Army Speak 101

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The military world-wide has always had their own way of doing things. And this includes having their very own language.

The South African Defence Force (SADF) used a strange mixture of Afrikaans, English, slang and techno-speak that few outside of the military could hope to understand.

Some of the terms were humorous, some were clever, while others were downright crude.

Other armed forces around the world also have their own slang terms.

This article looks at just a few of these slang names and terms. Obviously we had to leave out some of the more crude and offensive terms. But I’m sure most of our readers will remember them.

Here is but a small sample of military slang.

Admin vortex (British) - A disorganised Soldier.

Admiral of the Swiss Navy (Allied Forces WWII) - A self-important person.

Agitate the gravel (Rhodesian Army) - Lets go.  Leave the place.

Air-dale (UK and US)  - Derogatory term for a pilot or aircrew.

Amen wallah (British Army) - Used during World War I to describe a Chaplain.

Archie (British) - Expression used during World War I to describe an anti-aircraft gun.

Armoured cow (Australia) - Tinned milk.

Army Banjo (Allied Forces WWII) - Shovel.  

Army Strawberries (Allied Forces WWII) - Prunes.

Army’s Lawn Dart (US) - UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter. Named for its inability to stay in the air. Also Known as a “Crash Hawk”.

Asino morto (Italian) - “Dead donkey”, term for canned ham.  

Axle Grease (Allied Forces WWII) - Butter.

Bagger (Ireland) - Derogatory term referring to an Irish reservist Soldier, comparing him/her to a sandbag, i.e.; useless.

Bait layer (Australian) - An Army cook. Refers to a person who drops poison meat to kill dingos. The are also known as a Ration Assassin.

Battery Acid (SADF) - Slang term given to concentrated cold drink that was mixed with water.  

Bayonet Course (Allied Forces WWII) - Hospital treatment for venereal diseases. “Bayonet” refers to the male member.

Beasting (British) - Punishment drill or PT.

Become a Gold Star in Mom’s Window (Allied Forces WWII) - A gentle way of saying killed in action.

Blister Mechanic (Allied Forces WWII) - Medic.

Blou Gat (SADF) - Expression used to describe a national serviceman who had reached the halfway point of his initial national service. It is an Afrikaans word literally meaning ‘blue arse’.

Bokkop (SADF) - Slang term for infantry soldier. It is derived from the Afrikaans word ‘Buck Head’. The emblem of the infantry was a Springbok’s head.

Bohica (US Navy) - Bend over, here it comes again.

Blanket-stacker (British) - Any storeman (even if he doesn’t deal with blankets).

Bleu (France) - A recruit. Derived from the French term for barely-cooked steak, symbolizing a “raw” recruit.

Blue on blue contact (UK and US) - A friendly fire incident.  

Body Snatcher (Allied Forces WWII) - Stretcher bearer.

Boomer (US Navy) - A nuclear ballistic missile submarine, or personnel serving aboard same.

Boozer (Australian) - Pub or Bar on an Army Base.

Bottled Sunshine (Allied Forces WWII) - Beer.

Bowl us the ages ek se (Rhodesian Army) - What is the time?

Box 500 (British) - The nickname given by the SAS to MI5. Their official address is PO Box 500, London.

Brake Shoes (SADF) - Slang term used to describe Provita Biscuits.

Brass (Worldwide) - Top ranking officers.

Bravo Zulu (Worldwide navies) - Well done.

Brown Navy (SADF) - A term used to describe the South African Navy’s Marines. They wore the normal brown uniform of the SADF, as opposed to the ‘blue navy’ who were the seafaring element of the navy.

Bundu (Rhodesian Army) - The bush, the countryside.

Bungalow Bill (SADF) - When troops lived in a bungalow or dormitory one of them would often be put in charge. Although this troop usually had no rank he was known as the Bungalow Bill.

Canned Morale (Allied Forces WWII) - A movie.

Canteen medals (Australian) - Beer or food stains on the breast of a shirt or jacket.

Charles (US) - Nickname for the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. Shortened from the phonetic alphabet Victor Charles for VC.

