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Author Topic: Is "Napoleon Complex" a misnomer? (long and rant-like)
RoyalNoneSuch
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I am a 5'4" tall guy. Eventually, whenever in life I end up in a position of authority over anyone else, someone eventually jokes to me that I must have a Napoleon complex. This happened in the military, when I worked in the credit card industry...even when I was 17 and trained new employees how to work the cash register at McDonald's!

This usually irritates me because it seems when a taller male achieves a higher position, it is because he is a natural leader, but when a shorter male does the same, he must be trying to compensate. (I don't know if this works the same for females.)

The other day I fell asleep with either the History or Discovery Channel (or some such channel) on, and in the middle of the night I half heard a promotion for a documentary about Napoleon Bonaparte where they mentioned that he was actually 5'7", taller than the average Frenchman of the time. The commercial said (I think) that he was called,"The Little Corporal," because of his low rank in the military, not because of his stature. Apparently, Hollywood eventually took the nickname to mean he was a short man, and always portrayed him as being very small and power hungry in order to compensate for his height, thus the term, "Napoleon complex."

Can anyone verify this, or point me to a link that verifies this? I would love to have this fact, if it is a fact, to throw back at someone the next time I am told I have a Napoleon complex, but I want to know that I didn't dream it first!

(I am not asking anyone to do my research for me, I just don't know where to start, so if you know something about this off the top of your head I would appreciate it.)

[ 15. September 2005, 06:27 PM:   snopes ]

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B Hamilton
Xboxing Day


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I found another source:
http://ask.yahoo.com/20030724.html
"Here's how the tall tale of Napoleon's short stature got started...

After the famous general and emperor died in 1821, his body was autopsied in France, and his height was noted as 5 foot 2 inches. This measurement was in French feet (pieds de roi) and was never correctly converted to standard English measure. In English feet, Napoleon stood 5 foot 6.5 inches tall. So the poor guy was shorted a full 4.5 inches in height.

In his day, 5'6.5" was a perfectly respectable, nothing-to-be-ashamed-of height for a man. In fact, Napoleon was actually slightly taller than the average Frenchman of 1800."

I don't know how accurate the article is but it did have some links verifying the info. Hopefully someone else can give a little more info.

--------------------
"This is my family. I found it all on my own. It's little & broken but still good."

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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I looked into this a couple of weeks ago and there is a lot of speculation as to how he became labeled as short:

- The mixup in understanding French measurements as mentioned above.

- His nicname the Little Corporal, which it is my understanding is a mis-translation of a french term indicating that he was well liked by his underlings.

- He mostly hung out with the elite French military guard (can't remember their official name) who were all taller than average.

- He wore a hat without plummage or such so the top of his hat was always lower than his peers.

That all said, call it what you will I have seen men with Napoleans' complex. Being short myself I've been accused of having it and was even nicknamed Napolean when I worked at the empire.

Beach...it was a name I wore proudly...Life!

--------------------
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Jack Dragon, On Being a Dragon
Confessions of a Dragon's scribe
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lawguy
We Three Blings


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Well, so as not to be historically inaccurate, I just say:

"Short Man's Complex"

law "how's the weather down there?" guy

[Wink]

--------------------
"I've argued in front of every judge in this state, often as a lawyer."

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lawguy
We Three Blings


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Randy Newman said best- waffles

--------------------
"I've argued in front of every judge in this state, often as a lawyer."

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Major D. Saster
The First USA Noel


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quote:

- He mostly hung out with the elite French military guard (can't remember their official name) who were all taller than average.

It was called "la Guarde Impériale". Its soldiers were actually chosen among the tallest and strongest men (like the famous "langen Kerls" (tall fellows) of king Frederic of Prussia's Grenadiers Guard), but above all because of their adamant loyalty to the emperor (to quote their commander general Cambronne at Waterloo : "La Guarde meurt et ne se rend pas" - the guard dies, but never surrenders - other say he simply shouted "merde !" to the British who offered him to surrender).

However, they were also nicknamed "Les Grognards" (the Grumblers), because it is said they always complained, but they marched anyway.

--------------------
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lawguy
We Three Blings


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All soldiers complain...it's tradition!

--------------------
"I've argued in front of every judge in this state, often as a lawyer."

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BeachLife
The Bills of St. Mary's


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quote:
Originally posted by Major D. Saster:
quote:

- He mostly hung out with the elite French military guard (can't remember their official name) who were all taller than average.

It was called "la Guarde Impériale". Its soldiers were actually chosen among the tallest and strongest men (like the famous "langen Kerls" (tall fellows) of king Frederic of Prussia's Grenadiers Guard), but above all because of their adamant loyalty to the emperor (to quote their commander general Cambronne at Waterloo : "La Guarde meurt et ne se rend pas" - the guard dies, but never surrenders - other say he simply shouted "merde !" to the British who offered him to surrender)....
Thanks for filling in the blanks.

--------------------
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Jack Dragon, On Being a Dragon
Confessions of a Dragon's scribe
Diary of my Heart Surgery

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GravyTrain
We Three Blings


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His nicname the Little Corporal, which it is my understanding is a mis-translation of a french term indicating that he was well liked by his underlings.

As I always explain it to my friends, "little" here is a term of endearment, as in Gilligan being "Little Buddy".

Napoleon was a very stoic leader. He didn't "put himself" above his soldiers, having been one himself. His understanding of a soldier's nature was most certainly the source of many of his successes. It was in every way a sign of respect.

However, I always understood "Napoleon Complex" to be someone that thought the whole world was out to get him, and as a result, was angry and confrontational with just about everyone.

GT.

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Linden
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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quote:

In his day, 5'6.5" was a perfectly respectable, nothing-to-be-ashamed-of height for a man. In fact, Napoleon was actually slightly taller than the average Frenchman of 1800."

It's misleading to take average figures on this sort of thing, because the majority of Frenchman of Napoleon's age had not received good nutrition during their childhood. So although Napoleon might have been taller than the average Frenchman, he was short compared with others from his relatively well-fed background.

I have a suspicion that he was conscious of this. In a large number of his portraits, he is either standing alone with no one to compare with him, or he's on something (a horse, for example).

In the famous painting of his coronation
http://www.millikin.edu/history/202/images/napoleoncoronation.jpg
he's up several steps from a kneeling Josephine, and there's nobody near him who can match his height.

--------------------
Yours, &c

Linden

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RubyMoon
Deck the Malls


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I always thought of Napoleon complex as those short bosses who make all the noise trying to get attention, as opposed to bosses who just supervise and let you get your work done.

Sort of like chiuahuas compared to Labs.

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