Thursday, Dec 01, 2022

Are you a jingoist? Say no

‘Jingo’ was first used in a song popular in England at a time British imperialism was at its height.

A word with a negative connotation that has made it to news and opinion columns with some frequency in the current politically surcharged atmosphere in the country is ‘jingoism’. A search, however, led to the discovery of an interesting etymology. It comes from ‘jingo’, a political term synonymous with chauvinist.

‘Jingo’ was first used in a song popular in England at a time British imperialism was at its height. The song went something like this:

“We don’t want to fight, yet by jingo, if we do,

We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, and got the money too.”

Subscriber Only Stories
JK Cement’s SPSU Udaipur Launches ‘Golden Batch 2022’ In Collaboration Wi...Premium
Appendicitis in Children- A new lifestyle disorderPremium
Using evidence will create strong foundations for the future of education...Premium
Re-Defining The Tradition In Folk Art: An Art Educator’s PerspectivePremium

It was composed in 1878 when British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli sent his country’s fleet into the Black Sea to protect Turkey from encroachment by Russia and is attributed to one G W Hunt. So, a ‘jingo’ is an extreme and aggressive patriot. ‘Jingoistic’ is the adjective form and ‘jingoism’ the abstract noun. A ‘jingoist’ is someone who supports a belligerent policy against other countries. He is a ‘war hawk’.

The expression ‘war hawk’ was first used in 1812 for a group of members of the US Congress who advocated war against England to annex Canada. In fact, the nationalistic fervour and anti-British sentiment whipped up by the war hawks was a contributing cause to the War of 1812. Hawks (short for war hawks) and warmongers are just opposite of ‘doves’, who would call for peace negotiations rather than an armed confrontation.

‘Chauvinism’ too has an interesting history behind it. In contemporary English, it is the shorthand for ‘male chauvinism’. A ‘chauvinist’ is therefore a man who strongly believes in the superiority of the male gender, a notion obviously misguided. The word, however, in the early days of its foray into the English lexicon meant extreme patriotism and blind enthusiasm for military glory.


It was coined after the name of a character in the French play ‘La Cocarde tricolore’ written by the Cogniard brothers. The character was inspired by the life and time of Nicolas Chauvin, a soldier in Napoleon’s army. Exaggerated patriotism displayed by Chauvin following the downfall of his master is believed to have invited much ridicule for him. The young Chauvin, one in the play, sang couplets expressing national supremacy and military glory.

First published on: 14-03-2016 at 09:59:29 am
Next Story

BSE Sensex edges up 86 points to hit six-week high

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments