January 17, 2007

Army of One

You know I don't get political here, but can I ask a silly question about the war in Iraq?

When did a "troop" become one soldier?

In a recent example, President Bush said he wants to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq - meaning 20,000 soldiers individuals.

It's a phrase I've been hearing all over the news for quite some time now.

Didn't a troop used to mean a group of people? A Boy Scout Troop was never ONE boy scout, was it? (That's how it was when I was a brave and mighty webelo.)

Have I missed something?

The comment board is open now closed before the spam starts rolling in. This link from Antoine definitely provides more than you'd ever want to know about the word "troop."

Click here for The Sneeze Home Page!
Posted by Steven | Archive

I've wondered the SAME thing many times! I guess we can chalk it up to people who don't know...:P

Posted by: Nancy at January 17, 2007 6:29 AM

Alright well I'm a nerd, and looked it up... found this:
Military. an armored cavalry or cavalry unit consisting of two or more platoons and a headquarters group.

So, I guess it depends on your definition of a "Platoon". If Bush considers a platoon to be 1/2 of a person or less, he might be correct.

Posted by: Pete at January 17, 2007 6:32 AM

I think this might be a question for the "decider".

Posted by: Amy S at January 17, 2007 6:39 AM

Well it s similar to the plural of soldiers.

single - soldier
plural - troops

Posted by: jonny at January 17, 2007 6:39 AM

you are exactly right! it makes no sense. at all. I'm guessing that the reason behind it, is that Bush is an idiot. Now everyone else is just running with it.

Posted by: adrienne at January 17, 2007 6:41 AM

When you play risk, a troop is 10 armies isnt it?

Posted by: adam at January 17, 2007 6:41 AM

I think using the word "troops" is an attempt to de-personalize the concept. If the word "soldiers" is used, it's more likely to make the listener think of the term as a group of individuals. "Troops" is just a faceless mass.

Posted by: DBR at January 17, 2007 6:43 AM

Pete was close. cavalry soldiers were called Troopers. In a similar manner, in many states, State Policemen are called Troopers.

Troops is a shortening or slang of Troopers. As usual, use of slang is confusing when viewed historically as in Patton's "leading troops in battle" statement.

Troops and soldiers are interchangable terms in today's military while used in the same context.

Bush was not wrong to use the terminology the admirals and general use when discussing this with him.


Posted by: Tim at January 17, 2007 6:44 AM

I can't really add to the discussion, but having read everything so far I wanted to point out how funny the word 'troop' seems after a while.

Troop. Troop. Troop.


Posted by: Paul at January 17, 2007 6:48 AM

Good question. I would answer it, but that would just be extremely unpolitian of me, now wouldn't it.

And, when I was a boyscout, by troop only had one boy scout in it. I was very lonely.

Posted by: Ruth at January 17, 2007 6:49 AM

We refer to the military (soldiers, marines, airman, seamen, etc...) as troops as a whole. If you call a Marine a soldier you will get the full Devil Dawg treatment. If you call an Airman a soldier, they are likely to throw their desk chairs at you. Although, if you call someone in the Army a soldier, they will likely Hooah at you. Or whatever it is the Army is saying these days. Does that make sense?

Posted by: A military wife for years at January 17, 2007 6:50 AM

Well, www.m-w.com has troop down as a group of soldiers, but it must be one of those cases that it's slipped into common language as meaning a plural - more than one soldier. I guess that's fair, since troop doesn't seem to have specific number attached to it. I think. If you look up 'battallion' under m-w.com, it gives as the definition 'a significant body of troops'. So.

Posted by: David at January 17, 2007 6:53 AM

And all this time I thought I was just stupid. Well, it turns out I am stupid, but I was right about the misuse of the word "troops." Thanks for making me feel just a tad less dumb.

Posted by: Smivey at January 17, 2007 7:00 AM

A troop is a military unit, originally a small force of cavalry, subordinate to a squadron and headed by the troop leader. Cavalry soldiers of private rank are called troopers (abbreviated Tpr., not troupers). Today, troop has different specific meanings in different armed forces.

I'm doing some work in Sri Lanka and they call their troops, cadres. Same story.

Can I be a people today?

Posted by: smitty at January 17, 2007 7:10 AM

It's generic military speak (or actually political speak) for soldiers, air(wo)men, sailors, Marines. somehow it has crept into the lexicon as the default-I guess since they can't use "GI" anymore, at least not until Bush reinitiates the military draft.

Posted by: susan at January 17, 2007 7:10 AM

well if you think about it logically then the useage is correct but that might require more than a 3rd grade mentality

oh yeah and screw Canada and hockey

Posted by: drjones at January 17, 2007 7:13 AM

troops Military units; soldiers.
according to Houghton Mifflin

I'm not a Bush apologist or even a Bush fan but every president since FDR (and maybe before, but I stopped looking there) has used the word troops to refer to soldiers being sent to both war and peace time postings (most recently, Clinton and the troops he sent to Bosnia)--so it's not Bush dehumanizing people in this instance, nor is it him using the English language incorrectly.

