Miss Penelope Dreadful (notfudge) wrote in uncommon_tongue,
Miss Penelope Dreadful

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How do you pronounce lieutenant?

RE: Why the Australian Army have “leftenants” and the Australian Navy has “lootenants”

The “lootenant” of the Australian Navy is equivalent to a higher rank in the Australian Army then their own “leftenant”. That is, the different pronunciations are used, as far as I can ascertain, to denote the differences in seniority between the ranks. Calling an Australian Navy Lieutenant, “leftenant” then, would be something like calling an Australian Army Colonel a Major. This would be both very rude, if done deliberately, and very embarrassing. You would no doubt be in a lot of trouble, especially if you were addressing them in a formal situation, as it would be a big no no in etiquette and most definitely a social faux-pas. Interestingly, my father’s (once a Lieutenant Colonel himself) copy of the “Customs of the Army” handbook says:

“65. Mode of Address. It is normal good manners to address a person by his correct title and an officer must be able to recognise the badges of rank of the other Services. It should be noted that these ranks are always used in full except that:

c. Naval Lieutenants are not called “Mister” and Lieutenant is always pronounced “L’tenant” ”

His copy of the handbook was published in 1965 “by command of the Military Board”.

All very interesting.

[Edit] An Australian Navy "Lootenant" is equivalent to an Australian Army Captain. Just in case you wanted to know. [/Edit]
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How nifty!

D'you want to borrow the handbook? I think you'd rather like it, especially since it's old enough to be quite trad British and runs through military etiquette for most situations. It may help with your nano?
That could be cool.
It's derived from the french lieu + tenant, meaning an officer left in charge of an area. Given its meaning, and the mixing of French and English in the middle ages, that's probably when the Brits started calling left-tenant (direct translation), much as they anglicised the French colonel.

In the American military, all individuals, army, navy, air force, coast guard, are loo-tenants, whereas in Britain, they're all left-tenants.

I'm not sure if the American pronunciation is a result of their opposition to the English during the Revolution and the support they received from the French, or whether its just because they were more literal in their pronunciation.

As far as the Australians go, it is a rather bizarre dichotomy. That said, I know a few Aussie naval personnel who refer to left-tenants within their own service.
That said, I know a few Aussie naval personnel who refer to left-tenants within their own service.

How odd. Have they been serving long?
(I'm trying to work out if this is a generational thing, et cetera.)
Well, the main guy I know who does it was career navy, and was a commodore, so I assume he'd likely been in 25-30 years or so.
Hrmmmm. Weird.