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World War I
Doughboys and Diggers



Doughboys and Diggers
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 7
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.82

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    bayonets, confection, doughboy, doughy, well-known, infantry, cutting, theory, cavalrymen, europe, possibly, since, thus, natural, doughnut, nickname
     content words:    Say Hey Kid, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, World War, World War I., When British, War I., Northern Mexico, When Australian


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Doughboys and Diggers
By Jane Runyon
  

1     Nicknames have been around since the time people started calling each other by name. Many famous sports stars have been known by their nicknames. Ask your father or grandfather who "Stan the Man" or "The Say Hey Kid" were, and they can probably tell you easily that you are talking about Stan Musial and Willie Mays. Both of these men were famous baseball players. People tend to remember nicknames much easier than they remember real names. Soldiers during World War I were given nicknames, too. American infantrymen were called doughboys. Australian soldiers were called diggers. Both are interesting nicknames which are recognizable to their countrymen. What is less well-known is just how these nicknames came about.
 
2     The term doughboy was used more than one hundred years before World War I. Young boys were apprenticed to bakers in the 1700's. One of the jobs of these young boys was to pick up large batches of dough from mixing bowls and take them to a cutting table. It seemed natural to call these young apprentices doughboys. But this has nothing to do with foot soldiers or what they do. In the early 1800's, some people were said to be dough heads. That was a term meant to show that a person was stupid. That surely has nothing to do with American soldiers. When British and American soldiers fought in Spain in the early 1800's, they became fond of a doughy, fried confection which evolved into our modern day doughnut. Is that where the name came from?
 
3     Historians have created a few theories as to how doughboy became a name connected to the infantrymen of World War I. One idea has to do with the way food was prepared during battle. Some say the soldiers had to mix water, flour, and rice to form dough used for a type of bread. This dough was formed around their bayonets and then placed over the flames of an open fire. Thus, they became the boys who ate dough. It works, but what about the other branches of the army. Why didn't the nickname apply to them? Other historians say that it all has to do with the buttons on the infantry uniforms. They say the buttons were shaped liked little dumplings that the soldiers made and ate.

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