The Origins of “Sutler.”
Submitted by D. Alec Kopitzkem
The following comes from Merriam-Webster’s
sutler \SUT-ler\ (noun): a civilian provisioner to an army post often with a shop
on the post.
Example sentence: “The sutler who provides our company’s provisions wants a whole dollar for a can of peaches,” Ben wrote to his wife, “so I guess we enlisted men will have to be content with hardtack and jerky, though my mouth is watering for your peach cobbler.”
Did you know?
When Shakespeare used “sutler” in Henry V (around 1599), the word was quite new to English. British citizens likely learned it from Dutch traders and military personnel; it is adapted from the Dutch “soeteler,” which meant about the same thing as our modern term. Even then,
sutlers weren’t usually the most popular fellows in a military camp, as a further look at the word’s history reveals. The Dutch adopted “soeteler” from a Low German word meaning “sloppy worker,” and it traces to an even older verb that meant “to do sloppy work” or “to dirty.” Perhaps the snide designation was inspired by the fact that the traditional sutler followed troops and sold them supplies at hugely inflated prices.
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