Small Wars Journal

Mad Dog, as in ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis: The Colorful History of a Great American Nickname

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 9:22am

Mad Dog, as in ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis: The Colorful History of a Great American Nickname by Ben Guarino, Washington Post

On Thursday, at a post-election victory rally in Cincinnati, President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick for secretary of defense.

“We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis as our secretary of defense,” Trump said, as The Washington Post reported.

The Mad Dog in question was retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, who for more than 40 years served in the Marine Corps. The 66-year-old general, called a “warrior monk” by his peers for his depth of knowledge and lack of family — he never married — is also known to turn a memorable phrase, including: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

And if the nickname Mad Dog gives you pause, well, the retired general does not like it much either, according to NBC. (For his part, Trump seems fond of it, also using the name in his sole tweet about Mattis.)

[Trump picks retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for secretary of defense]

The nickname stuck to Mattis following the second battle of Fallujah, the hardest fight of the Iraq War. Here’s the Los Angeles Times, in a profile about the “confident, jaunty” general in April 2004, a few months before the battle: “Behind his back, troops call him ‘Mad Dog Mattis,’ high praise in Marine culture.”

A 1990 study of nicknames among 175 teenagers concluded that references to “strength, largeness, hardness, and maturity are typical of male nicknames,” listing “Mad-dog” as a masculine name along with “Bear Chaser, Billy Boy, Dave Atlas, Deerlegs, Dick …. Druggy Dougie, The Fox, GL Jim, Harpo” and “Lips.”…

Read on.