rather than experienced sergeants or officers.
I put this in simply not to have a redlink in a comment on an officer who rose from private to four-star general, which is impressive in any army.
Even in Britain, the term private is generic; they do have traditional titles for the particular kind of service. In French, I believe the equivalent is soldat, and, in a few other languages that come to mind, they use a generic term that implies a fighting individual not having any leadership responsibility.
Many modern militaries use a term such as "recruit" for the very lowest, and, for a soldier that has basic profiency, may call them "lance corporal" or some other term that does not put them in the line of command, but gives more of a sense of being a professional. U.S. Marine and Turkish traditions, among many, come to mind, where the culture is that someone almost always steps up to lead when all the designated leaders are dead. This is practical as well as traditional; there's a maxim that soldiers without leadership are rabble, and rabble who face sodiers die. Howard C. Berkowitz 07:00, 11 December 2008 (UTC)
The OED isn't very helpful on this, but it does seem to say vaguely what Howard explained more specifically -- that "private soldier" uses the word "private" in the sense of "not holding public office" (which, in the feudal military context, I guess, would have meant "not holding a professional military appointment," as Howard said). Bruce M.Tindall 02:12, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

Cheerful if silly

I freely admit that I just threw in a stub to get rid of an annoying redlinks. It's actually quite pleasing that a number of people have looked at it, made comments, copy edits, etc., since I don't always know if I'm writing into a vacuum.

But now...dare I go to the next customary rank, or should I be afraid of corporal punishment, to be, of course, disambiguated from corporal punishment? Incidentally, what is happening when Captain Bligh orders Corporal Jones, of the Royal Marines, to be flogged?

Off to correct coffee deficiency. Howard C. Berkowitz 16:33, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Well, pretty soon you'll work your way up to the rank of my next-door neighbor, who's in the US Navy and is a Fireman, but not in the flame-retardant sense to which that redirect page currently redirects. It's (as Howard knows, but I didn't till I met my neighbor) an E-3 rank like Private First Class or Lance Corporal or Seaman, who, if he were in Star Trek, would work for Scotty, or, in the 21st century, does incomprehensible things to engines of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. Bruce M.Tindall 02:17, 12 December 2008 (UTC)