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
- 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
- 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
- ... 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
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
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.