troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Nicknaming the Enemy
Rafin: It is one matter to fire at clay marks, but much another to nullify the nemesis. That's what Namon told, and he told the truth before he went to the gloried way after.
Chakotay: He was right. Killing's not easy.
Rafin: Risking my own days and nights to drive the nemesis from our sphere. That should be as easy as a long sleep.
Star Trek: Voyager, "Nemesis"

Soldiers often come up with a name for the enemy that's easy to remember, usually quicker to say than their actual name. Sometimes this is a racial or ethnic slur (and in some cases becomes such a slur); sometimes it's a cultural reference, and sometimes refers to appearance. Doing so is commonly a form of Demonization and has the effect of 'Othering' the enemy, making them seem less human, thus keeping the troops from considering the enemy's humanity, and thus making it easier for the troops to kill them. For that reason, the practice is often encouraged (or at least not discouraged) by the troops' superiors while the war's going on. In science fiction or fantasy settings, this is made even easier when the enemy is not the same species as the troops.

These designations often find a way into propaganda and slogans used to whip up civilian support for the war effort, and continued use of these terms after the war can indicate a person who lived through the war and either adopted the term as a habit of speech or is having trouble moving past those years.

A subtrope of Demonization. Compare to What Measure Is a Mook?, Fantastic Slurs, Reporting Names.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Gundam
    • Done in Mobile Suit Gundam, in which the Federation forces were termed "Fedies", and Zeon forces called "Zeeks".
    • Less creatively, the Alliance soldiers in Mobile Suit Gundam SEED are known to refer to Coordinators as "Space Monsters".
  • In Monster Rancher, Moo's minions are called "Baddies" by the protagonists. While the protagonists prefer the term "goodies" for themselves, Moo and his lieutenants dub them with the more dignified "Searchers".

    Fan Works 
  • In the Star Trek Online fic Bait and Switch, as well as in the Foundry mission it's based on, multiple characters call Orions "greenskins" or "greenies". This is lampshaded in the Foundry version after an admiral lets the slur slip out with the Token Heroic Orion in the same room, then apologizes. In the fic, Eleya also once calls the Borg "boltheads".

    Film 
  • Enemy Mine: Dracs are called "lizards" by humans.
  • Blade Runner uses the term "Skinjobs" to refer to Replicants. In the versions were Deckard is narrating, the term is implied to be used by bigots.
  • District 9's "Prawns."
  • In both the 1988 film Alien Nation and the 1989 Fox series that continued the film's storyline, the humanoid alien race is officially referred to as "Newcomers." The epithet "Slag" is used by the bigots who target them.
  • Three Kings had several soldiers discussing which nicknames for the Iraqis were appropriate and which ones were not. One particularly dim-witted soldier complains that he just can't keep it all straight.
  • In The World's End, after it's hammered in that they are not robots, the group discuss what they should call them. While "blank" is initially just a place-holder, they eventually settle on it because it fits.

