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A 'orrible shower of ....? Scum of the earth!

Posted by Lewis on June 02, 2003

In Reply to: A 'orrible shower posted by Shae on May 30, 2003

: : : : : Can you perhaps enlighten me as to what a "'orrible shower" is. It is in the context of the military as in 'You lot are a 'orrible shower. Get around the parade ground in full kit double quick time.' I have never seen it in my nearly forty years of life and have encountered it twice in the last few weeks. Not even my two hefty volumes of the Shorter Oxford are of anyassistance. Perhaps the brothers Fowler objected massively to dropped aithces.

: : : : It was certainly used widely by the Drill Instructors, and others, when I was doing my National Service in the 1950s. I think it came from the concept that the new recruits were as fresh and innocent as a recent shower (of rain). If they didn't quickly learn to march properly, then they were the subject of such verbal abuse.
: : : : I also remember "Airman, did you shave this morning?". 'Yes, corporal". "well, stand closer to the razor next time!"
: : : : A particularly graphic phrase was: "Swing those arms, airman. If not, I'll pull them out at the socket and beat you over the head with the soggy ends!!"

: : : 'Shower' is used in Ireland to describe a group of people, usually in a derogatory fashion. 'Ye're a right shower of eejits (idiots)!' 'That shower? They're about as useful as a chocolate teapot!'

: : From Eric Partridge, "A Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":

: : "'what a shower!' and 'it's showery!' The latter derived from the former and was an RAF saying, current during the approx. period mid 1930s to late 1940s.
: : But 'what a shower!' arose, c. 1919, in the army, as an insult hurled at the members of another unit; later --in the RAF too -- it would be directed at, e.g., an intake of recruits. . . . It has survived among civilians, and indeed I heard it used so late as 26 Feb. 1975.
: : The shower is popularly --and prob. correctly --explained as elliptical for 'a shower of sh*t'."

: Another example came to mind this evening. Several years ago, the trade union representing science and technology workers in Britain and Ireland was ASTMS. It amalgamated with another union and became the Manufacturing, Science and Financial union - MSF. A librarian friend who was chairperson of the local branch was somewhat digruntled about the amalgamation and described MSF as a 'Miserable Shower of F*ckers.'

"Shower" was often used instead of "shower of s h i t". Each drill instructor/sergeant or sergeant-major was lumbered with a particular random batch of raw recruits (privates) and it would be easy to understand why the sergeants felt like that crap was being showered upon them each time a new draft arrived. The responsibility of turning unwilling conscripts into a disciplined military unit couldn't be easy : if they failed, then "out there" those mistakes would cost lives.

I reckon you can excuse drill sergeants using such language.

When you read military history, or even contemporary politics, you can see how an army with discipline can overcome a more numerous enemy and avoid unnecessary conflict with non-combatants. Just look at either the contemporary experiences of the various allied forces in Iraq or back to the Peninsula War between the Allies (Spanish, Portugese & British) and the Napoleonic French - I believe the French lost more troops to guerrilla action from disgruntled natives than in major battles - mainly down to discipline.

Brings us back to Wellington commenting on the British Army - "The scum of the earth, but see what fine fellows we have made of them!"