AS you one or two long time readers will recall, I am a history buff and along with that I love etymoly, the history or words. Of course I am also a pilot so imagine my delight at discovering the origin of the word "aviator"...I had no idea how ancient the word really was!
The word, "Aviator" all started with the great leader Phu Khen (pronounced Foo Ken) 1169-?. He is considered by some to be the most under-recognized military officer in history. Many have never heard of his contributions to modern military warfare.
In the military structure of the Mongol hordes a 'Khen' was a subordinate to a 'Khan' (pronounced 'konn'). Khan is Turkish for leader. Most know of the great Genghis Khan but little has been written of his chain of command.
Khen is also of Turkish origin. Although there is not a word in English that adequately conveys the meaning, roughly translated, it means, "One who will do the impossible, while appearing unprepared and complaining incessantly." Phu Khen was one of ten Khens that headed the divisions or groups of hordes, as they were known, of the Mongol Army.
His abilities came to light during the Mongols' raids on the Turkestan city of Bohica. Bohicans were fierce warriors and the city was very well fortified. The entire city was protected by huge walls and the hordes were at a standoff with the Bohicans. Bohica was well stocked and it would be very expensive to wait them out.
So Genghis Khan assembled his Khens and ordered each of them to develop a plan for penetrating the defenses of Bohica. Operation Achieve Victory (AV) was born. All 10 division Khen’s submitted their plan. After reviewing AV plans 1 thru 7 and finding them all unworkable or ridiculous, Genghis Khan was understandably upset.
So it was with much perspiration that Phu Khen submitted his idea, which came to be known as AV 8. Upon seeing AV 8, Genghis Khan was convinced this was the perfect plan and gave his immediate approval.
The plan was beautifully simple. Phu Khen would arm his hordes to the teeth, load them into catapults and hurl them over the wall. The losses were expected to be high but hey, hordes were cheap! Those that survived the flight would engage the enemy in combat. And, those that did not? Well, surely their flailing bodies would cause some damage so win-win!
The plan worked and the Bohicans were defeated.
From that day on, whenever the Mongol Army encountered an insurmountable enemy, Genghis Khan would give the order, "Send some of Phu Khen's AV 8-ers." This is believed to be the true origin of the word Aviator (AV 8-ER).
Phu Khen's AV 8-ers were understandably an unruly mob, not likely to be socially acceptable. Many were heavy drinkers and insomniacs. However, when nothing else would do, you could always count on an AV 8-ER. A Phu Khen Aviator to be precise.
Denied, perhaps rightfully so, his place in history, Phu Khen has been, nonetheless, immortalized in prose. As the great poet Norman Lear never once said:
There once was a man named Phu Khen,
Whose breakfast was whiskey and gin.
When e'er he'd fly,
He'd give a mighty war cry- "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again."
Consider it an honor to be a Phu Khen Aviator. Wear the mantle proudly, but speak of it cautiously. It is not always popular to be one of us. You hear mystical references, often-hushed whispers, to 'those Phu Khen Aviators.' Do not let these things bother you. As with any exclusive group in a society we go largely misunderstood and we are prohibited by our own apathy from explaining ourselves. You are expected to always live down to the reputation of the Phu Khen Aviator...a reputation cultivated for centuries, undaunted by scorn or ridicule, unhindered by progress.