I'm a stickler for skewering politicians and presidents based on fact. And Bush has plenty of facts to use.

Posted by: anonymous at January 17, 2007 7:13 AM

Perhaps Bush wants to send 20K Siamese soldiers?
On the other hand, it is plausible that he just has some trouble counting....

Posted by: Yanay at January 17, 2007 7:15 AM

I don't feel like this started with Bush. It's a term that has been thrown around in the news for awhile now.

Posted by: Steve at January 17, 2007 7:18 AM

When I was in the miltary, back in '86, the term was used back then. (troop=1 soldier)

Posted by: A at January 17, 2007 7:20 AM

I'm not convinced that saying "troops" is an acceptable abbreviation of "troopers". If he really wanted to be hip and with it, he'd just delete the vowels. Trprs!

Also, Garrison Keillor wrote a really neat bit of prose juxtaposing the Bush administration with Moby Dick. I don't know where the original is, but a friend of mine put it in his livejournal: http://hellblazer99.livejournal.com/241902.html

Posted by: Ashley at January 17, 2007 7:22 AM

I agree that it didn't start with bush but personally I think they should use soldiers instead and confuse alot fewer people :)

Posted by: mallorie at January 17, 2007 7:25 AM

I think the word "troop" sounds too much like "poop" to be used by the president on TV.

makes it sound like hes sending a bunch of planes filled with crap to iraq.

oh what a coincidence "crap" and "iraq" sound very much alike too!

Posted by: Yuri at January 17, 2007 7:34 AM

I agree with Tim and Anonymous 7:13.

Now as for your comment about being a "webelo" One is never a "Webelo" due to the fact that WEBELOS is an acronym for "WE'll BE LOyal Scouts and if you are a "webelo" then you are not a scout!
Nuff said!

Posted by: Heather at January 17, 2007 7:41 AM

im pretty sure that troops is _supposed_ to be kind of an abstract term for soldiers or whatever, you know. like, the troops over there. so to say 20,000 troops is like saying 20,000 bunches.

Posted by: joe at January 17, 2007 7:49 AM

Arnold Zwicky, linguist extraordinaire, has the answer to your question about troop/troops: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003879.html

Posted by: Antoine at January 17, 2007 7:55 AM

i have always wondered that also, cause it always confused me, but oh well....

Posted by: sara at January 17, 2007 7:56 AM

I got arrested in Texas for public drunk, once by a trooper named hooper. I might not have went to jail had he had another last name.

Posted by: Ronnie Bond at January 17, 2007 7:56 AM

During my last job (as a proofreader for my state's legislature), I ran across someone who transcribed a committee meeting talking about the Boy Scouts, and provided the following spelling:


That sort of spelling makes the usage of "troop" for one soldier comparatively less offensive.

Posted by: Mike at January 17, 2007 7:57 AM

troops is the plural of trooper.When I was in the YUSA(before Nam) we were called trooper as an indivdual and troops as a plural body.

Posted by: Skeebo at January 17, 2007 7:59 AM

I think this all has to do with Bush's strategery. We all know he said 20,000 troops, which would roughly translate to 100,000 + soldiers in Iraq. See? Strategery at work.

Posted by: Nathan at January 17, 2007 8:05 AM

How many troops does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Posted by: cowboy at January 17, 2007 8:06 AM

according to bush? 1,000,000

Posted by: karen at January 17, 2007 8:07 AM

"Troops" is definately short for "Troopers".

However, Bush is a raging dumbass and probably does not know that. Stay tuned to the State of the Union Address to see him mis-use it.

Posted by: Nick at January 17, 2007 8:11 AM

There are presidents in other eras where good sense emanated from the White House. This is the era of nonsense.

Posted by: Lasting Magic at January 17, 2007 8:27 AM

I think the use of troop instead of soldier came about the same time as using home instead of house, no one lives in a house anymore, they live in a home, homes are for sale and I have even heard a newcaster say apartment home. Just use the right words and confusion will lessen. Call them soldiers who want to come home to their houses. It all part of the era of political correctness

Posted by: Diane at January 17, 2007 8:37 AM

Funny, I had this exact question posed to me by a civilian friend not long ago.
As one of those 'troops', I can tell you definitively that I and every Soldier or Airman I've met use the word to refer to one single person, and in the Air Force, it usually refers to a subordinate. For instance, it is pretty standard to comment, "I'm giving my troop paperwork for being late today."
Just to be safe, I asked the people in my office who've been enlisted 18+ years, and they say a troop, in the USAF at least, has always meant one person.

Posted by: Melissa at January 17, 2007 8:46 AM

Alls I know is in Bevery Hills Troop, Diane from Cheers had way more than 1 kid putting her in all sorts of hilarious predicaments....

Posted by: mez at January 17, 2007 9:14 AM

Ok, ok! How about all the other annoying little words and symbols that have become de'rigeur:

A Home - Realtor-eze for a house. A home is where you put your parents when they can't wipe their. . .