    Literature 
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Humanity's main opponent was officially known as the Arachnids (or Pseudo Arachnids), but the MI called them the Bugs.
    "The historians can't seem to settle whether to call this one 'The Third Space War' (or the fourth), or whether 'The First Interstellar War' fits it better. We just call it 'The Bug War'."
    • The other opponent's official name was never mentioned, but the MI called them the Skinnies.
  • In Heinlein's Between Planets, the rebelling Venus Nationalists are called "fog-eaters" by Federation troops due to the heavy mists common on Venus and the Federation troops are called "greenies" due to their mottle green fatigues. Among themselves, the Venus guerrillas called themselves "duckfoots".
  • In both the book and the movie Black Hawk Down, the Somalians are referred to as "Skinnies" by the Rangers, as they apparently were in real life. While many assume that this refers to the malnutrition of the locals, it's actually a reference to Starship Troopers, which is a popular book among the battalion and required reading at West Point.
  • In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's Footfall, the invading aliens are called the Fithp, but humans call them Snouts because they look like baby elephants with two trunks.
  • In Horatio Hornblower Frenchmen are always referred to as Frogs, and the Spaniards are called Dagos.
  • Honor Harrington has "Manties" (Star Kingdom/Empire of Manticore), "Peeps" (People's Repubic of Haven),"Andies" (Andermani Empire), "Sillies" or "Confeds" (Silesian Confederacy), and "Sollies" (Solarian League). Haven's State Sec troopers get called Black Legs, owing to their black uniform trousers.
  • World War Z: United States soldiers referred to the undead as Zack; in the United Kingdom and Europe, they called them Zed.
  • In the Worldwar series, humans are called Big Uglies, the Race are called Lizards.
    • The Lizard's offical name for Humans is "Tosevites," after their name for Earth (Tosev 3).
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Being The Nicknamer, Harry Dresden does this with most of his enemies (and his allies tend to pick them up). Since I Know Your True Name is in effect in this universe this is actually quite a good strategy (some enemies are actually weakened by being referred to by nicknames).
    • Lampshaded with the Denarians, who Harry learned the name of before interacting with them much, and as such, never gave a nickname to (although, even then, their "official" name is "Order of the Blackened Denarius"). When they show back up, he remarks that actually calling them "Denarians" is giving them far too much credit, and asks his allies for suggested nicknames (they go with "Nickelheads").
  • The "Buggers" in Enderís Game.
    • In the Earth Unaware prequel, the Venezuelan family of Asteroid Miners who first spot the Bugger ship and see the creatures face-to-"face" label them Hormigas ("ants" in Spanish). When they transmit the data to a corporate mining ship, the first scientist to see it immediately rejects the name, as it uses a living language. She immediately reclassifies them as "Formics" (the same thing but in Latin).
  • The Mote in God's Eye:
    • The humans nickname the aliens "Moties", since its believed that the alien probe came from the star called "The Mote". Though, it's done not because they're at war, but because they didn't know what the alien's name.
    • "Outies" refers to anyone trying to fight against the Second Empire of Man.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the Rebels derisively call Imperials "Bucketheads". More often, they use the term "Imps".
    • "Yuuzhan Vong" is often shortened to "Vong" by New Republic (then Galactic Alliance) forces. Incidentally this is an insult: using just that part of the name implies the individual is without the favor of the gods. Given the circumstances, the GFFA denizens don't generally care. Meanwhile the fanbase uses "Vong" purely for the sake of convenience.
      • "Vong" is for convenience. When people want to get insulting and/or angry they refer to them as "scarheads" due to their ritual scars, which are used to mark rank.
    • Rebel pilots have several nicknames for TIE fighters: "eyeballs" for regular fighters, "squints" for Interceptors, "brights" for the Advanced models, "dupes" for Bombers, and "trips" for Defenders.
  • In the Star Carrier series Confederation military personnel call the Turusch by a variety of puns on their name, including "Tush," "Tushies," and "Trash." Their fighters are "Toads" due to looking rather like a lumpy potato.
    • Even the names "Turusch" and "H'rulka" are adopted from the Agletsch. The H'rulka, for example, call themselves "All of Us" and all the other races, who are tiny in comparison (to the point where a H'rulka in their version of a one-man fighter doesn't notice a team of SEALSnote  entering its ship), are "vermin".

    Live-Action TV 
  • M*A*S*H: both North and South Koreans are occasionally called "Gooks" by unsympathetic guest characters.
    • The North Korean pilot who tries to bomb a nearby ammo dump every day at five is nicknamed "Five O'Clock Charlie."
  • Space: Above and Beyond: The term "Chigs" were used to refer to their alien enemies.
    • Meanwhile, a Silicate agent informs the humans that the Chigs have their own unflattering nickname for the humans, which loosely translates as "Red Stink Creature" - rather close in meaning to what the humans call them. Just as we think the Chigs seem "unnatural" by Terran standards because they have green blood and smell like sulfur, by the standards of what "normal" life forms are on the Chig homeworld, our red blood and non-sulfur smell is disgusting and frightening to them.
  • Battlestar Galactica's remake has the cylons as "Toasters" or "Bulletheads". Human-form cylons are also called "skinjobs".
  • The Sirian Scary Dogmatic Aliens of V call themselves "visitors" and are referred to as "lizards".
  • Ultraviolet, a character who is a former soldier refers to Code 5's as "leeches".
  • Most of the dinosaurs in Land of the Lost were given nicknames. The local T-Rex was called Grumpy.
  • Independent-leaning characters in Firefly are known to call Alliance troops "purple-bellies".
  • In Star Trek, Cardassians are commonly called "Cardies" or "spoonheads" by their enemies, chiefly Bajorans. Cardassians in turn refer to Klingons as "foreheads".
  • In Stargate SG-1, O'Neill occasionally refers to the Goa'uld as "snake-heads". This name derives from several things. First, it's a reference to the symbiote that all Goa'uld carry in their heads. It can also be applied to the Jaffa of Apophis, whose helmets are in the shape of a snake's head, and who have a crude tattoo of a snake on their foreheads.
  • One of the primary themes in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Nemesis". Chakotay crash lands on an alien planet and finds himself among a group of desperate people fighting a jungle guerilla war against an inhuman, genocidal adversary they refer to as "beasts", but primarily "the nemesis". Chakotay is so distraught at the extent of the enemy's evil that he joins the cause. It turns out that they brainwashed Chakotay, and their nicknaming was just one of the many ways they used to dehumanize their enemy, who are actually a well-meaning people who helped rescue Chakotay from his captors. However, they refer to the jungle warriors as their "nemesis" as well, suggesting they also villify their enemy.

