The sergeant would stand inches from one’s
face and scream, “Gentlemen, you are pissing on the wheels
That simple statement is the essence of poetry; it is great
art whose canvas is the spoken word. Listen to it on a pre-dawn
autumn morn, with the grass wet from dew, and last night’s
Jack Daniels a too recent memory. Feel the sheer beauty, the
imagery, the immediate emotion that it evokes. One literally
envisions the universe as a great wheel of progressing change
and improvement being used as a urinal, and one immediately
understands that this is not a good thing. One further realizes
that a hasty response to this predicament is required in order
to preserves one’s okole. (You looked it up, didn’t
The beauty of the drill sergeant’s mantra is that it’s
but one of millions of classic quotes and criticisms that are
unique to a dynamic language spoken by those who wear the uniform
of service for this nation. There are undoubtedly scores of
volumes already assembled, on the printed page, on the Internet,
or in the minds of comrades gathered for recreational beverages.
Some of these jewels cannot be directly translated into comprehensible
form, yet all are readily understood by the tone and inflection
of voice, the throbbing temples and neck of the orator, and
the amount of saliva dispatched upon the receiver’s face
in process of receiving the message.
Though this unique language of military service is an evolving
form, a brief exploration of usage from instances in a typical
day of a service man or woman should serve to exemplify it.
It begins at “zero-dark-thirty” (really early)
with a formation (mandatory gathering of unit personnel) to
conduct PT (physical training.) The unit engages in various
physical exercises including the “side-straddle-hop” (jumping
jacks), the flutter kick, and “tummy-toe-sky.” Then
it’s off on a leisurely run, made more enjoyable by the
singing of cadence.
The singing of cadence brings up a whole new aspect of the
already unique qualities of military phrases and lingo. Whether
in sing-song form, such as running cadence, or formal commands
and statements, (such as, “pissing on the wheels of progress”),
these phrases are invariably spoken, shouted, or sung in a
deep southern drawl. This strange phenomenon is true no matter
the regional identity of the source. Even service members from
say, New York’s Bronx district, morph the speech into
something that truly has to be heard to be appreciated, if
After PT, it’s time to shower, put on your BDU’s
(Battle Dress Uniform-Fatigues) and dash to the Mess Hall (Dining
Facility) for a plate of S.O.S. ( “stuff”—you
know what I mean, don’t make me say it—on shingles,
aka, creamed beef on toast) and a cup of “Joe” (coffee.)
Then it’s off to another formation and head count, before
going to the Motor Pool to conduct a PMCS (Preventative Maintenance
Checks and Services) on your Gamma Goat (M-561 4x4 6-wheeled
truck and trailer. (You have to see one and do PMCS on one
to appreciate the beast.) By mid- morning, the “Roach
Coach” (mobile snack bar) stops by with a hearty supply
of junk food, in case the S.O.S. and cup of Joe from breakfast
weren’t filling enough.
Throughout the day, conversation runs on various topics. The
NCO’s (non-comissioned officers-seargents) gather together
to discuss how truly “ate-up” (Screwed-up, disreputable,
shabby) Private Snuffy is. If Pvt. Snuffy was really deficient,
he’d earn a distinguishing qualifier, such as, “Snuffy’s
ate-up with the dumbass.”
Meanwhile, Pvt. Snuffy’s buddies know why he’s
fallen to such a lowly state. Seems Pvt. Snuffy has received
a “Dear John letter” (a letter from his girl friend
saying she has found someone else while he’s away. A
female service member receives a “Dear Jane” letter
from back home).
And just who stole Snuffy’s girl while he was away, serving
his country? It was “Jody.” Jody is one of the
most despicable, vile creatures on God’s green earth.
He’s the good-for-nothing, opportunistic guy or girl
who steals your girl or guy while you’re away. Not only
does Jody take your girl, he assumes possession of your car
as well. Remember the singing of cadence during the PT run?
Some of that stuff was “Jody calls.”
Ain’t no use in goin’ home, Jodie’s got your
Ain’t no use in lookin’ back, Jody’s got
Damn Jody and all like him or her.
Hey, we haven’t even made it to lunchtime. But military
lingo is an ongoing process, so, until next time, “Charlie
Bravo, Sir!” (Continue the Mission.) And Hooah!