K - For Thousand. If we're talking temperature, ok, but when did used car dealers start dictating alpha abbreviations for numbers? M is a thousand. MM is a thousand thousand (or a million). This has permeated EVERYTHING.

M - For million. When I see the press report that some company lost $78M (which is $78,000.00 by the way), I don't get it.

There's a bunch more. Or would that be a troop. . .

Posted by: Tyler at January 17, 2007 9:31 AM

I think "troop" is the smallest number of people required to beat up a soldier. For example, it only takes one soldier to beat up another (therefore, 1 soldier is a troop) but it takes several boy scouts to do the same.

Posted by: Derek at January 17, 2007 9:34 AM

Troop, troop, troop, troop...

Yeah, it DOES sound funny after a while.

Posted by: McStratman at January 17, 2007 9:53 AM

I actually went to a conference a few years back and they explained this. It has to do with the differences in the generations that they are trying to recruit. For the X'ers it was "Be all you can Be" because of how slack we are perceived (externally and internally). The "Army of One" is to recruit the GenY'ers who are more independant.

Posted by: matt at January 17, 2007 9:55 AM

technically you can have a boyscout troop with only one boyscout, its called a Lone Scout... its basically a program for people that live in the middle of nowhere that can't join a troop.... see: http://www.scouting.org/factsheets/02-515.html


Posted by: Michael at January 17, 2007 10:01 AM

I can't believe this has gotten so much discussion. Who cares?!

oh yeah, drjones, screw the usa and football or baseball or basketball or bowling or... whatever

Posted by: Denise at January 17, 2007 10:12 AM

1. A group or company of people, animals, or things. See Synonyms at band, flock.
2. a. A group of soldiers.
b. troops Military units; soldiers.
c. A unit of cavalry, armored vehicles, or artillery in a European army, corresponding to a platoon in the U.S. Army. e.g. F-troop, Troop 293 Fighting Tigers
3. A unit of at least five Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts under the guidance of an adult leader.
4. A great many; a lot.

1. One who serves in an army.
2. An enlisted person or a noncommissioned officer.
3. An active, loyal, or militant follower of an organization.
4. A sexually undeveloped form of certain ants and termites, having large heads and powerful jaws.
5. One of a group of honeybees that swarm in defense of a hive.

Posted by: Sethonious at January 17, 2007 10:13 AM

I think the word troop is used partially because it removes the association of a soldier's duty. If you call them soldiers, people pair that with killing and war. Calling them troops is a clever way of making it sound nicer. MAYBE

Posted by: Ryan at January 17, 2007 10:16 AM

Whether or not it's linguistically correct, the use of "troop" to refer to one person drives me up the wall. It may be a side-effect of having been a Girl Scout.

Posted by: srah at January 17, 2007 10:17 AM

"you are exactly right! it makes no sense. at all. I'm guessing that the reason behind it, is that Bush is an idiot. Now everyone else is just running with it."

You're an idiot. Do you really think that Bush was the first person to say "sending 20,000 troops..."? I suppose the breakup of Britney and K-Fed was Bush's fault too.

Posted by: Teeter at January 17, 2007 10:20 AM

We'll Be LOyal Girl Scouts?
Troop, Troop, Troooooooop. Funny.

Posted by: Ben at January 17, 2007 10:57 AM


Posted by: Zclone at January 17, 2007 11:17 AM

i find it impossible to believe that bush misused a word, therefore his definition is correct.

Posted by: mac at January 17, 2007 11:23 AM

The difference between "troops" and "soldiers" is their function. Soldiers are out in the field engaged in combat. Troops are members of the army that maybe soldiers but most likely perform support functions.

Troops do the cooking, weapons maintenance, operate the bases' movie theater, or distribute soap.

I agree we need more soldiers. More troops aren’t going to do anything. There really are only 25,000 active soldiers out of the 140,000 troops in Iraq.

Posted by: Will at January 17, 2007 11:23 AM

"Now Brush Your Teeth In A Rapid Vertical Movement Troop!" Doc from the Movie Hamburger Hill (1987)

Posted by: Pottsie at January 17, 2007 11:28 AM

We actually had a short discussion about his use of that word in my current events class last week.

Posted by: j2 at January 17, 2007 11:57 AM

I think you got your troop's mixed up.
Maybe troupe is the plural of troop?

either way i know they're both words..

Posted by: Justin at January 17, 2007 12:00 PM

Honestly, people. "Troop" is the military term least susceptible to mumbly-joe malapropisms, and is nearly mangle-proof; the ability to impose one's own verbal limitations and re-interpretations on the nation's discourse is a demonstration of uncommon cunning and raw power. Please cross-reference "war" and "victory". Also see "signing statement". All your words are belong to us!

Also, Dr. Jones, nothing your vapid CIC does or says requires a 3rd grade mentality - just credulity.

Yay Canucks!

Posted by: snickersnee at January 17, 2007 12:04 PM

I think the word he used was "troupes." According to Wikipedia a troupe is an entertainment group. 20,000 groups of entertainers seems like a lot but may be what it takes to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.

