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MilSpeak Used on the Household Net with Spouse and Dependents

adapted from Heather Sweeney, et al [Spouse Buzz (01 September 2012)] [re: Heather Sweeney is a Navy wife, mother of two children, canine caretaker, avid runner, schoolteacher and blogger]

If you've been around the military long enough, you know that slang is a large part of a servicemember's vocabulary. There's so much jargon floating around my household that most of the time I wish I had a military dictionary just to translate my husband's retelling of his day at work.

But even though I may not understand most of the lingo that comes out of his mouth, I have to admit that some of the slang my husband comes home with has become so ingrained in my psyche that I find myself regularly regurgitating certain words and phrases in my own everyday conversations. And judging from discussions with friends, status updates on Facebook, and posts written by fellow bloggers, I know I'm not the only MilSpouse to make additions to my personal dictionary thanks to the military.

The list of military slang is extensive and, at times, pretty darn funny (especially when you review it with your husband, who can offer narrative examples); but some are definitely more family friendly than others. These are a few of the expressions that work well at home.

MilSpeak Used on the Household Net with Spouse and Dependents

  • High and tight
    A visit to a base barbershop will reveal a group of grim men clutching numbered tickets who are awaiting their turn in the barber's chair. After a brief examination, you will notice that the stubble on the sides and back of their heads is so short that their scalp clearly shows through. A civilian would judge that none of these men need a haircut, but they are awaiting the opportunity to have their hair cut even shorter ... this is a high and tight hairstyle. It's normal in this milieu.

  • Bravo zulu
    A thoroughly illogical but entirely appropriate way of saying well done ... as derived from the phonetic alphabet used over the radio. It makes no sense to anyone who's not already in the know but it's so cool!

  • Old school
    This does not refer to a place, such as the hallowed ivy-covered halls of some venerable institution, but to an antiquated mind-set that's typically contrasted with the innovative attitude of the progressive new school. The old school represents hoary traditions, and doing things the same way they've always been done, which is exemplified by brave dinosaurs and tough mossbacks who see no reason to change their ways. Although respectful, this is not a compliment, and many parents are amazed to discover how utterly conservative their children are! ... having been taught something once, they tend to cling to it forever after. As in combat, shocking them out of their old ways of thinking is the only method of persuading them to try an alternative.

  • Hit the head
    This phrase is probably better than some of the alternatives that are bandied about that announce one's intention to use the restroom, but it's a little strange to hear it from a seven year old child!

  • Rack out
    This has nothing to do with moving equipment outside or torturing somebody; it simply means I'm going to bed now for some necessary sleep ... a rack is a tiered set of bunks aboard ship, but this expression can refer to any bed, from queen to cot.

  • Soup sandwich
    Kindergarten pupils think this phrase is tremendously funny when they try to imagine someone eating a sandwich filled with soup ... ironically, its utter impossibility seems to be the origin of this expression, which refers to someone or something that's beyond redemption. Things are really messed up if you have a soup sandwich on your hands.

  • Mandatory fun
    This is the requirement to make nice at a picnic or party with other people who are also required to attend ... some of whom work together, where one's social performance will be evaluated as a prerequisite for promotion. Such obligatory interaction, which any normal person would rather spend with family and friends, is probably a characterization that should be reserved for the privacy of one's own home ... asking if anyone is having fun yet is not recommended.

  • ... and a wake-up
    This is everyone's way of fudging reality: five days and a wake-up sounds so much better than six days! ... and we all imagine we're one day closer to the end of our misery ... that is before going on to our next installment of miserably inconvenient conditions.

  • Hooah / Oorah
    Nobody seems to know what this expression means except that it's the military's universal catchall term for anything good and everything positive! It's the comprehensive response to just about anything requiring abundant enthusiasm.

  • Got your six
    From the military's teamwork principle, and by reference to clock-face orientation, this is a phrase that all MilSpouses should be saying to each other in their partnership: I've got your back!

