As much as we support the Second Amendment and the brave, patriotic men and women who serve our country to protect our freedoms, keeping up with and understanding military lingo can be quite daunting.
Every industry, hobby, sport, and society has its own particular jargon. We all are familiar with catchphrases and acronyms used in every-day life. Our armed forces are no different, and in fact, are more dependent on this verbal shorthand than most.
This brief article will offer some insight into this concept and a few examples of some of the more interesting entries.
No matter how many war movies we watch, understanding the communications that our real-life heroes employ is often a challenge. Some of the terms are relatively straightforward, others not so much. But to the trained ear, these communications speak volumes in seconds.
When prompt, precise, unified action is required, the swiftest route to understanding is a crucial tactic as it is in military efforts.
While some military jargon is common to all branches, each has its own specific terms and meanings for their particular needs. The terminology of previous conflicts is updated for new technology, equipment, strategies, and, most of all, new generations.
Military jargon is nothing new; it has been around since before the time of Rome. For instance, during the Revolutionary War, the term “Georgia Parole,” referring to the practice of killing enemy soldiers instead of taking prisoners, became popular with the colonial militia.
On the other side of the musket, the British coined the phrase “Yankee Peas,” describing the practice of American militias adding buckshot when loading their musket balls to cause further injury.
Likewise, the Civil War created some interesting military terms which have become part of America’s vocabulary. The exclamation “Great Scott” refers to General Winfield Scott. Many Civil War terms were sarcastic while, at the same time, reflecting reality, much the same as today. One of our favorites, Dog Robber, was a familiar reference to the company cook.
Every conflict and each generation of technology and troops adopt new acronyms and jargon to fit the times and their needs. Much of this military jargon eventually finds its way into every-day use.
Virtually every American is familiar with the Military Phonetic Alphabet created to ensure accurate communications. You always want to be clear, or you might get a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot in response. There are many more examples like “Klicks” for kilometers and the dreaded “Dear John” letter.
We all know what boot camp is, but do you know where the term originated? Sailors wore leggings known as boots during the Spanish-American War, which soon came to describe Navy or Marine recruits trained in boot camp.
Today, you might stand around the water cooler and get the latest scuttlebutt. Back in the day, the scuttlebutt was the water cooler, or more accurately, barrel. Then, as it is now, the scuttlebutt was where you caught up on the latest gossip.
In 1965, the hit song “Down in the Boondocks” by Billy Joel Royal climbed into the top 10 of the Billboard 100. The term boondocks was adapted from the local word for mountains by American personnel serving in the Philippines during World War II to describe the region’s untamed areas.
Much of military slang is created by soldiers for soldiers. The warrior’s life requires personal sacrifice and is often more tedious than exciting. Slang terms such as “… like a soup sandwich” or “snafu” are guarded references to upper-level incompetence.
Terms like voluntold and mandatory fun are self-explanatory.
Modern-day military actions in the Middle East necessitate more new military jargon to fit this unique environment and activity. The term Ali Baba describes an Iraqi bad guy. Angel refers to a soldier killed in combat. And, death blossom is a reference to the indiscriminate fire by Iraqi forces when attacked.
In closing, we would like to leave you with this little salutation and exercise. To those familiar with military jargon, this will make complete sense (we hope). As for the rest of you, try deciphering or do a bit of research to understand the meaning of this warrior speak.
Whenever you are involved in a Charlie Foxtrot, and someone orders you to beat your face, you will need to embrace the suck until it is time to pop smoke, and you can return to your fourth point of contact.
Until next time,
HOOOAH, or is it HOORAH