Posted by: Ken at January 17, 2007 12:09 PM

"Troop" is short for a "trooper." Its like a nickname.

Posted by: matt at January 17, 2007 12:10 PM

Must be the same as the beer v. beers dichotomy.

"I drank fourteen beer last night, and then I went home and threw up on my cat. Or maybe my mom."

"Wait a minute.. you did that after only HOW many beers? I usually get to 24 before puking on family."

Posted by: mike at January 17, 2007 12:10 PM

I didnt read through all of the posts (get so tired of Bush bashers.. grow up and get a clue).

I agree with what steve said. It didnt start with bush, the media have been using "troops" to mean 1 person for quite some time now. The topic has been brought up a few times on the talk radio programs I listen to while at work.

Posted by: Dave at January 17, 2007 12:26 PM

i think Military Wife For Years has the correct explanation. with all the military competiveness, this just makes the most sense.

as much as i hate Bush, i can't say that he misused the word. besides, do you really think he writes his own speeches?

Posted by: madi at January 17, 2007 12:39 PM

I know! I heard something about that on the radio the other day, and I was thinking that it sounded like he meant to send 20 000 groups of soldiers, but then I realized that he meant 20 000 individuals!
But as a Canadian, who am I to criticize Bush's semantics?

Posted by: Kerri B. at January 17, 2007 12:40 PM

No offense to everyone who is so desperately trying to make this out to be Bush being an idiot, but "troops" (plural) is, and has always been, synonymous with "soldiers."

The reason we don't use "soldiers" is not about being euphemistic or not upsetting people about the awful truth of war it's just that some branches of the armed forced don't traditionally refer to themselves as soldiers.

If you want to hate Bush, I think that's great, but I don't think it speaks well of the cause when you have to resort to "busting" him for "mistakes" in language usage that go back...oh, at least as far as the Federalist Papers. That type of ignorance on your part doesn't make Bush look like the dumb one.

Posted by: ACC at January 17, 2007 12:45 PM


Posted by: Ryan Barron at January 17, 2007 12:54 PM

its troupe. a troupe of girlscouts got blowed away in iraq. iits troupe.

Posted by: Matt at January 17, 2007 12:58 PM

It could be that people in today's society are too unintelligent to actually realise what people are talking about when the word "troop" is used in it's increasingly difficult to find proper meaning. I believe it's one of those things that people just say, assuming that they have the meaning right, and then the poor impressionable people that have to listen to all that balongna (often seen as baloney by a similarly stupid crowd).
Another lovely example would be the phrase, "I could care less," when in almost every case the person means that they, "COULDN'T care less." Something lost in translation over the years, I suppose... or more likely blatant ignorance.

Posted by: Ian at January 17, 2007 1:06 PM

We should totally start sending Boy Scouts and Brownies to Iraq.

Fighting the terrorists, one cookie at a time.

Posted by: FTN at January 17, 2007 1:07 PM

this has nothing to do with BUSH, goddamn, people have been toting bumper stickers saying SUPPORT OUR TROOPS and talking about the "troops" we have overseas for long before G.W. Bush was in office. I'm not a fan of his, but jesus, I'm sick of every single thing being blamed on the man's stupidity. its just as stupid of you to just ASSUME someone is a moron. It's just annoying at this point. Yes he is a shitty president and an AWFUL public speaker, but you can't blame EVERYTHING on earth on him.

Posted by: craig at January 17, 2007 1:10 PM

Can too!

Posted by: MyrnaMink at January 17, 2007 1:15 PM

Prolly already been said (I'm lazy):

Troop is sometimes used as a shortened form of Trooper.

Posted by: Surfside Graphics at January 17, 2007 2:10 PM

yeah, we can try!!

Posted by: mike at January 17, 2007 2:13 PM

Must of you are not aware of an old TV show called "F Troop." There was more than one character in the show. "F Troop" was a company of men, stationed in a Fort "Out West," to protect the settlers from the "Native Amerians."

Posted by: Russ at January 17, 2007 2:13 PM

I much agree with Paul.

Troop troop troop.

I could chortle at the word all day

Posted by: Patrick at January 17, 2007 2:22 PM

Troop is sort of a silly word. It is meant to make it more politically correct. We do that all the time in the US.

For example:
shell shock = post tramatic stress disorder
stripper = exotic dancer
bastard = single parent child
retard = developmentally challenged
fat = over wieght
racism = ethnic differences
fags = same sex relationship
murderer = serial killer
psycho = anti-social behavior
a--holes = a--holes (thank God some things never change)

Posted by: D Rho at January 17, 2007 2:25 PM

I kinda sorta agree with Craig....why are we blaming EVERYTHING on Bush? If that's the case, can I blame getting bronchitis on him? Or is he the real person I should blame for setting my microwave on fire? I demand a new microwave!

Ok,,,Troops, troops, von trapps, troops,,,I like it...does it really matter? Nope. Go about your business, ignore my babble.

