What’s In a Name?

13 01 2011

I know some folks who get hacked off when they’re referred to as “buffs”.  I guess I have a different take on it.  I think anyone with more than a passing interest in the Civil War is a “Civil War Buff”.  Think sets and subsets.  “Buff” is a general term to me.  Kind of like “Asian” or “Oriental”.  To paraphrase Jane Curtin as Pat Nixon, “Not all Asians are Chinese, but all Chinese are Asians”.  So we can start with the universe of Civil War Buff and break it down further from there.  I think I fall into the universe, but in the subset of “student” I guess, or maybe just “studier” as “student” might imply I have some definite goal in mind.  Other subsets might include “historian” – as I’ve said before in my mind that’s someone with an advanced history degree.  And of course you may fall into more than one subset – “author” is one I place myself in because I do write about Civil War subjects, both here and for compensation elsewhere.  So in my mind James McPherson is a Civil War historian, former teacher, author and yes, buff.  So for all of you who rail against being called a buff, just say “don’t lump me in with guys like McPherson, Catton, Freeman, and Harsh.  I’m SERIOUS!”

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10 responses

13 01 2011
Jeffry Burden

Yeah, I’m one of those who’s never liked the term “buff.” I find that it’s used by some people to denote a sort of self-absorbed dabbler, the kind of person who will listen to an authentic expert in the field, then use Q&A time to show off how much he himself knows, rather than seek insights from the speaker (and we all know people like that). It’s use is a way for non-students of the Woah to chuckle and dismiss those with an evident interest as not to be taken entirely seriously. I’m fine with “student”, but that’s just me…

13 01 2011
Harry Smeltzer

I see – so since the term has been given negative conotation by outsiders, we should drop its use entirely. Like the battle flag ;-)

By the way, I know those guys on tours of whom you speak. It seems to me they are folks who are either at early stages of the learning curve, or incurable buttholes.

13 01 2011
Jeffry Burden

“…we should drop its use entirely.”

No, not at all – self-absorbed dabblers should feel free to keep on using the term. :-)

13 01 2011
Harry Smeltzer

So who should feel free to keep using the Battle Flag as a symbol?

13 01 2011
Jeffry Burden

Well…self-absorbed dabblers, for a start. After that, I suppose anyone whose desire to display it is greater than their reluctance to offend some others.

13 01 2011
Susan Evelyn McDowell Cole

Everyone has a different reason and a different approach to the Civil War. Since I have a biology degree and come from the McDowell and Connor families, I like to look at medical stuff and genealogies. I also like to look at different points of view. I am no expert on military tactics but I will read books on military tactics and try to learn from them.

Its all about being being willing to learn from our history.

Susan Evelyn McDowell Cole

13 01 2011

I pondered this a while ago. I really don’t like the term “buff” but I don’t know why. Perhaps it seems almost like a put-down when used by people who do not like the Civil War – almost like a generalization akin to calling us Civil War geeks or something like that. I don’t know why, but that’s the kind of connotation that term has to me.

I thought about the term “enthusiast” but that’s kind of generic and isn’t really better than buff. I am learning about the war, so “student” may apply, but I’m in no formal educational program.(Then again, I may be learning more now than I ever did in class.)

I’m certainly no historian, author, re-enactor or expert of any sort/

So, after all that, maybe “buff” it is.

14 01 2011
Michael C. Hardy

I find that people often use the term as a means of introduction – I get “So I heard you were a Civil War buff”. I usually tell them that I probably passed buff stage some time ago, that my interest in 19th century American history is probably at the obsessive level and that I probably need to seek some sort of medical help. They usually laugh and then launch into whatever they are interested in.

14 01 2011
Harry Smeltzer

I used to do the same thing. Now I just say “yes”. It saves a lot of time for both of us and a lot of effort on my part.

23 01 2011
Dick Stanley

It used to annoy me. I stopped worrying about it. So many things to do, so little time.

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