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I am looking for a good English equivalent of an obscure military term. It was in use by the Royal Hungarian Army between 1920 and 1945. No other army ever had a similar concept, and it's obsolete now.

The original word is "karpaszományos" which translates as "person who wears a lace on the sleeve of his jacket". It used to mean a special class of enlisted soldiers who were distinguished by a "lace", a thin, embroidered line on their jacket sleeves.

The meaning of the lace was that the soldier passed high school, which was a fairly high academic achievement at the time. However, being a "karpaszományos" didn't mean rank. It merely indicated that he was more educated than the other rank and file men. They enjoyed some privileges during their military service, they could go to NCO courses, and at the end of their conscripted service they could sign up for officer school to become professionals. But in itself, without choosing one of the above options, a "karpaszományos" was little more than any ordinary grunt.

So the lace, in itself, it did not mean or indicate:

  1. any rank
  2. an officer or an NCO
  3. a cadet or military student
  4. a military achievement
  5. any duty, branch, subordination, etc.

The term "karpaszományos" was also used when addressing them, similarly how an officer would shout "Private!" to a soldier whose name he didn't know.

I've been struggling to translate this term to English. Recently a friend called my attention to the French term "soldat chevronné". It's a very different concept, it means a soldier decorated for military achievements. Along the same lines I came up with the term "chevronman".

I understand that the meaning will still need explanation, probably in a footnote. But linguistically it doesn't seem wrong. What do you think of "chevronman"?

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    It would suggest an NCO to me, since sergeants' stripes are chevrons. Jul 12 at 16:47
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    To me, "Cheveronman" sounds like a person typically employed by the oil company "Chevron". "karpaszományos" ~ Lace-cuff. As the concept is unknown, there is not going the be a terms for it. (see also writing.stackexchange.com/questions/56047/…)
    – Greybeard
    Jul 12 at 17:02
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    It seems like if you need to invent a new English word, you might as well use the Hungarian. Alternatively, don't look for a word, and use a descriptive phrase instead: educated soldiers, diploma-holding soldiers, privileged soldiers, etc.
    – Juhasz
    Jul 12 at 17:05
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    It's not like an aguilette. That's a free hanging lace, and this is an embroidered line or ribbon along the sleeve. Jul 12 at 17:30
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    Others are giving good suggestions for alternatives. But note that 'chevronman' is probably not good in English. It sounds like a weird kind of superhero (that's the pattern: Batman, Superman, Chevronman).
    – Mitch
    Jul 12 at 20:53
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No, as far as I know, there is no similar word to describe a military person's high school graduation 'on their sleeve' in some form of flash or insignia

However, In the US Navy, there is the slang term:

push-button

Since at least the late 1960s, it has been used to indicate a recruit that has been pushed through the ranks based on AP High School studies and/or under-grad studies.

The flashes were more or less obvious when incorporated into the simple chevrons, something that other answers have ignored. Only 4 ratings could hold that ranking at the time. This is an example of my EM-4 patch that I sewed onto my dress-whites after graduating Basic Training.

enter image description here The yellow circle indicates the rating, and the lower red circle indicates the chevron, or 'rank'. "Push-Button" was largely derogative when I held it, but now seems to be the accepted and non-derogatory USN slang.


That was then, this is now...

The term is being used recently to indicate grads entering military service immediately with rank as Captain.

‘Push button’ captains in the Navy now one step closer to reality

The Navy is one step closer to recruiting officers with much-needed skills into the service and immediately promoting them to a pay grade up to captain ― O-6 ― without any prior military experience.

US Navy Times


From the Original Post...

The meaning of the lace was that the soldier passed high school, which was a fairly high academic achievement at the time. However, being a "karpaszományos" didn't mean rank. It merely indicated that he was more educated than the other rank and file men.

It was in use by the Royal Hungarian Army between 1920 and 1945. No other army ever had a similar concept, and it's obsolete now.

Trying to find an official term for this is probably an impossible quest.


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  • And that's exactly the problem here. I'm trying to find a single term, a noun which works both for the category and as a direct addressing. Jul 12 at 18:50
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No, chevronman would mean a man who works for Chevron, if anything. Most people would just draw a complete blank.