Posted by: Amy at January 17, 2007 2:33 PM

I'm a former Marine. I served my time to protect freedom, and I think the whole thing over there is BULLSHIT!!

That said, I think maybe troop is used so as not to piss off the other service members. I was not a soldier, I was a Marine. Sailors and members of the Air Force feel the same way.

More political correctness?

Posted by: Michelle at January 17, 2007 3:03 PM

"Fool me once.....shame...shame on you! Fool me twice................................................................. You aint gonna fool me again!"

Another bushism?


Posted by: julia! at January 17, 2007 3:27 PM


ow my pinky hurts

Posted by: Jewels at January 17, 2007 3:55 PM

i'm shaking my head here.

are you actually trying to make sense of what the man said?
i mean, come on!!!

Posted by: G. at January 17, 2007 4:26 PM

i can give you this Marine's point of view. Soldier = in the army. Troop = Marine or army.

Posted by: derek at January 17, 2007 4:32 PM

Hahahahaha... Thanks guys, now I will never be able to not laugh everytime I hear Bush with his "troop" word... TroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroopTroop
If your pinky hurts then just copy paste a bunch of 'em... Haha

Posted by: phone at January 17, 2007 4:36 PM

Quote from some Canuck up thread : But as a Canadian, who am I to criticize Bush's semantics?

Exactly. STFU.

Posted by: Sandy at January 17, 2007 4:42 PM

How can a boyscout troop with only one scout have a circle jerk?

Posted by: david at January 17, 2007 5:11 PM

I think a trooper is one soldier. Perhaps they're just abbreviating trooper

Posted by: Andy at January 17, 2007 5:17 PM

According to the Compact Oxford English Dictionary:


• noun 1 (troops) soldiers or armed forces. 2 a unit of an armoured or cavalry division. 3 a group of three or more Scout patrols. 4 a group of people or animals of a particular kind.

• verb come or go as a group.

— PHRASES troop the colour Brit. perform the ceremony of parading a regiment’s flag along ranks of soldiers.

— ORIGIN French troupe, from Latin troppus ‘flock’.

Posted by: Joe Gioielli at January 17, 2007 5:36 PM

I have been confused by this as well. On the news you never hear, "A troop from California died in a car bombing today..." But you do hear, "A soldier...."

Are they only troops when they're alive, and soldiers when they die?

Posted by: Annette at January 17, 2007 5:40 PM

It's just a word he's using so that he doesn't have to specify branches of service. You don't call a Marine "soldier" unless you want to be lectured, at length, on how weak the Army is and the vast superiority of the Marine Corps. And if he actually sat there and said, "We need 20,000 more Marines, soldiers, sailors, and airmen," the sentence would run too long and people might actually begin to comprehend the gravity of the situation.

(FYI, there ARE sailors on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are the medics and doctors to the Marines.)

Hey, do you think they'll recall Bugs Bunny to active duty? (Yes, Bugs has an official service record. He's a WW2 veteran. And a Master Sergeant.)

Posted by: Sleepless Mama at January 17, 2007 5:58 PM

Well it sounds like many people are correct in here, if we combine their answers. A troop is a group of people under one command. Like the dictionary defines. They are usually refered to in small groups managed by 1 person being the leader. Like think of acting troop or circus troop. Even in boyscouts, there are many troups under a specific leader.

Now bush could be right by saying he is sending in 20,000 troops, but that would imply alot of people.

I think "troops" is used because it sounds smaller than saying an army of 20,000 or reinforcements. The latter two just sound negative I guess.

And lastly, I think that DBR is right in saying that the word "troops" de-personalizes the word. Most people wouldnt say they knew troops, but they would say they new soldiers.

Posted by: Dave the ninja at January 17, 2007 6:07 PM

Yep, that's it. Troops is just short for troopers, and the singular is trooper.

Also, the Boy Scouts are a Troupe, not a Troop.

Posted by: Telanis at January 17, 2007 6:17 PM

I'm a troop. And by troop I mean a member of the military. I've been in the Air Force for 10 years. The difference is only people in the Army are soldiers. I'm an Airman. Any service person is a troop.
The funny thing is the word that's pronounced troop in russian is the word for corpse.

Posted by: Angie at January 17, 2007 6:38 PM

Hey, why didn' t this conversation just grind to a halt with Melissa's 8:46 comment? Even if it's grammatically strange, it is what the people most directly involved have always said. Therefore, not really "wrong." Just like a million other gramatical weirdnesses that are now "correct" because everyone uses them:

It is I-->It's me

Drive Safely-->(on a roadsign) Drive Safe
Go Slowly-->Go Slow

If I were to say to you-->If I was to say to you (girl we couldn't get much higher...)


Language is organic, kids, "right" and "wrong" grammar are matters of consensus only.

Posted by: dawn at January 17, 2007 6:45 PM

yea, so i think "troop" is short for "troopers." i only think that because a family member would always refer to us kids as "little troopers". i think they called us that because they always put us through so much crap. so anyway, that's my expert opinion, even though i'm not really an expert on anything.

but on a different note, is it me or is bush looking more and more like a chimp every day?

