trooper vs. trouper

What a trooper!

Does this phrase look correct to you? It’s okay if it does because using trooper instead of the correct word is a very common mix up.

In the phrase above, you should use trouper instead of trooper.

A trouper is a person who is a member of a troupe (a group of performers, such as actors). A trooper is a soldier (a member of a group of troops), a police officer (such as a state trooper), or a person in a similar category of jobs.

We use trouper in the phrase above and similar phrases (such as he is such a trouper) when we refer to a person who has overcome obstacles. The popular phrase the show must go on comes from the idea that even if bad things happen (a piece of the set breaks or an actor has a sore throat), the troupe must continue with the show—lest they be pelted with tomatoes coming from angry audience members.

When you refer to someone as a trouper, you are giving him or her a compliment and saying in short that even though the s/he has had bad things happen, s/he has continued on and worked to overcome the obstacles. The show must go on.

Examples
A student who has a bad cold and still shows up to take the big test is a trouper.

A runner who stubs his toe in the middle of a marathon and keeps running is a trouper.

A dancer who falls in the middle of her big solo and continues on with the routine is a trouper.

A person who is fighting a serious illness is a trouper.

Blame it on the French
One reason for the trooper and trouper confusion is because both words come from the same root word, troupe. The Middle French language gave us the word troupe, which then meant a band of people. In the 1540s, English got troop (and thus trooper) from this word, adapting it to mean a body of soldiers. Then, in the 1820s, we began using troupe in English to mean a group of performers, a member of which is a trouper.

*I got this etymology information from a website I absolutely love, called Online Etymology Dictionary. If you ever are interested in learning the history of a word, I encourage you to visit this site for a thorough and easy-to-understand explanation.

About Erin Roof

Editor for hire. Dictionary collector. Part-time cat lady. Word nerd blogging at grammarpartyblog.com
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7 Responses to trooper vs. trouper

  1. Erin, glad you a posting again. I share your posts with my writing students often.
    Holly

  2. Great post, Erin – thanks!

  3. MichWalkden says:

    That’s it, I’m not reading your posts ever again – I keep finding out all the mistakes I’ve been making for years ;). In all seriousness I knew troupe and troop to be different but had thought being a trooper referred to the tough slough of soldiering rather than the “show must go on” origin. Thanks for clearing that up. And great to have you back.

  4. Trooper is not limited to describing a soldier. Actually I think it can be used the same as trooper as in “Edward was a real trooper during his wife’s long batter with cancer prior to her demise.”

    “We use trouper in the phrase above and similar phrases (such as he is such a trouper) when we refer to a person who has overcome obstacles. The popular phrase the show must go on comes from the idea that even if bad things happen (a piece of the set breaks or an actor has a sore throat), the troupe must continue with the show—lest they be pelted with tomatoes coming from angry audience members.”

    I agree with this assessment but if the person performs as a stoic person that has persevered like an infantryman facing great odds he has also been a trouper but the reference is military as opposed to show business and that is why trooper may be interchangeable in this instance. Actually trooper my be more accurate. Seems the term is contingent on the intent of the speaker.

    A most frequent error I see today in print and spoken media is the used of “only” as a misplaced modifier. It should be “The man sells grapes only in the fall” not “The man only sells grapes in the fall.”

    Look forward to your future posts.

  5. I would’ve agreed with you up to the moment I read this. They are, apparently, more interchangeable than I formerly thought. :)

    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/trooper-or-trouper/

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