Mayor, the chief executive official or the head, usually elected, of a city, village, or town, has the same Latin root magnus meaning greater or superior, its pronunciation was borrowed from maire. Captain would have been more apt for the first citizen of a city, except that the term had already been commandeered for military and police use.
Brigade, at the source of the military rank brigadier, is one of those quirky set of words whose meaning go back to Italian briga 'strife, quarrel'. It is not clear where the noun briga came from; what is known is that it led to the verb brigare 'brawl, fight' from which, in turn, came the noun brigata. Brigata originally meant simply 'crowd or gang of people' but soon developed the special sense of 'troops or a military company', which is the focus of this column.
The present participle of the Italian verb evolved as brigand in English, meaning an armed thief, especially one of a group living in the countryside and stealing from people travelling through the area. Its diminutive was the source of brigantine, abbreviated in the 18th century to brig for a fighting ship with two masts and large square sails. A statement such as 'A brig backed by a cavalry brigade was sent out to arrest the brigand' should appear a contradiction in terms because it uses three nouns stemming from the same root, but is not.
Brigade traditionally meant an army unit smaller than a division, but now means a military unit or a large group of soldiers in an army that can vary in size from country to country. They were 600 who rode into the valley of death at the battle of Balaklava in the poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade". The eulogy by Alfred Tennyson (1809–1892), of course, failed to mention that the British had no business meddling in the Crimean War.
In armies structured after British military, a brigadier is commonly a brigade's commanding officer, that is, a general officer ranking below a major general. But brigadier was also a non-commissioned rank in the Napoleonic armies. In modern French, a brigadier may mean a corporal, a sergeant or a foreman, their term for the military officer is 'général de brigade.' In U.S. Army, a brigadier general informally is a brigadier, and one that comes to mind is Elizabeth P Hoisington, the highest-ranking officer in Women's Army Corps, who reportedly said "If I had learned to type, I never would have made brigadier general."
Other than its use to denote a type of military unit, the term can be used for a group of people organised for special activity (a rescue brigade) or a group of people who have the same beliefs (the anti-nuclear brigade) or share an enthusiasm for a particular practice (the anti-smoking brigade). In many Commonwealth countries, including India, the fire service or the fire department is called the fire brigade. The bucket brigade is a line of persons formed to extinguish a fire by passing on buckets of water quickly from a distant source. Many readers of the column would know about St. John's Ambulance Brigade.
Marshal, the title used for the highest ranking office in the armed forces of some countries, had a humble-sounding beginning. The German marahsclac, meaning 'keeper of the king's horses' became marechal in French and marshal in English, having been adopted by the French as the title for a high-ranking general of the armies when cavalry became important in warfare.
Field Marshal, of which India has had only two, is one notch above. The Americans decided not to use the rank of field marshal because George Washington only held the rank of lieutenant-general, and it was, therefore, considered inappropriate to have a higher rank. It is said that during World War II George Marshal was considered for one rank above general, but was made General of the Armies because making him a marshal would have turned his name into Marshal Marshal. Curiously, the U.S. General Douglas MacArthur was a field marshal, but only in the Philippines. Joseph Stalin (in his last days) and Benito Mussolini held the god-like title of generalissimo, a superlative of generale, meaning the commander-in-chief of the armed forces
The name for the servant in charge of the royal mares came to be used in various ways: make ready for action or use as in 'marshal resources', place in proper ranks as in 'marshal the troops', arrange in logical order as in 'marshal facts or arguments'. In certain countries, a marshal is a law officer having duties similar to those of a sheriff or a bailiff in carrying out the judgments of a court of law.
(The Literary Review)
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