Posted by: paige at January 17, 2007 6:46 PM

Well--unfortunately--this is news to me. Bush should have explained himself. I think most people think that a troop is a group of people.

Posted by: Diana at January 17, 2007 6:48 PM

Troops does not conjure up images of individual soldiers. Sending "troops" does not sound anything like sending "men".

Just like it's a "surge" instead of an "escalation".

Posted by: Matt at January 17, 2007 7:21 PM

I think it's an abbreviation for Trooper
like a storm trooper.

Posted by: medude at January 17, 2007 7:35 PM

Honestly, if you haven't noticed that people have been using troops to refer to individual people by now, you might need to read up on current events a little more Diana.

Posted by: Annette at January 17, 2007 7:53 PM

Who cares? This war is a waste of time AND money.

Posted by: rl at January 17, 2007 8:46 PM

Hey, thanks everyone for that lesson in military speak. I too was confused by the whole troop thing, but I finally get it now.

Until recently I thought "army" was a synonym for "military," which it isn't. Now I'm finding out that "soldier" isn't a generic term either...jeez.

Anyway, thanks again.

Posted by: melissa at January 17, 2007 9:06 PM

In Canada, "Trooper" means more than one, and their deployment is typically "Here For A Good Time (Not a Long Time)" in which they will likely "Raise a Little Hell".

"Who do they think they are?" you might ask and "Where did they get that car?"

Posted by: kathleen at January 17, 2007 9:08 PM

I think it's sort of like the plural of "fish." Is it "fishes" or just "fish?" I'd chalk it up to extremely frequent misuse to the point that nobody remembers how/when it changed or why.

Posted by: Niedec at January 17, 2007 9:08 PM

I have honestly thought that aloud whilst watching CNN.

Why not just say 20 thousand soldiers?


Posted by: tim brewer at January 17, 2007 9:13 PM

I could be way off base (I doubt it) but if you say 20,000 soldiers, those are people with faces, families, friends and lives they've sacrificed for our country. When you say 20,000 troops those are anonymous volunteer military members. By this point in the war that's less true, but still it's easier to say and hear troop (especially if you're the f*ed up bastard sending them over there) than soldier. Plus the more technical term leads away from the personal aspect.

Posted by: Michaela at January 17, 2007 10:13 PM

Maybe he should send in 20,000 StormTROOPers...?

Posted by: Simon at January 17, 2007 10:47 PM

Didn't Bush invent the phrase "hispanically speaking"? Of course he also invented the whole Iraq WMD thing as well. Bush is a great inventor, he comes up with all kinds of funny and not so funny stuff all the time. ;)

Posted by: HairyJuan at January 18, 2007 12:02 AM

Another thought comes to mind, G.W. Bush, is that an abreviation for Ghetto Words Bush?

Posted by: HairyJuan at January 18, 2007 12:17 AM

Actually, this came up in an argument I had years ago with a guy I was dating who had just returned from Iraq. According to him, a troop has always been the term used for a soldier. I know, I argued with him about it too, but then I realized that he was a paratrooper and I taught high school art.

Posted by: Melissa at January 18, 2007 5:16 AM

Your not crazy for questioning Bush. Hell, we all should. He is a world class idiot. I'm just thankful that I didn't ever vote for him.

Posted by: Kat at January 18, 2007 5:18 AM

They've been using "troops" to designate individuals up here in Canada for a while too. Although I think we did it to artificially inflate the number of people we actually send anywhere . . .

Posted by: Molly Ann at January 18, 2007 6:22 AM

i'm guessing it's because they're trying to keep the illusion that these aren't real people we're sending off to die. Soldier is too personal. A Soldier has a name, a family. A troop is more anonymous.

Posted by: becky at January 18, 2007 6:48 AM

You know, I have been having this argument with people for ever! "Troop" is a collective singular, meaning that a troop is a single entity that includes more than one person. NOT simply one person as the news folks, and others, have been using.

It's been driving me insane!

Posted by: Keiti at January 18, 2007 6:49 AM

I was wondering where we were getting all those people. It makes sense now that President Yosemite Sam would get it wrong. Because 20,000 troops is a crazy amout of people. Makes more sense now. Silly me, gave him too much credit.

Posted by: Megan at January 18, 2007 7:00 AM

Troops can be a plural, but it means "groups of soldiers". So it makes sense to talk about sending troops to Iraq, and it's an easy slip to talk about sending twenty-thousand troops, by misunderstanding the plural.

Posted by: cy at January 18, 2007 7:28 AM

i too wondered what was up with that. he said 20,000 and i'm imagining 20,000 individual troops of like 20-30 people.

Posted by: tricia at January 18, 2007 7:32 AM

If a troop is an entity consisting of two or more people (more than one person), 20,000 troops may mean 40,000 soldiers?

