Talk:Turncoat

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Etymology[edit]

I think I recall that the word 'turncoat' originates from a ruse de guerre wherby soldiers are issued with uniforms that are their own country's on the inside and the enemy's uniform on the outside, for the purpose of deception. The expression turn coat comes from the act of physically turning the uniform inside out (once the soldiers have gotten to within point blank range and before opening fire).James500 (talk) 04:35, 22 November 2008 (UTC)

  • Ignore this it is wrong information, see below. James500 (talk) 14:15, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

I know that someone has incorporated this into the article, but I do not know for a fact that it is true.James500 (talk) 14:16, 6 January 2009 (UTC)

I was under the impression that the term was used mostly to describe the Americans who went to the side of the British and wore their "red coats" and fought against us. MPA 00:05, 1 February 2009 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by MPA (talkcontribs)

First use according to the OED is "1557 WOODMAN in Foxe A. & M. (1570) 2193/2, I will beleue none of you all, for you be turne coates, and chaungelinges, and be wauering minded. " which is before standard army uniforms were commonly worn. For example at the start of the English Civil War at Edgehill (1642), soldiers wore sashes/scarves to denote the side they were on. The Parliamentary forces wore Orange and the Royalists Red.[1] It is said that John Smith was able to recapture the royal standard by putting on an orange scarf and riding up to the Parliamentarian who was holding the captured Royal Standard, and snatching it from the Parliamentarian rode off with it, an act for which he was knighted.[2]. Later in the war other colours or even sprigs of green was used to identify friend and foe.[3]. Some regiments were in the same uniform (a form of livery) -- the Royalist White-coats (destroyed in a famous last stand at Battle of Marston Moor) was one such --, but it was not until the New Model Army was formed that there was an army wide uniform, and red was chosen because it was cheap.[4]
So as the phrase in English is older than army uniforms: "The English word 'turncoat' apparently originated in a ruse de guerre whereby soldiers were issued with uniforms that are their own country's on the inside and the enemy's uniform on the outside. " needs a reliable source. --PBS (talk) 22:04, 4 February 2009 (UTC)

Your Dictionary.com says that it is "from the notion of a coat worn right side out or inside out, according to circumstances".[5] I am not in a position to vouch for the reliability or otherwise of that site though. James500 (talk) 04:45, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

As a compound word it is self explanatory but that does not mean it originated as a ruse de guerre. It is a bit like the word football -- which may have originated as a name because the ball was kicked with the foot, or it may have originated as a game played on foot and not mounted on a horse -- the etymology of turncoat is not as obvious as one might think. --PBS (talk) 12:18, 5 February 2009 (UTC)

The source that I couldn't remember was Nicholas Hobbes, Essential Militaria, Atlantic Books, 2003, ISBN 1-84354-229-3 at pp. 58 - 59:

"Words and phrases of warfare ... 'turncoat': a duke of Saxony whose lands bordered on France supposedly once dressed his men in blue coats that had a white interior, one to which they could switch when he wanted them to be thought to be acting in the French interest."

I concede that this story does sound apocryphal. James500 (talk) 14:15, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

The coat being tuned at the other OED[edit]

the other OED

  • turncoat (n.) 1550s, from turn (v.) + coat (n.). Originally one who tried to hide the badge of his party or leader. The expression to turn one's coat "change principles or party" is recorded from 1560s.
  • coat of arms (n.) mid-14c., originally a tunic embroidered with heraldic arms (worn over armor, etc); see from coat (n.) + arm (n.2) and cf. Old French cote a armer. Sense transferred to the heraldic arms themselves by 1560s.