Send in the cavalry! We need to help this area in its search and rescue effort.
We heard that you were understaffed, so here comes the cavalry!
November 11 is Veteran’s Day in the United States, so as usual, I wanted to look at a phrase that pertains to the military. This one is a two-for, because while “Send in the cavalry” and “Here comes the cavalry” may be sentences used in the same situation, there is a slight difference in the connotation. Also, the first saying is easier to understand — at least immediate.
What Does ‘Here Comes the Cavalry’ Mean?
Let’s first consider what someone means when they say, “Send in the cavalry.” Of course, a cavalry in its original sense refers to an army unit of soldiers mounted on horses. The cavalry was often called in as the decisive factor in a battle.
Nowadays, most modern armies don’t rely on horses because technology practically rendered that type of fighting obsolete (Granatstein). However, the U.S. Army still uses horses, mostly for ceremonial purposes, but horses were used in Afghanistan (Ingersoll). In most cases, a cavalry may now refer to a mobile army unit that may use vehicles and helicopters in combat. The word cavalry might also refer to an army unit that can be deployed quickly.
Also consider this: Soldiers aren’t only deployed to fight in wars. In many cases, they are called upon to help during natural disasters. For example, the Florida National Guard was called in to help in the relief efforts after Hurricane Michael and the U.S. Army’s 153rd Cavalry Regiment was among the relief workers (Vann).
In those types of scenarios, the cavalry is sent in to help people or other military units. Thus, when someone says, “Send in the cavalry,” they may be literally referring to a military unit. The phrase is also used metaphorically, so the person making the imperative statement is asking for others to help. For example, in one post in January 2018, there was a call for artists to donate to the Cultural Weekly, an online magazine that serves as a nonprofit.
When someone says, “Here comes the cavalry,” that person may have expected someone else or a group of people to their aid. Alternatively, the speaker may be part of the group aiding someone else. The point is: Someone needs of help and that help is assuredly coming.
When Was the Phrase ‘Send in the Cavalry’ First Used?
It’s hard to say, but my guess is that the phrase soon developed after the word cavalry was in used. How old is the word, though?
In a post for Owlcation, Jeff Berndt shared some information about five commonly misspoken and misspelled words and phrases. Among the phrases was “Here comes the cavalry.” As he pointed out, cavalry comes from the word cavalier, which in turn came from the work chivalry, which refers to knighthood. Cheval (the French word for horse) is the root word for chivalry.
When I looked up the word cavalry, I found that it might have first surfaced in the English language as early as 1546 (according to the Merriam-Webster). According to the entry at the Online Etymology Dictionary, cavalry may have surfaced around 1590 because cavalier was around 1580.
The phrase “Here comes the cavalry” might have first been popularized by a 20-minute Western by the same name. Old American westerns generally had tropes that included the damsel in distress. When the damsel or the hero was in dire straits because of a group of bandits or Indians, that’s the time for the cavalry troop to come in and save him/her.
Did You Know?
The words cavalry and calvary are often mixed up, in terms of spelling and pronunciation. This was noted by an article on Merriam-Webster and that post by Berndt.
Calvary is the Latin name for the hill outside Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified. The Aramaic name for that hill, as it is in the Gospels, is written as Golgatha. The C in Calvary is capitalized when referring to the hill (as it is a proper noun); a lower-case c is used when referring to depictions of the crucifixion. Calvary can also refer to a painful experience, so make sure you don’t get these words mixed up.
Berndt, Jeff. “You’re Saying It Wrong II: Another Five Commonly Misspoken (and Misspelled) Words and Phrases.” Owlcation. 3 Aug 2018. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://owlcation.com/humanities/Youre-Saying-it-Wrong-II-Another-Five-Commonly-Misspoken-and-Misspelled-Words-and-Phrases>.
“Cavalry | Definition of Cavalry by Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cavalry>.
“Calvary | Definition of Calvary by Merriam-Webster.” Merriam-Webster. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calvary>.
“cavalry – Dictionary Definition.” Vocabulary.com. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/cavalry>.
“Do You Send in the ‘Cavalry’ or the ‘Calvary’?” <https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/cavalry-or-calvary>. Merriam-Webster. Web. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
Granatstein, J.L. “The First World War brought the end of cavalry and the advent of the tank.” Maclean’s. Rogers Media. 6 Nov 2018. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/the-first-world-war-brought-the-end-of-cavalry-and-the-advent-of-the-tank/>.
Grapes, Jack. “Send in the Cavalry!” Cultural Weekly. 4 Jan 2017. Web Magazine. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.culturalweekly.com/send-in-the-cavalry/>.
Harper, Douglas. “cavalier | Origin and meaning of cavalier by Online Etymology Dictionary.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.etymonline.com/word/cavalier?ref=etymonline_crossreference#etymonline_v_8302>.
Harper, Douglas. “cavalry | Origin and meaning of cavalry by Online Etymology Dictionary.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.etymonline.com/word/cavalry#etymonline_v_8303>.
Ingersoll, Geoffrey. Here’s The Reason Why The Military Still Has Horses and Bayonets.” Business Insider. 23 Oct 2012. Web. Retrieved 11 November 2018. <https://www.businessinsider.com/lets-not-forget-the-reasons-why-the-military-still-has-horses-and-bayonets-2012-10>.
Vann, Christopher (U.S. Army Staff Sgt.). “Send in the Calvary.” United States Army. 13 Oct 2018. Web. Retrieved 11 Nov 2018. <https://www.army.mil/article/212407/send_in_the_calvary>.