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
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 2:32
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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
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 18:49
  • For sure, it doesn't work as a phrase ... more like a "litmus test." +1 all around. Along the lines of your "mall cop," we used to use "rent-a-cop for that. Maybe "rent-a-grunt" would capture
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 22:05
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    the essence of what you're after
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 22:06

4 Answers 4


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. Commented Aug 7, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 18:48
  • @JoostKiefte, yes, my thinking is that the addition of "Major" to "Blowhard", with capitalization if written, or suitable emphasis and intonation if spoken (no airquotes, though, please), lends the desired specificity to the term. "General Blowhard" would not be suitable, because of the generality; "Corporal Blowhard" might work for another purpose than the OP's, depending on the prurience of the boasts by the soldier so described; "Private Blowhard" fails for obvious reasons.
    – JEL
    Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 18:55
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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. Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 20:10
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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. Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 22:08

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."

  • 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. Commented Aug 7, 2015 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
    Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 2:48

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.

  • 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. Commented Aug 7, 2015 at 10:18
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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. Commented Aug 8, 2015 at 6:03

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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