Posted by: Ambar at January 18, 2007 7:32 AM

geez people I don't think Bush is trying to depersonalize the soldiers at all. He isn't the only person on the planet to use Troop to mean soldier. sorry just getting sick of the Bush bashing..there's no draft, these military people volunteered to be in the military. the military isn't just to get a free education...get over it...
I am a little upset to learn Bush is responsible for the break of Britney and K fed.. Now I'm starting to wonder if he's responsible for James Brown dying too... I'm so glad I read thesneeze.com where else would I ever learn so much?

Posted by: kathy at January 18, 2007 7:52 AM

As a Canadian... I think we all "mis-underestimate" Bush. (Aah... another one of his famous mis-uses of common everyday screwed up English). It doesn't matter if he says "troops", "soldiers", "men and women"... none of it makes any sense. As America's neighbour, I have to tell you, we are going to Iraq with the US, making our point to support everything... whether we are fighting or not. Bush can send 20,000 troops... 100,000 soldiers... none of it is going to make any difference. Personally... get rid of Bush and make everyone a hell of a lot happier!

Posted by: CanadianGirl at January 18, 2007 7:56 AM

A "troop" came to mean "a soldier" about the same time we stopped standing "in line" and started standing "on line."

Posted by: Tami at January 18, 2007 8:32 AM

Andy Rooney and I agree!


Posted by: Matthew W at January 18, 2007 8:47 AM

This is a great question and i am full of useless knowledge. A troop, by american military standards, is a division of no less than 15 common soldiers, 1 CO, and 1 Medic. Thats a total of 17 people. So when we talk about sending 20,000 troops to Iraq we are talking about sending 340,000 people to the country.

Posted by: Josh at January 18, 2007 10:12 AM

Babylon dictionary:

troop [truːp]

n. group; pack; unit of soldiers or policemen; military unit of armored cavalry or cavalry having a headquarters group and at least two platoons; soldier

so it's a soldier too...

Posted by: Zzzbla at January 18, 2007 10:49 AM

I think it might help to send an aditional 21,500 Troupes to Iraq, they can wow them with their improv skills.

Also, I never made it all the way to Boy Scout. I was a Cub Scout, Pack 154. One day I went along to help the Boy Scouts at the charity car wash. Cub scouts were not allowed by my grandfather was the Troop Leader so I was snuck in. It was no fun, mostly because my grandfather suffered a heart attack and died...also the guy who was in mid was drove off without paying. I didn't really enjoy the Scouts after that.

Posted by: will at January 18, 2007 11:32 AM

Thank you Steve, thank you. I thought it was only me.

Posted by: Candy at January 18, 2007 12:52 PM

well, they do say an army of one you know. Maybe we should send 20,000 armies. or maybe we should suggest the slogan be changed to a troop of one.

Posted by: nick at January 18, 2007 1:14 PM

Bush is stupid. That's all.

Posted by: Erin at January 18, 2007 1:29 PM

Bush needs to get laid... By a male troop :p

Posted by: PrincessAlexandra at January 18, 2007 2:43 PM

Dude, they were calling 'em troops back in Operation Desert Storm. I don't like the term either. Nor do I like them thinking "troops" is gonna fool any of us.

Posted by: token at January 18, 2007 3:28 PM

I like pie.

Posted by: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout at January 18, 2007 4:01 PM

I like pie, too.

Is Bush still President? I've been so focused on my Bacon Wallet that I kind of lost touch with reality.

A Bacon Wallet!

Posted by: McStratman at January 18, 2007 4:25 PM


Posted by: acdc at January 18, 2007 6:24 PM

Troupe. Spelled that way makes me think of amateur comedians or mimes or something. Now that's an interesting war, huh? 20,000 mimes airlifted to Iraq? 20,000 amateur comedians or actors? I would be totally behind that. If we sent 20,000 mimes everytime a country did something we questioned? That'd scare 'em. God, I'm brilliant. Who can I pass this on to?

Posted by: Megan at January 18, 2007 6:34 PM

They've been using the word troops for a while now. Look in a American History textbook (or something like that) and you'll see that even in the times of the Civil War they (military personnel) were referred to as troops. I mean don't quote me or anything...but I'm pretty sure it's nothing new. :)

Posted by: Katie at January 18, 2007 7:52 PM

Nerd alert!

The word "troops" has been used to refer to a group of soldiers for centuries. From the OED:

1598 Barret Theor. Warres 136 Fraunce and Flanders, too full of his pencionary troupes.

1605 Shakes. Lear iv. v. 16 Our troopes set forth to morrow.

1671 Lady M. Bertie in 12th Rep. Hist. MSS. Comm. App. v. 22 My brother Peregrine and all the troopes are to show in Hide Parke beefore the Prince of Orange.

1732 T. Lediard Sethos II. viii. 143 Certain sums of money to raise troops.

1835 T. Mitchell Acharn. Aristoph. Introd. p. xvii, It was a war of native and self-paid troops against troops foreign and purchased.

1854 Cobden Speeches (1878) 319 The courage displayed by our troops.

and so on.