    Videogames 
  • In Ace Combat 5, the Oseans refer to Yuktobanians as "Yukes".
  • In Halo, the marines call the Elites "split-lips."
    • In fact, most alien names in the Halo universe fit this trope: Grunts, Jackals, Brutes, Elites, Hunters, Buggers, Grubs, and Prophets are all nicknames given by humans to refer to the separate races that compose the coalition of aliens they're at war with, or the call them covies as a whole. Even their vehicles (Ghosts, Wraiths, Banshees) are nicknamed.
  • In Fallout 3, Ghouls refer to humans as "Smoothskins." However, it's not clear whether this is necessarily a slur, as even friendly, sympathetic Ghouls refer to humans as this, sometimes even to their faces. On the other hand, when humans refer to Ghouls as "Zombies," it's definitely intended to be derogatory.
    • Ditto when Three Dog refers to the Super Mutants as "Frankensteins."
  • In the Wing Commander franchise, expect the humans to call the Kilrathi some variation of Cats or Furballs, while the Kilrathi call the humans "Hairless Apes".
  • In video games featuring a war between the United States and a resurgent Russia, the American soldiers will sometimes use the hypothetical Cold War-era nickname "Ivan" to refer to their enemies.
  • In Killzone the ISA refer to the Helghans as Higs.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Republic forces sometimes call the Sith Empire troops "Imps". Imperials, in turn, refer to their rivals as "Pubs".
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: Aliens are called either ET or X-Ray.
  • In the Left 4 Dead comic the army call the infected as Whiskey Deltas(walking dead).

    Western Animation 

    Real Life / History 
  • In World War One, the Germans were often called "Huns" by the Allies and "Fritz" by Russians.
  • Works made in (or to a lesser extent made later but set in) World War II refer to Japanese as "Japs" or "Nips" (short for Nipponese), and Germans "Krauts," though some World War One vets may still call them the "Huns;" "Jerry" was another popular term. Calling Italians "Wops" also crops up whenever writers remember the Italians were even in the war. Even officially issued documents like "Know Your PT Boat" (US Navy Bureau of Ships Technical Publication No. 9) did this.
  • The Germans had their own nicknames for the Allies: Tommy (British), Amis (Anglo-American), and Ivan (Russian).
  • During the Russian Civil War it was "redbelly" (krasnopuzy) by the White for the Red, and "whitehoof" (belokopytny) the other way round.
  • Works set in the Vietnam War will contain references to "Charlie" (from the radio callsign for Vietcong, Victor Charlie) in more or less official communiques and to 'gooks' or 'gomers' in the American troops' slang.
  • In the current wars in the Middle East, insurgents are referred to as haji's or ragheads by US Army forces, though this is being frowned upon more and more in garrison (at home).
  • During the Afghan War in the USSR, and the Chechen War in The New Russia, dukh ("spirit") or "shaytan" (Islamic devil) was used as the Russian equivalent for "haji" or "raghead".
  • Russia is usually nicknamed Ivan in wars real, hypothetical, and Cold.


Anti-MutinyMilitary and Warfare TropesNo Blood for Phlebotinum

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
32900
30