Cherry (US) - New recruit still in basic training.

Chibuli (Rhodesian Army) - Beer.

Chicken Parade (SADF) - Basically a clean up of an area, picking up papers, cigarette butts, and general refuse. In the navy this was known as ‘skirmishing’.

Civvie sitrep (Rhodesian Army) - News on the commercial radio.

Clutch Plate (SADF) - Slang term given to hamburger patties.

Craphat (British) - Used by members of the parachute regiment to denote what they class as lesser regiments. Taken from the fact that they wear the coveted Maroon beret that no-one else wears.

Culling  (Rhodesian Army) -  Killing the enemy.

Dad (Allied Forces WWII) - The oldest member of a group.

Dart thrower (Australian) - A member of the Australian Intelligence Corps. Refers to the perceived method of identifying compounds/areas of interest for future operations, usually conducted eyes-shut with non-master hand to ensure statistically random results.

Devil Dodger, Siel Tiffie (SADF) - Slang term for a padre, chaplain or priest.

Dicker (British) - A look out, usually used to describe an enemy. A friendly look out is a stag.

Dirt dart (Australian) - Paratrooper.

Dirty Gertie of Bizerte (Allied Forces WWII) - A promiscuous woman.

Doss bag (British) - Sleeping bag.

Egyptian PT (British) - Sleeping, particularly during the day. Probably dates from WW2 or before.

Elephant Virgin (SADF) - Slang term given to slices of polony.

Engine Mountings (SADF) - Slang term given to tinned braised Steak.

Flat dog (Rhodesian Army) - Crocodile.

Fish and Chips (British) - Slang term for urban warfare (Fighting in someone’s house, causing havoc in people’s streets).

Fitter and turner (SADF) - Nickname for a chef, because he fits food into a pot and turns it into sh*t.

Flossie (SADF) - Slang term for the Hercules C-130 transport aircraft.

Freds (Rhodesian Army) – Frelimo. Mozambique Army.

Gimpy (British) - The L7A2 GPMG 7.62x61mm belt-fed general purpose machine gun.

Glasshouse, the (British) - Military prison.

Go Kart (SADF) - Slang term used for a twenty-man toilet. These were fibreglass toilet shells which were placed over a hole dug in the ground. They were mounted on wheels for easy movement.  

God (British) - The Regimental Sergeant Major.

Gomos (Rhodesian Army) - Hills.

Gong (British) - A campaign medal.

Green slime (British) - Army intelligence personnel.

GV (SADF) - A term used for someone who was very enthusiastic. It was short for the Afrikaans Grens Vegter or ‘border fighter’.

Gypo (SADF) - Used as a term for avoiding work. A person that was lazy was known as a gypo gat.

Gypo Guts (SADF) - Slang term for diarrhoea.

Hondo (Rhodesian Army) – War, conflict (Shona).

Houding (SADF) - An Afrikaans word meaning ‘attitude’.

Interflora (SADF) - Derogatory term for a member of the Signals Corp. Their emblem of the winged figure of Mercury was also used by the national florists, Interflora.

Jimmy (SADF) - Slang term for signaller.

Jol (SADF) - An Afrikaans slang expression for a party.

Jollie patrollie (SADF) - Used to denote any excursion or activity regarded as fun. Literal translation means ‘jolly patrol’.

K-Car (Rhodesian Army) - Nickname given to an Alouette III helicopter armed with twin FN-MAG light machine guns. The K stood for ‘kill’.

Katunda (Rhodesian Army) - Personal kit.

Kettenhunde (German WW II) - Military Police, named for the chain and badge they wore as a symbol of their duties.

Lemon (Rhodesian Army) - Nothing there.  Normally used to describe an operation or patrol which produced nothing.

Long (Rhodesian Army) - Many / much / a lot.

Min Dae (SADF) - Afrikaans expression meaning ‘few days’. This was used by troops who had only a short time before they completed their military service.

Min Dae Chips (SADF) - Slang term for Cornflakes (breakfast cereal).  

MMWC (Rhodesian Army) - The leader / person in charge.  (Main man what counts).