The singular, troop, has also been used as a collective noun for "a group of critters" for centuries. Again, the OED:

1590 Shakes. Com. Err. v. i. 81 A huge infectious troope Of pale distemperatures, and foes to life.

1658 Whole Duty Man xvii. §18 We find this sin of self~love set by the Apostle in the head of a whole troop of sins.

1794 Ld. Auckland Corr. (1862) III. 198 Lady Auckland and the troop are all in perfect health.
1812 Cary Dante, Parad. xxxi. 6 A troop of bees.

1847 Tennyson Princ. iv. 150 As flies A troop of snowy doves athwart the dusk.

Or, indeed, a troop of performers.

So troop has been living a double life for some considerable time now. So a gaggle of soldiers can be referred to either as "a troop" or as "some troops" and be perfectly consistent with the pedigree of the word.

It comes from the Latin word "troppus" meaning "flock." And lets face it, flock has much the same problem. You can have either a flock of sheep or flocks of sheep without altering the number of sheep.

The Boy Scouts define troop to have the specific meaning of a company of scouts comprising not less than three patrols of six scouts each.

Boy Scouts are dumbasses. We won't look to them for guidance.

Posted by: pjcamp at January 18, 2007 7:53 PM

Overall, it seems like a pretty subjective term. use it as you please, and you shall be fine. As long as you assert your correctness in this issue, you are correct :-)

I"ll tell you right now, that america in its present state will not have the capacity to challenge you on any grammatic or vocabularic (k i made that word up) theaters.

Posted by: jonny at January 18, 2007 9:17 PM

kathleen, that was pretty funny.

Posted by: snickersnee at January 18, 2007 11:23 PM

I find it absolutely stunning how many complete idiots are weighing in on this topic. By their comments they first obviate their ignorance of the language, then blame Bush for all the world's ills.

When you demonstrate that you are a blithering idiot, do not expect me to lend much credence to your criticism of Bush. No doubt there are a thousand reasons to hate the man; nonetheless, you have convinced me that you are not bright enough to recognize any of them. Rather, you choose to hate him for something you erroneously think to be so, without even being bright enough to recognize that you don't know.

Any literate person over the age of twelve realizes that the term "troops" has been used for centuries to designate a number of individuals serving in the military. 20,000 troops means 20,000 individuals in the military; it has always meant that, even before Bush became president!

I honestly fail to see how the sequence of letters "t-r-o-o-p-s" is any less personal than the sequence "s-o-l-d-i-e-r-s" but as a former sailor I can see the gross inaccuracy of using the word "soldier" to apply to all members of the military. I would be offended if someone referred to me as a soldier; soldiers wear fatigues and carry rifles. Sailors wear blue and white and ride around in boats. Do you recognize a difference? Not everyone going to Iraq will be infantry. "Troops" refers to soldiers, corpsmen, pilots, cryptographers, typists, cinematographers, mechanics, meteorologists, helmsmen, and supply officers. "Soldiers" refers to, well, soldiers.

If the extent of your familiarity with military tradition includes only Boy Scouts, then maybe you have no business talking about the military and you should shut the hell up. Boy Scouts are not military units, they have nothing to do with the military, and know nothing of military operations or jargon. Ever had gedunk or passed scuttlebutt? Ever seen anything noforn or been on a specop? I smurfed at Great Lakes, and I guarantee not one of you Bush-bashing geniuses knows what that even means. Isn't it ironic that you call the president stupid for using a word that is outside your 250-word vocabulary? Maybe Bush ought to dumb it down for you prepubescent imbeciles.

Posted by: petey at January 18, 2007 11:48 PM


Refreshingly eloquent and undeniably correct, but a little mean, don't you think? I mean, name-calling doesn't help--this is a comedy show!

Posted by: dawn at January 19, 2007 12:01 AM

I've been in the USAF for almost 14 years. We refer to a single military person as a troop, more than one as troops, until now. Now all supervisors are encouraged to call your troop airman. The troops would be called airmen. We can't call a young airman a kid anymore more either.

Posted by: Tokyo Slim at January 19, 2007 12:06 AM

the wikipedia definition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troop
does not tell the whole truth. Troop is one military person, regardless of branch of service.

Posted by: Tokyo Slim at January 19, 2007 12:26 AM

Do you guys think it might have anything to do with the whole "Army of One" thing?



Posted by: Jesse at January 19, 2007 12:28 AM

I too am surprised.

Mostly at how passionate one can be about the word "troop."

Posted by: McStratman at January 19, 2007 4:24 AM

what do you expect from a President who says "nucular" weapon...

Posted by: john at January 19, 2007 5:21 AM

Raise a little Hell, raise a little Hell, raise a little Hell!!

What Bush means is that they're sending in the band Trooper.

Posted by: N. at January 19, 2007 6:16 AM

Petey: I said in the first sentence of the post it was a "silly" question. (If you haven't noticed, the whole site basically is.) Relax.

Posted by: Steve at January 19, 2007 6:29 AM