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NOTE: As I state near the end of the question I am looking for a word or phrase that would specifically describe this kind of self-dellusion on the part of someone who served in military service. So generic phrases such as “delusional,” “wing nut,” “blow hard” or “self-aggrandizing” that do not in some way connect to the world of the military won’t cut it.

Okay, this is not a question hinged on disrespecting anyone who has served in military service. I have the utmost respect for anyone who would sacrifice their life for military service.

But over the years I have met some—no better way to describe this—self-congratulatory blowhards who have never served in an active combat capacity or even saw combat at all in their role in the military, yet when the topic of anything military service comes up they either yammer incessantly about how it “really is” when in reality many of these service personnel simply served in a field/clerical role and barely understood what it “really was” to begin with.

For example, if a news report on TV came up about an attack somewhere, this type of person would start talking about what “they would do” and do so without anyone around them asking—or even caring—for their opinion. And if anyone asks them to turn it down a notch, they still talk as if their service earned them the right to lecture others anytime, anywhere for any reason.

So what is the way to describe someone who served in a non-critical/non-combat role in the military yet implies/asserts more knowledge than they had/have in the civilian world?

The only word/phrase I can think of is “mall cop” but that is highly specific to the world of actual mall security guards. And words like “delusional” or “wing nut” are too broad. I am looking for a word or phrase that would specifically describe this kind of self-dellusion on the part of someone who served in military service.

  • You could call them a regular Brian Williams or self-aggrandizing – Jim Aug 7 '15 at 2:32
  • @Jim: Edited my question. I am looking for a military specific phrase. A “mall cop” is clearly a “mall guard” that has given themselves more perceived power than than have. Knowing that would the military equivalent of a “mall cop” be? – JakeGould Aug 7 '15 at 3:00
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    It's been my experience trying to get my Grandfathers (1917-18) and Father and Uncle (1941-45) to talk about their experiences, that those who actually experienced combat don't [freely/eagerly] speak of it and that a good phrase, for me at least, for someone who is exaggerating their combat experiences is "someone/anyone who [freely/eagerly] discusses their combat experiences." – Papa Poule Aug 7 '15 at 18:49
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    @PapaPoule I don’t know if your phrase works well, but I completely agree. Those who saw real combat tend to not brag about it or talk about it while those who saw little combat run their mouths off as if they were the sole warrior on the battlefield. – JakeGould Aug 7 '15 at 19:43
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    the essence of what you're after – Papa Poule Aug 7 '15 at 22:06
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A term with some topical currency which is unlikely to be misunderstood even after that currency fades into the background is 'Major Blowhard'. If you have sufficient control of emphasis and intonation, you will be able to convey a great deal of negativity speaking the phrase.

The term gets its currency from the recent (2015, San Francisco) success of a play called "The Braggart Soldier, or Major Blowhard". Originally written by Plautus (and titled Miles Gloriosus), the contemporary highly praised production was adapted and directed by Evren Odcikin from a translation by Deena Berg.

Unfortunately, the terms 'armchair soldier' and 'armchair warrior' have been co-opted by the realities of modern warfare--present-day verities which may muddy the waters for any term you choose, for the simple reason that drone warfare puts some soldiers in the virtual thick of it while at the same time leaving them safe in their armchairs.

The use of the 'armchair soldier' term in the title of an opinion piece, "Drones, Ethics and the Armchair Soldier" written by John Kaag and published in The New York Times, suggests this ongoing co-option is gaining, rather than losing strength. In any case the term's use has always been weak for your purposes due to its apt application to those who have never seen action, but who imagine nonetheless that they are masters of realtime strategy and tactics.

