Cute as a Bouncing Betty
"Big Bertha" in action.
Military people, real
or fictional, have a macabre (and often hilarious) tendency to give cutesy nicknames to some truly nasty and often lethal hardware. This trope does for weapons what Fluffy the Terrible
and Fluffy Tamers
do for the animal kingdom, with possibly a little bit of overlap with I Call It "Vera"
To understand the significance of this trope, the "Bouncing Betty" is a buried land mine with a double charge. When it was stepped on, it had a small charge that detonated, launching it to waist height, whereupon the second charge would explode, at a minimum destroying the soldier's penis and testicles
Anime and Manga
- The "Broken Butterfly" magnum and "Matilda" automatic handgun in Resident Evil 4.
- Devil May Cry 3's "Kalina Ann" rocket launcher, used by Lady. She specifically named it after her mother, who was killed by her father Arkham for a demonic ritual of some sort.
- The "Tiny Bee" pistols used by Gunners in Final Fantasy X-2.
- From Team Fortress 2, Heavy's Sasha and Natascha, which are two mini-guns. Though it's averted with his other big guns: the Brass Beast, the Iron Curtain, and the Tomislav.
- Metal Slug features several combat vehicles with silly names. Among them are a spiked tank called "Melty Honey", a camouflaged tank known as "Bull Chan", and of course, the titular "Metal Slug" tank. The "Augenstern" is the most glaring example; it's a massive, four-legged death machine whose name is German for "my darling".
- The Trope Namer is, of course, the "Bouncing Betty". On the off chance there's actually someone here who doesn't know what a Bouncing Betty is, this article at The Other Wiki should bring you up to speed...
- Finnish name for that contraption is Hyppy-Heikki (Hopping Henry).
- Swedish servicemen famously call a similar contraption "Lille Skutt" ("little hop") after a cute cartoon rabbit from Bamse...
- Heck, Bamse itself is an anti-air missile. Considering the very explicit pacifism of both the character and the author of the comic, you can understand why Rune A. was not amused.
- Even leaving aside the character, bamse was and still is a cutesy adjective (for large).
- The Germans had a knack for this in both World Wars.
- Various artillery pieces were known as "Big Bertha" (German Dicke Bertha, literally "thick (fat) Bertha"). The most famous was perhaps the railway gun, shown at the top of this page.
- A longer-barreled but smaller-bored (relatively speaking) railway gun on the same type of mounting as the "Big Bertha" was known as Schlanke Emma ("Slender Emma").
- And the most famous (or most bizarre, depending on your point of view) German artillery piece of World War One, the Paris Gun that shelled the French capital from a range of over 70 miles (110 kilometers), was according to Ian Hogg nicknamed "Die Pariserin" by its crew—which as he points out translates into French as La Parisienne.note
- Yet another absurdly-huge German gun was called Dora.
- The 180-ton Panzerkampfwagen VII was known as the Maus ("Mouse").
- The WWII-era German self-propelled gun known as the Hummel (bumblebee) looks like this.
- Two huge German Krupp K5 railroad guns were used to defend against the Allied landing at Anzio, Italy in 1944. Their crews nicknamed them Leopold and Robert, which are men's names and only slightly cutesy... but the Allied soldiers who were taking fire from the guns called them Anzio Express and Anzio Annie.
- The current German army has a difficult time finding acceptance with the civilian population, so they avoid overly aggressive or martial names for their equipment. Combat vehicles often have names like "mongoose", "weasel", or "dingo", which are all cute animals, but also very vicious predators. For the same reason, there is the Panthera Awesome naming theme with "leopard" (the German MBT), "cheetah" (the "Gepard" Anti-Air) and the "fennek" recon vehicle.
- As well as giving the Germans a run for their money when giving cutesy nicknames to German weapons, the Allies had their own fair share of such names.
- Little Boy and Fat Man, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. The very first bomb, tested at Alamogordo, was simply called "The Gadget".
- And British tanks in the early part of WWII had some pretty cute names, too. How about the "Valentine" (because production started on Feb 14th) or the "Matilda" (which depending on which story you believe, was either named from a cartoon duck popular at the time or was actually not at all German for "victory")
- The RAF dropped 4000 lb "Cookies" on German targets throughout the war.
- ... and 12,000 lb "Tallboys".
- Seemingly Sir Barnes Wallis was a bridge player as he named the 22,000 lb bomb as Grand Slam.
- Molotov Bread Basket for the Soviet WWII cluster bomb. The Soviets, who firebombed Helsinki in 1939, claimed to just drop bread to the starving Helsinki children.
- Several variants of Russian rocket artillery were named Katyusha, which is a cutesy nickname for "Catherine" and the title of a 1938 song about a young woman waiting for her lover to return.
- The Tupolev SB-2 bomber bore the same nickname.
- This has resulted in quite a few jokes about "Katyusha walking out onto the shore" (a line from the song)... to unleash a barrage of rocket death on the enemy.
- The Germans referred to it as "Stalinorgel" which means "Stalin's Organ" (no, not that one) from the sound the rockets made and the way the rockets were mounted in a mounted in a single row of tubes, resembling a pipe organ.
- Similar to the Katyusha was the American T34 multiple rocket launcher mounted on the M4 Sherman medium tank. Dubbed "Calliope" due to the similarity between the launch tubes (60 of them) and the musical instrument.
- Cannons have been named for as long as there have been cannons. Since there was no standardization for the bore sizes, the balls and loading and cleaning equipment had to be custom-made for each cannon. Naming the cannons made it easier for the less-well-paid members of the cannon crew to fetch the right equipment.