The usual tack for English would be to just figure out the roughly equivalent rank or calque the differences (1, 2, 3, &c). That seems to be what happens here in the only source I can find that's online and mentions the whole term karpaszomanyos, Leo W.G. Niehorster's The Royal Hungarian Army: 1920–1945. He glosses it as "braided" since it's just an adjective used to describe the actual ranks.

Theoretically, you could also just use the untranslated foreign term. It's a bit long, though, and the -sz- makes it less helpful.

For what it's worth, the poster here also offers that The other reason for such distinction was that the Hungarian society was still a half-feudal segregated one... [a]nd the ruling class just did not really want see working class NCOs giving orders to aristocrats of lower military rank... [a]nd obviously the children of the higher class had better access to higher education, too, so when entering the army they became karpaszományos with the afformentioned privil[e]ges. Also, karpaszományos soldiers had a uniform similar to officers, even though technically they were not neccessarily officers. You could use a class-based gloss to capture that aspect of it, although I couldn't find other sources doing so.

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  • Thank you, this sounds just right. However, could "braided" be used when addressing a soldier? Like: "Braided! About-face!" or "Braided Smith, what the hell is this?!" Jul 19 at 19:09
  • @TamásPolgár You can't really push things so far in translation of such a particular technical term, any more than you'd start adding ma to English sentences to capture the "flavor" of Chinese conversation or adding-a vowels-a to opera subtitles-o.
    – lly
    Jul 19 at 19:55
  • Having said that, if you weren't going for accuracy and were (eg) trying to use this for a short story or novel set in Hungary during this era, the idiomatic English way we'd handle this would be to metonymically call the person Braid! or some belittling construction like Braidy or Hey Braidboy. Those aren't legit or well-sourced translations for this completely foreign concept, but they're some ways you could get the point across if you were writing about the era or trying to explain the idea to someone.
    – lly
    Jul 19 at 20:02
  • Unfortunately the story isn't fictional at all, it's a veteran's memoir. "Braidman" sounds OK to me though. Jul 19 at 20:24
  • @TamásPolgár Don't forget to check whichever answer you think covered your question. Braidman wouldn't be belittling, though. If you're aiming to keep things accurate, it'd probably be best to just phrase things so that you're always using the term as an adjective and stick with braided.
    – lly
    Jul 22 at 4:59
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No, "chevronman" doesn't make sense. It has no meaning that any English speaker would readily comprehend, at least not how you want it to be. Were it to have a capital letter, it might make sense as a superhero name, a superhero who wears a chevron on his chest and whose power is somehow tied to that symbol, a chevron being an inverted v-shape.

I can't speak for the militaries of other predominantly English-speaking countries, nor can I really for the US military as I haven't ever been in the US military, but as far as the US military is concerned, it's common knowledge among Americans, not just members of the military but laypeople as well, that the number of "chevrons," or lack thereof, on the sleeve of a soldier's uniform (at least as far as the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force are concerned) denotes various levels of military rank, i.e., the more "chevrons," the higher the rank (see image below):

Military Armband Insignias

HOWEVER, while the Army, the Marine Corps, and some of the Air Force insignias you see above display "chevrons," that's not what they're generally called. In the vernacular, they're generally called "stripes," not "chevrons." Moreover, the purpose of the "stripes" are to denote rank, not that the wearer graduated high school.

In the US military, one must have a high school diploma or equivalent in order to enlist, so being "enlisted" demonstrates that. The only members of the military that aren't enlisted are draftees (conscripts), something that hasn't existed since the end of the Vietnam War back in the early 1970s, and some convicted criminals who are alternatively sentenced to serve their time in the military rather than in prison, something only the US Army allows.

I don't know what, if any, insignia one wears on one's US military uniform that shows one is "enlisted." I Googled it but couldn't find an answer. I would assume there must be something, though, because it's also common knowledge that there are various privileges and accesses that enlisted soldiers get but that non-enlisted ones don't, so there it stands to reason that there must be something on the uniform that shows whether one is enlisted or not, something that can be readily seen by those regulating entry into certain areas, like clubs and lounges, and by Military Police (MPs). Whatever the name of that insignia is — maybe someone with military background would know — would be the equivalent to what you describe the "chevron" represented in the Hungarian Army, but the terminology used in English in the US military that would convey that, though only secondarily as a happenstance of requirements to enlist, is "enlisted" (i.e., "enlisted soldier" rather than "chevronman").