  • Blowhard does, as far as I have been able to ascertain, indicate a braggart in general, not someone who has scant experience of the heat of the battle, yet purports to know better in the coldness of his study. – Joost Kiefte Aug 7 '15 at 10:12
  • +1 for "Major Blowhard". Even though your target will not get the reference, certainly not to Plautus, the intent to insult will be clear. Another possibility is something like to "He fought a desk". "I'm flying a desk", said ruefully, means "I'm a pilot but currently I have a desk job." – ab2 Aug 7 '15 at 18:48
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    I'm afraid Major Blowhard sounds to me like a collocation made up on the spot to suit OP's context. But Colonel Blimp has actually made it into the dictionary, and I note CambridgeDictionaries specifically defines him as an old man who has old-fashioned ideas and believes he is very important. Which I think is a lot closer in meaning, as well as being relatively well established. – FumbleFingers Aug 7 '15 at 20:10
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    @FumbleFingers Folks, the general semantics of “Major Blowhard” or “Colonel Blimp” work well for what I am seeking: [Military Designation] + [Condescending Descriptive Word]. But honestly, “Colonel Blimp” seems a tad obtuse. And the added info on “armchair soldier” becoming a reality—thus unusable as a condescension—is very useful to note as well. – JakeGould Aug 7 '15 at 21:39
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    Colonel Blimp (not only a famous cartoon character by Low, but also the subject of a propaganda film) certainly means more to me than Major Blowhard, the modern rehashing of some arcane Greco-Roman character (or so I understand from your answer). Britain may no longer be the centre of the world, but Frisco never has been and probably never will be. – Joost Kiefte Aug 7 '15 at 22:08
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Pogue (via Wikipedia):

Pogue is pejorative military slang for non-combat, staff, and other rear-echelon or support units. 'Pogue' frequently includes those who don't have to undergo the stresses that the infantry does.

This word came up when I typed in rear echelon, which is defined by Merriam Webster as "an element of a military headquarters or unit located at a considerable distance from the front and concerned especially with administrative and supply duties".

Thus, the term might be rear echelon trooper, with or without an adjective. Merriam Webster includes "soldier" among its definitions of trooper, although its first definition is "enlisted cavalryman".

I am sure you can supply an adjective to go with "pogue". As for the more polite "rear echelon", you could say: "Yes, there must have been a lot of paper cuts among the rear echelon troopers."

  • I like the word “pogue” but it seems a tad too British for me to successfully use in casual convo in the United States. – JakeGould Aug 7 '15 at 22:39
  • Pogue I would consider more American than British. And I have heard frontline soldiers use the term remf, an acronym in which re stands for 'rear echelon' and mf for - something crude. – TimLymington Aug 7 '15 at 23:18
  • I voted this up because it's useful knowledge, even though it lacks the 'pretentious braggart' dimension I think the answer to the OP's question requires. Similarly, 'fobbit' (see Pogue - Variants) is worth knowing, but as one soldier points out, "technically, everybody is a fobbit", and again, there's no suggestion that a fobbit is necessarily either a boor or a fraud. – JEL Aug 8 '15 at 2:48
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An armchair general/colonel/major (or whichever rank tickles your fancy) is often used in England (less so in Scotland and Ireland, because more often than not the Celts did the fighting for the English, clever bastards (the English, not the Celts)), for someone who always knows his tactics or strategy (again, depending on rank) better than those in the thick of it.

  • +1 Not bad. The only thing I am not 100% on is the whole “armchair” concept which to me implies so wanker sitting at home, reading a few books, buying some stuff on eBay and then deciding he is a “warrior.” In my mind, I am thinking of someone who went through actual military training but ended up doing nothing yet exaggerates his role in civilian life because he’s a pathetic slob. – JakeGould Aug 7 '15 at 7:20
  • The character Corporal Himmelstoss in Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet On the Western Front is exactly the kind of fellow you must mean. He always knows best within the confines of his barracks, putting fear and discipline into 18-year old boys, but as soon as he too has to serve in the trenches, he turns out to be completely useless and soils his pants to boot at the drop of the first grenade. – Joost Kiefte Aug 7 '15 at 10:18
  • Eh, Corporal Himmelstoss? Not really. I’m not talking about someone who is in/near a combat theater who behaves like this. But someone rather who is a veteran or otherwise in civilian life now who greatly exaggerates their military role for no other reason than to blow their own wind in others faces. – JakeGould Aug 8 '15 at 4:33
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    In that case you'd want Major Jones from Graham Greene's novel and subsequent film The Comedians. When he, out of active service, and the main character, Brown, meet in Haiti, Jones lets it be known he served in India for years, also during WWII, which is the reason why his services as a military adviser might be useful to the Papa Doc regime. Later it turns out that he had indeed served in India, but as a member of an entertainment unit and has seen little or no action. – Joost Kiefte Aug 8 '15 at 6:03
  • Nice bit of details! I really like getting confirmation that even literature acknowledges this specific type of delusional loon; makes me feel I’m not alone in my feelings. – JakeGould Aug 8 '15 at 6:36
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Self-aggrandizing would have been my choice @jim. As for military jargon I found "Oxygen Thief". This might work, someone who was not of particular service but won't be quite about it.

Oxygen Thief- A biting piece of slang for someone who's useless or talks too much.

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