The Word "Grognard"

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The Limits of your Vocabulary are the Limits of your World

Courtesy of Alan Emrich

We frequently bandy about the term "grognard" among our fellow wargaming hobbiests. Often, online and in print publications, people have speculated about the origin of this label for veteran wargamers -- who coined this term that has been adopted as part of our hobby's lexicon, how did it get popular, and what is its root meaning? Allow me to present the real story, as told by the Dean of Board Wargaming himself, Jim Dunnigan:

"The term 'grognard,' as applied to veteran wargamers, was first coined back in the early 1970's by John Young. He was, at that time, an employee for [the board] wargame publisher SPI, and the use of the term around the office (and among the local play testers) soon led to 'grognards' being mentioned in one of SPI's magazines (Strategy & Tactics). Several hundred thousand board wargamers picked up the term from that publication and it spread to computer wargamers, as the the board wargamers (the ones with PCs, of course) were the first people to snap up computer wargames when they appeared.

"Consider this a first hand account, not an urban legend. I actually heard John Young utter it the first time and was one of the people who razzed him about it for some time thereafter. I was also the one who actually put the term into circulation in Strategy & Tactics [during my tenure there as Editor].

"Alas, John Young passed away in 1976 (or was it 77?). I can confirm that also; I was at the funeral. Now you know. . ." -- Jim Dunnigan

Grognard: a soldier of Napoleons' Old Guard; a veteran soldier; grumbler (French) - Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed

Grognard: (slang) an experienced wargamer - John Young, Strategy & Tactics magazine

Check out The Web Grognards home page

Alan Emrich is the former Strategy Games Editor at Computer Gaming World magazine, has written several computer game strategy guides, and has designed and developed several published board, card and computer games since the 1970s.