  • Zero-dark-thirty
    This is any time really, really, really early in the morning! You either have to be an enthusiastic child or a super dedicated MilPers to rise and shine at such an hour of the day! Normal people (like MilSpouses) are asleep at this time ... or they've stayed up really, really, really late at night to be somewhat awake at such an hour!

  • Roger, copy, and wilco
    Who is this Roger guy? How did he get to be so popular that everybody now claims to know him?! Actually these are radio procedure words and are very useful on the phone, in e-mail, and in text messaging. Roger is an acknowledgment, being the equivalent of a civilian saying: I've received your message and understand it. Copy indicates that the details are recorded, being the equivalent of a civilian saying: I've written it all down exactly as you gave it to me. Wilco is a contraction of will comply, being the equivalent of a civilian saying: I'll do exactly what you told me to do just as soon as I can get it done. Some of this MilSpeak shorthand is so much simpler than civilian verbiage.

  • Say again
    Although this military expression is longer than repeat, it's useful for its clarity and exactitude ... besides, the military uses repeat to mean shoot that last shot again in exactly the same way, which is nothing like: Huh? What did you say? I couldn't quite hear that clearly enough.

    This is an acronym (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again) that the MilPers sponsor brings home to his family whenever The G, that great big impersonal machine, does something awful (but predictable) to him again ... and the kids pick it up for use when they've messed-up and the Home Front is going to enforce the rules again.

  • Fugazi
    Along with all the other militarized FU acronyms (eg: SNAFU, TARFU, FUBAR, FUMTU, FUBB, etc), this essentially means that something is amazingly messed up, or that everything is amazingly fouled up ... it's so completely wrecked, so entirely out of whack that you just want to stand around and gaze at it, as if you'd been stunned by the sight of it!

  • Pipe down
    From the old days when messages were piped down from the bridge of a ship to its engine room, which required as much quiet as possible to ensure clarity, this expression invites silence ... and like at ease, a military command for a relaxed body posture that nonetheless directs one's attention to the speaker, it is so much more polite than the civilian use of shut-up! ... even if it has the same result.

  • That's a no-go
    This is MilSpeak for unacceptable or unsatisfactory ... probably from the assessment determining whether someone or something passes inspection, especially for deployment, for use in combat.

  • Move out and draw fire
    An injunction to stop dithering inconclusively (like a civilian) and take decisive action, even if it's dangerous. This admonition is often used to motivate indolent slackers ... and there's no one on earth lazier than a teenager!

  • Low quarters
    Although high ranking officers live on nob hill (sometimes called snob hill), the lower ranking enlisted members are not housed in low quarters. This is actually MilSpeak for oxford-style shoes that lace closed across the instep, to distinguish them from boots ... civilians mostly wear loafers without socks.

  • No joy
    This phrase basically admits of being unsuccessful, of being unable to complete the task or to score against the target. It's not a complaint about not having any fun, because every MIL-PERS will tell you that just going off to work everyday is more fun than most kids can imagine ... after all, they get to use really big machines and really powerful weapons and go places that nobody else gets to go! Life doesn't get more fun than that! But this simple expression (probably because it is so simple) is very attractive to family members who get to hear about what happened at work today; so we adopt it when we too want to say that we couldn't quite finish what we started or accomplish what we intended. Failure makes us sad, but we too try to remember that just doing the job is its own reward.

  • Voluntold
    This is someone whose participation has been volunteered for them, such as a mandatory volunteer at an event or a job of work. It typically refers to unpaid work or gratuitous labor provided by an amateur or non-professional who can be recruited by someone in authority ... such as enlisted members by their officers, and dependents by their sponsors.

  • Post
    Much nicer than calling the hogs, or whistling so that every dog in the neighborhood comes to dinner, this military term actually means assume your proper position or fall-in at the right place, but the kids know that this command from the Home Front means that their presence is immediately desired.

  • R & R
    This is MilSpeak for Rest and Recuperation ... it's what most people call a vacation ... except that a military style vacation is setup like a campaign, with manifests and schedules in a structured attempt at having a pleasant break from routine. Civilians, of course, do everything chaotically and so are always confused. I think the result is pretty much the same, and everyone comes home tired, with expectations for improvements on the next outing.