Over the next few posts of MILspeak I’ll share lingo from the US and a few from our comrades, with some dating back to the 18th century.
Waging war is a risky, all-encompassing endeavor physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It displays humankind at its best and at its worst, and the war fighter’s slang reflects the bitter, terrible, and inspiring all of it. A quick scan of these phrases illustrates the spectrum: disciplined bravado provides the glitz and glamour; earned camaraderie, the sincerity and warmth; irony, the realist’s edge; scorn, the punishing barb; and insistent vulgarity, a rowdy,leveling earthiness. A little verbal bravado and swagger has genuine utility. Hollywood bravado is little more than chest thumping bluster, but seasoned vets know that disciplined bravado indicates confidence and courage. Physical and moral courage and the confidence they create are essential warrior virtues. But God—or the first sergeant—help the fake macho and especially the “REMF,” “fobbit,” or “suit” who talks the talk but hasn’t walked the walk.
**NOTE: There are terms in these lists that could be considered NSFW.
- A-gang U.S. Navy The auxiliary division on board a ship or submarine, responsible for sanitary, heating/air conditioning, emergency diesels, hydraulics and assorted systems.
- ack-ack Anti-aircraft fire; flak.
- acorn boys (U.S., Civil War-era) Members of the U.S. Army’s XIV Corps, from its distinctive acorn cap badge.
- Admin vortex (British Army) A disorganized soldier.
- Admiral of the Narrow Seas (International, 18th Century) An officer who has just thrown up in the lap of his neighbor.
- Admirals eighth (RN, 18th Century) Admirals share of any booty or prize seized by his command.
- Admiralty ham (RN, circa 1900) Tinned fish.
- AFI Air Force Instruction, or derogatorily Another Fucking Inconvenience
- Ai-ee-yah (U.S.) Same as “Hooah” used in the U.S. Army 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. Based on an American Indian war cry. See also “Ie-yee-ah”
- Air bear U.S. Air Force Security or MP trooper
- Air-dale (U.K. and U.S.) Derogatory term for a pilot or aircrew
- Air Force mittens (U.S.( Front pockets of BDU pants. Also, “Army gloves.” Compare with Bundeswehr gloves, below.
- Airplane gang (U.S.) Derogatory term used to describe Airborne-designated division or brigade-level units, i.e, “82nd Airplane Gang”. Can also be shortened to simply “Airplane”
- Ali Baba (U.K, U.S.) and Iraq During the Iraq war, name for insurgents, local thieves and looters.
- Alpha Mike Foxtrot Infantry “Adios Mother Fucker” abbreviated using the phonetic alphabet. When used in garrison it is a friendly farewell. When used in combat situations it generally means that the person on the other end of the barrel is being wished a not-so-kind farewell.
- Alpha roster (U.S.) An alphabetical list by last name of all personnel within a unit.
- Aluminum U (U.S.) The U.S. Air Force Academy, so called because of the metals use in the architecture of the campus. and in aircraft.
- Amen wallah British Army, WW1 Chaplain
- Anchor Clanker U.S. Marines Reference to U.S. Navy sailors (pejorative.) (U.S. Navy) Any Chief Petty Officer, whose insignia is an anchor.
- “72s and 96s” The time (72 or 96 hours, respectively) given to a military member for liberty on holidays or special occasions.
Definition of Zulu Time or GMT
The Department of the Navy serves as the country’s official timekeeper, with the Master Clock facility at the
U.S. Naval Observatory,Washington, D.C. “Zulu” time is that which you might know as “GMT” (Greenwich Mean Time). Our natural concept of time is linked to the rotation of the earth and we define the length of the day as the 24 hours it takes the earth to spin once on its axis.
As time pieces became more accurate and communication became global, there needed to be a point from which all other world times were based. Since Great Britain was the world’s foremost maritime power when the concept of latitude and longitude came to be, the starting point for designating longitude was the “prime meridian” which is zero degrees and runs through the Royal Greenwich Observatory, in Greenwich, England, southeast of central London. As a result, when the concept of time zones was introduced, the “starting” point for calculating the different time zones was/is at the Royal Greenwich Observatory. When it is noon at the observatory, it is five hours earlier (under Standard Time) in Washington, D.C.; six hours earlier in Chicago; seven hours earlier in Denver; and, eight hours earlier in Los Angeles.