Esther recently finished her PhD on first world war popular culture, and now, among other pursuits, she’s turned her attention to World of Warcraft and its constructions of war and conflict. Recently she’s written about the symbolism of the Horde’s Zeppelins versus the Alliance’s sailing ships, about the tension of deforestation, colonialism and exploitation from either side, and about the implications of a military parade by one faction during a peaceful Faire. When I checked out the PvP ranks – that is, the titles you get when you score points in player-versus-player fights, so by killing players of the opposite faction – I had to laugh at the way the same symbolism is expressed here. One of the lower ranks, for instance, is “Corporal” for the Alliance and “Grunt” for the Horde. Would you like to be a Grunt? Near the top of the scale, your Horde character might be a Warlord while your Alliance equivalent is a Field Marshal. See, I might rather be a Warlord than a Field Marshal. Sure, “Warlord” is what we always call the Other side’s bosses, it’s a little derogatory, they’re primitive, really, is what we’re saying, but it also sounds a lot more fun and powerful than the repressedly WASPish Field Marshall. I know very little about the miliary, but based on my vague understandings from popular culture and a war movie or two I’m convinced all Field Marshals speak British, are deeply boring, are sticklers for rules and very picky about tidiness and orderliness.

Now I’m wishing I knew more German and French so I could see what words they’ve chosen to use in the translations.

2 thoughts on “would you be a warlord or a field marshal?

  1. Ali

    The Russian translation is interesting as well, particularly as Chechen leaders (Basayev, Maskhadov etc.) are talked about in the Russian press and by the populace as being warlords. while this is the enemy – and its ceratinly links to the tribal nature of the Chechen’s as a people – there does seem to be something definitive about the way that Russia perceives its enemies in that Marshalls are very senior officers in a formal army, but a warlord lacks that discipline.

    so prickly is this that they didn’t translate the ranks for the Russian version – just giving a rubrick making them out to be the same on either side (but if you understand enough English, you’d get what was going on…

  2. Greg

    “Marshall” is a higher rank than general in the UK, French, and German armed forces (and probably others too). But the US doesn’t have an equivalent rank (although Lee’s men used to refer to him as “Marsh Lee…”)

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