That said, while all elephants are gray, not all gray things are elephants, meaning that while all enlisted soldiers have graduated high school or passed the GED (the equivalent of graduating high school) such that you can 100% rely on all enlisted soldiers being high school graduates, not all non-enlisted soldiers are not high school graduates. Some non-enlisted soldiers are high school gradates, and many non-enlisted soldiers have been high school graduates. That's because of the fact that there are and have been soldiers who did graduate high school but who were, instead of enlisting, forced to enter the US military by being drafted or by having been convicted of a crime for which a sentence to serve in the US military was passed down by the judge in lieu of a sentence to prison.

All of that is just added information, though.

SHORT ANSWER:

No, "chevronman" doesn't make sense.

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  • The cultural relevance is certainly important but can you add something about the word 'chevronman'? If it is a neologism, if it is a well-made construction, do the parts make sense, things like that?
    – Mitch
    Jul 13 at 14:58
  • The simple structure indicated in the Wikipedia chart totally ignores specialist/technical rankings and flashes. Also, your last sentence is bogus...no branch of the military is gonna accept a felon. I expect you are getting your info from Hollywood. If you haven't walked the walk, don't talk the talk...
    – Cascabel
    Jul 13 at 17:44
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I would say that it depends on context. If this is for a work of fiction, or if you're simply trying to be creative, then yes - with appropriate contextual cues it would make sense, though as noted in another answer it would likely seem to many English-speakers to refer to non-commissioned officers (NCOs / sergeants) or rank-and-file lower enlisted folks.

The US Army, for a short time during and immediately after WWII had Technicians, though soldiers holding a technician rank was typically addresses for the NCO rank associated with the chevrons and rockers, and despite having been a real thing many people even in the US Army today don't really know much about it.

As you clearly note, no other military that I'm aware of has a distinguishing title for high school graduates. If your usage is simply to give them some skill or education above what a typical soldier might have, Warrant Officers would be very vaguely similar, but that entails special training in the branch of service that they are assigned, so isn't actually the same.

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The closest concept to the lace decoration for academic achievement would be the service stripe.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Service_stripe

These typically reflect “time in” as opposed to rank, but nothing would prevent a branch of the armed services from recognizing time spent in coursework as being equivalent to time spent in other types of training.

There are various ways that someone actually serving in the military might refer to another soldier with a hypothetical “education stripe”. Most of these are not complimentary, and probably wouldn’t be used by an officer speaking more formally to enlisted soldiers.

So although “chevronman” wouldn’t work in English (as others have pointed out), you could imagine a term like “ed striper” that wouldn’t sound too out of place.

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  • That a step closer indeed, thank you. Maybe just "striper"? Well, that sounds ambiguous... Jul 13 at 0:22
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In English, we might use synecdoche — the rhetorical device of referring to a part to represent the whole. Something like:

Hey, lace-sleeve, fall in!

Fancy-sleeve might work too.

Both of these also express a certain sense of bemusement (in its sense of wry or tolerant amusement) regarding the "benefits" of this decoration.

I don't know which part of the word karpaszományos refers to this decoration, but if you can pick it apart, you might be able to find some clues for alternatives to the word lace.

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  • The leaf-shaped decorations on senior officers' cap peaks is often called 'scrambled egg' in the British police and armed services. Jul 12 at 17:45
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    @TinfoilHat - apparently so - "Scrambled eggs (American English) or scrambled egg (British English) is a slang term for the typically leaf-shaped embellishments found on the visors of peaked caps worn by military officers and (by metonymy) for the senior officers who wear them. " Jul 12 at 17:52
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    ELU deals with established usages: inventions are off-topic and should not be encouraged by answers. Jul 12 at 18:01
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    @EdwinAshworth: I don't see any rules about "established usages." I did not invent the word lace, nor did I invent the word sleeve. I did highlight synecdoche, a feature of English language usage. Jul 12 at 18:16
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    Thank you, but I don't think this would work. It was an official, proper term, not some slang. Jul 12 at 18:47

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