Monday, August 28, 2006


[When a general just won't do.]
A generalissimo is a commissioned officer of the highest rank; the word is often translated as "Supreme Commander" or "Commander in Chief". It is an Italian superlative substantive, which grammatically would actually be disallowed in Italian (superlatives can be made with adjectives only). When used as a noun, the correct sense is "General of the highest degree" (or commander in chief of the entire armed forces of a specific country); as an adjective, the closest English form is "most general," but the concept is best expressed by the grammatically incorrect expression "most generalest." The term "Generalissimo" in English has come to refer to a kind of ruler who has ascended to that position by a military coup. In most developed English-speaking countries, the term commonly evokes the image of corrupt dictatorships and so-called "banana republics."

The dictator Francisco Franco, Chief of State of the Spanish State, also held the title Generalísimo de los Ejércitos Españoles, or "Generalissimo of the Spanish Armies", a title which expressed his supreme command of the Army, Navy, and Air Force of the Spanish State.

Chiang Kai-shek also used the term (although he was technically a general special class or "five-star general") as did Joseph Stalin; the latter, however, was appointed to the position on June 27, 1945, at the conclusion of World War II and did not use it as a title to designate his position of commander in chief, but rather bore it as a title of rank, Generalissimo of the Soviet Union, above the rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union. The Japanese title of Shogun is in a way comparable to that of generalissimo.


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