Mujiba (Rhodesian Army) – Young insurgent supporter, their ‘eyes and ears’(Shona).

Muti - (Rhodesian Army) - Medicine of any description.

Mushi (Rhodesian Army) - Really nice / good.

Noddy Car (SADF) - Slang expression for an Eland-60 armoured car.

Numpty (Australian) - An individual who just doesn’t get it

Olifant Skilfers (SADF) - Slang term for Cornflakes (breakfast cereal). It is an Afrikaans expression meaning ‘elephant dandruff’.

Ou Man (SADF) - Term used for a troop who only had a short time left of his national service. It is Afrikaans for ‘old man’.

PB’s (SADF) - Term for local population. From the Afrikaans ‘plaaslike bevolking’.  

Pineapple (Allied Forces WWII) - A hand grenade.

Pongo (SADF) - Slang for members of the army. Refers to the often unavailability of washing facilities. The expression; “Everywhere the army goes, the pong goes,” was the origin of this.

Put your slayer onto sing (Rhodesian Army) - Put your LMG/rifle on automatic.  

Retread (Allied Forces WWII) - A veteran of World War I fighting in World War II.

Rofie (SADF) - Term used for a new recruit. It comes from the Afrikaans word meaning ‘scab’.

Santa Maria (SADF) - SADF issued underpants. Hardly ever worn by the troops but rather used to polish floors or boots.

Screw (Australian) - Corporal.

Shrapnel (SADF) - Slang term for tinned mixed Vegetables.

Shumba (Rhodesian Army) - Lion Lager. From the Shona word for Lion.

Skrapnel hoender (SADF) - Term used to describe a meal consisting of shredded chicken. It is an Afrikaans expression meaning shrapnel chicken.

Sleeve trash (Australian) - NCOs. They wear their rank on their sleeve as opposed to officers who wear theirs on their shoulder.

Slot (Rhodesian Army)- To kill.

Sniffel tiffy (SADF) - Member of the Intelligence Corps. From the Afrikaans ‘sniffing mechanic’.

Staaldak (SADF) - Afrikaans term for the helmet that was issued to SADF troops. It was hardly ever referred to as a steel helmet though. Even the English speaking people would refer to it as a staaldak.

Stay frosty (US) - Regular term among Soldiers to both stay calm and stay alert.

Suurstof dief (SADF) - Derogatory term for those in non-combatant roles. Afrikaans expression meaning ‘oxygen thief’.

Tab (British) - To march quickly with full pack and rifle. Used by the British Army.

Tampax Tiffy (SADF) - Slang term for a medic.

Taxi’s (SADF) - Cloths or strips of blankets which were wrapped around your boots so as not to dirty the floor.

Throw some sky into my rounds (Rhodesian Army) - Put air in the tyres of a vehicle.

Tiffy (SADF) - Mechanic or member of the Technical Services Corps.

Tit’s up (British) - To be dead, lying on your back with your chest facing skyward, hence Tits-Up.

Tommy (German WW II) - British soldier.

Tommy cooker (German WW II) - German nickname for the American Sherman tank.

TTL (Rhodesian Army) – Tribal Trust Land.

Tubbin (Australian) - Thumb Up Bum, Brain In Neutral.

Varkpan (SADF) - Slang term for the tray on which food was sometimes served. It is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘pig pan’.

Vasbyt (SADF) - Afrikaans term meaning ‘bite fast’. It was used to encourage each other.

Vleisbom (SADF) - Derogatory term used to describe parabats (paratroopers), usually by non-parabats. Afrikaans term meaning ‘meat bomb’.

Vindaloos (British) - Fireproof underwear used by the SAS.

Vorster Orrel (SADF) - Nickname for the Valkiri 127 mm multiple rocket launcher. It refers to the late President John Vorster. The feared Soviet equivalent was nicknamed the ‘Stalin Organ’.

White Gold (SADF) - Slang expression for toilet paper.

Wombles (Rhodesian Army) - Police Special Reserve. Middle aged volunteers who patrolled the urban areas.

Yomp (British) - To march quickly with full pack and rifle. Used by the Royal Marines.

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