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by Chuck Cordill, Military Matters associate editor

The sergeant would stand inches from one’s face and scream, “Gentlemen, you are pissing on the wheels of PROGRESS!”

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 you?)

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 not comprehended.

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 girl alone.

Ain’t no use in lookin’ back, Jody’s got your Cadillac.

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!

 

 

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