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The French language used a variety of terms to describe the Germans around the time of the two World Wars, such as “les boches”, which appears to come from “alboche”, which appears to have been derived from “allemand”.

I've also found some other terms:

  • Chleuh
  • Doryphores
  • Fritz (Frisés, Fridolins)
  • Teutons

It is my understanding that with the exception of “Teutons”, all have fallen out of common use, and should only been considered in a historical context. Are some reserved only for soldiers, citizens, or people with German heritage? The only source I've found so far is this Wikipedia article.

In the context of the World Wars, could someone explain the different uses/contexts of these terms, also sorting them by how pejorative/offensive they are? Also, am I missing any terms?

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"Boches" and "Schleuhs" are still commonly used quite everywhere in France, both are very offensive. –  François Feugeas Aug 25 '11 at 22:10
    
BTW, there is a meta conversation related to this question: meta.french.stackexchange.com/questions/143/… –  Zoot Aug 26 '11 at 14:02
    
Boches doesn't seem more offensive to me than ritals for italians or portos for portuguese. Some french people whose origins are from these countries sometimes happen to call themselves that, or be called that by friends and don't see an offense. Warning though : this could strongly depend on location and social class also. –  Romain VALERI Jan 3 at 10:00
    
Doryphore designates any invader. In many countrysides, they refer to people from the big city nearby. –  mouviciel Jan 8 at 10:57
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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Regardons les fréquences comparées de quelques termes :

les Boches,les Chleuhs,les Teutons,les Doryphores,les Fritz,les Huns

On voit que que tous ces mots ont plus été utilisés pendant la première guerre mondiale que pendant la deuxième, et qu'ils datent de la première.

Boches est de très loin le plus utilisé. Huns désigne en général les Huns, au sens propre, et non les Allemands ; le pic dans les années 1910 montre qu'il a un peu été utilisé pour désigner les Allemands (ou peut-être les Austro-Hongrois spécifiquement, je ne sais pas), mais cela n'a pas duré (contrairement à l'anglais). Regardons d'autres moins courants :

les Chleuhs,les Doryphores,les Fritz,les Frisés,les Fridolins

On voit que Fritz était rare pendant la première guerre, et Fridolins et Frisés sont apparus pendant la seconde. Les pics de Doryphores montrent qu'il a bien été utilisé dans ce sens. Le mot « chleuh » a quelques variations orthographiques, qui apparaissent surtout après coup.

les Chleuhs,les Chleus,les Schleuhs,les Schleus

Tous ces termes sont fortement péjoratifs (pour Huns et Teutons, bien sûr, pas quand ils sont appliqués aux peuples historiques en question). En français actuel, en langage très familier, on peut quelquefois les employer boche ou chleuh sans valeur péjorative, mais c'est à éviter si on n'est pas sûr. J'ai entendu par exemple des étudiants qui parlaient de « cours de chleuh » pour un cours d'allemand dans les années 1990. Ces mots sont quasiment toujours péjoratifs s'ils désignent une personne. On peut aussi utiliser teuton, comme adjectif uniquement, sans valeur péjorative, mais c'est d'emploi très délicat.

boche,Boche,chleuh,Chleuh

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+1 Pour les saints ngrams. –  Evpok Aug 25 '11 at 22:55
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One term frequently used to talk about Germans and also people from formerly conquered territories like Alsace and Moselle is "casque à pointe".

This is generally used in a pejorative context. The term (that means helmet with a spike) refers to the traditional helmet of German and Prussian before the WW II.

See wikipedia for the helmet description.

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While doryphore, casque à pointe and vert de gris (referring to the German army's uniform colour) were used especially for soldiers, the others were used extensively by the French anti-German propaganda. Except for teutons they are all offensive and have quite a xenophobic connotation.

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Another name to describe the Germans, particularly in World War I, was "Hun."

Probably from Asia, the original Huns occupied most of central and eastern Europe, all the way to the Rhine, before being contained by a combination of Frank and Roman forces near the modern Franco-German border. Moreover, the German spiked helmet resembled the early helmets worn by the Huns.

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There is also "boulon" (bolt), "casques-à-pointe" or "Prussien" that I heard a lot during my military time (French army).

There are also some regional ones. In the Moselle department we used to slur the neighbouring Germans of Saarland with the dialectal term "Piffekopp" (Pfeiffenkopf in high german, which could be translated either to pipe head or whistle head in english) and they returned the compliment with "Wackes" (singular) or "Wackesse" (plural) which means pebbles. Don't ask me to explain the origins of these words, I never knew them.

EDIT: So the translation of Piffekopp is most certainly 'pipe head'. I completely forgot the French 'tête de pipe' which in its obsolete meaning was a slur for people with 'rough ugly heads'. This means that 'tête de pipe' could be added to our list, as the Mosellans would have probably used it in both languages.

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