- There is a very large medieval bombard known as Mons Meg which is kept at Edinburgh Castle. Mons refers to the location of one of the early testing sites; The Other Wiki is not entirely sure where the name Meg came from.
- A 15th-century cannon cast in Marienburg (Polish: Malbork) for the Teutonic Knights and borrowed by the Margrave of Brandenburg to crack the castles of some robber barons was called Faule Grete ("Lazy Greta").
- Humpty Dumpty (yes, the one in the nursery rhyme) was originally a cannon in the English Civil War!
- And before gunpowder, siege engines got the same sort of treatment. During the siege of Acre, King Phillip II of France famously nicknamed one of his two trebuchets "Bad Neighbor". (The other one was "God's Own Sling"; the opposing Muslim army had its counterpart, "Bad Kinsman").
- The two trebuchets even get a cameo in a mission depicting that siege in Age of Empires II.
- The very word "gun" is believed to derive from the woman's name "Gunhilda", possibly because of a large English ballista with that nickname that was built around the time gunpowder weapons were becoming common.
- Quite a number of standard words for weapons are of this type:
- A Roman boarding device used since the First Punic War was called the corvus meaning "raven" or "crow".
- Caesar mentions a type of ground obstacle used by his army in the siege of Alesia. The legionaries called them liliae ("lilies") and they consisted of a conical pit with a sharpened pole at the bottom.
- A type of Roman catapult was called the onager "wild donkey".
- During sieges, Romans would also use vineae ("vine arbours"), mobile shelters to protect soldiers approaching a defended enemy wall.
- The morning star.
- A type of (mainly) anti-cavalry barrier used from the middle ages to the advent of barbed wire is called the "cheval de frise" (literally: "Frisian horse"). In German it is called a Spanischer Reiter ("Spanish rider").
- The name of an early gunpowder weapon, the petard, is derived from the French word for "to fart".
- Grenades were called "grenades" due to their resemblance to pomegranates.
- The word "howitzer" is rooted in the Czech word for "sling", this type of artillery piece was so named by the Hussites, who were obviously thinking of the story of David and Goliath.
- Another type of artillery piece, the mortar, is named after a utensil used e. g. in the kitchen since the dawn of history.
- The word "pistol" is rooted in the Czech word for whistle.
- "Torpedo" was the name for an electric ray before the naval weapon was called after it.
- In World War 2, sailors of the German Kriegsmarine referred to torpedoes as Aale ("eels").
- A type of concrete dugout is called a "pillbox".
- The American Civil War brings us Pumpkin-Slingers (rifles with unusually heavy bullets), Donkey-Kickers (rifles that had a lot of recoil), pepperboxes (multishot pistols), wormcastles and tacks (biscuits that are stale to the point of being harder than rocks).
- Nowadays, we call that "Dwarf Bread" or cram.
- Finnish army hardtack bread is called vaneri (literally "plywood").
- Russian 18th-century howitzers were called "Unicorns".
- Russia in general has a lot of fun with this tradition. It has self-propelled artillery pieces named after flowering plants ("Acacia", "Hyacinth", "Peony"), mortars with the same naming scheme ("Tulip", "Knapweed"), an autocannon named "Ballerina", anti-tank missile "Pipsqueak", anti-ship missile "Mosquito" and, ta-dam! - mobile incendiary rocket launching system called "Buratino" (basically, Pinocchio). Unfortunately, most of these names are not used by foreign military experts, who prefer to use Reporting Names.
- There was an early-1960s era Soviet antiarmor guided missile with the NATO Reporting Name of AT-1 "Swatter," but which Russian troops nicknamed the "Shmel", or "Bumblebee".
- "Shmel" is (also?) something else altogether. Namely, a launcher of a fuel-air explosive grenade. That is, it's not tank-killing, but it creates a three-metre exploding cloud that takes out everyone in a room, regardless of their personal armor. And a wall or two.
- "Canary" is a flashless and noiseless underbarrel grenade launcher.
- One of the anti-aircraft guns used on US naval ships was a 1.1 inch quad gun nicknamed "The Chicago Piano." Prior to that, "Chicago Piano" was a nickname for the Thompson submachine gun, AKA the Tommy-gun.
- Or maybe, since the Tommy-gun is also known as "Chicago typewriter", the nickname was chosen to mean "bigger than a Tommy-gun".
- The British equivalent was called the "Pom-pom", after the noise it made when fired, with four or eight barrels to a turret.
- The suitcase that U.S. Presidents have near them at all times containing the nuclear launch codes is creepily but hilariously nicknamed "the football," and the card holding the code to open the football is called "the biscuit." (The former nickname seems to have confused the Brits who created Watchmen, as in one scene the President is shown carrying a suitcase that is literally shaped like a football.) The person carrying the "football" is often referred to as "the quarterback".
- The Russian equivalent is called just "the little nuclear suitcase" (its official name is "Cheget").
- The Dutch anti-missile system consisting of a radar commanding a GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun (yes, the exact same kind they strap planes to), is called the "Goalkeeper".
- The American equivalent, officially known as the Phalanx, is nicknamed "R2". The British equivalent, meanwhile, has the slightly less cuddly nickname of "Dalek".
- Towards the end of World War II, the Americans introduced a large air-launched rocket (11 inches in diameter, with a 148 pound explosive warhead) designed for knocking out bunkers. It was known as "Tiny Tim".
- Not an example of cute but still fitting the funny factor is the "Ontos", a six-barreled tank destroyer used by America during the Vietnam war. "Ontos" is Greek for "The thing".