Military Slang Terms

by Tom Damron
(Plano, Texas)


I want to remind many retirees of the slang terms used by those with military service behind them. Some of the language is still used today and around the American Legion Hall you still hear it bandied about. It ended up being used both in the Military and in everyday life. Those of us who lived the terms will enjoy hearing them again. Enjoy.


Army strawberries: Prunes.

Ash can: Depth charge.

Beat your gums: To talk a lot about a topic.

Bedpan commando: Medical corpsman.

Behavior report: Letter to a girl.

Big wheel: Anyone with a little authority.

Blow it out your barracks bag: Shut up! Go to hell!

Bog-pocket: Tightwad.

Boudoir commando: Home-front hero.

Browned off: Annoyed or fed up. (Also: Brassed off.)

BTO: ’Big time operator’—someone who thinks he is important.

Bubble dancing: Dishwashing.

Cab happy: Nuts’ about driving.

Carrier pigeon: Serviceman acting as officer’s messenger.

Cornplaster commando: Infantryman.

Devil’s piano: Machine gun.

Dit happy: ’Batty’ because of copying too much radio code.

Dodo: An Air Force] cadet before he starts flying.

Gremlins: Mythical creatures who are supposed to cause trouble such as engine failure in aeroplanes, a curious piece of whimsy-whamsy in an activity so severely practical as flying. Now the gremlin seems to be extending its sphere of operations, so that the term can be applied to almost anything that inexplicably goes wrong in human affairs.

Gubbins: Used to describe almost any part of the equipment of a plane, with about the same meaning as gadget.

Egg in your beer: Too much of a good thing.

Eggs: Bombs.

Fish: Torpedos.

Flak: Abbreviated form of German word Fliegerabwehrkanone, or “pilot warding-off cannon”

French leave: AWOL.

Fruit salad: A number of campaign ribbons worn on the chest.

JANFU: Joint Army-Navy foul-up.

Juice jerker: Electrician.

Kite: Airplane. (Also, cab)

Landing gear: Legs.

Mae West: An inflatable rubber life belt that added buoyancy to the wearer’s chest. I need not enter into the anatomical details which throw light on this term

Mae West herself sent a letter to the RAF, in which she showed “delight in becoming an integral part of the English language”: “I’ve been in Who’s Who and I know what’s what, but it’ll be the first time I ever made the Dictionary.”

Mae West, meaning 2: A tank with two protuberant turrets.

Maggie’s drawers: Red flag used on rifle range to indicate a miss.

Mickey Mouse movies: Instructional films in personal hygiene.

Mitt flopper: A soldier who does favors for his superiors, or salutes unnecessarily; a ‘yes man.’

Ninety-day wonder: An officer who holds a commission by virtue of having attended a three-month course direct from civilian life

Penguin: Air Force service member who doesn’t fly.

Prang (verb): To smash or bomb a target.

Prune: An inefficient airman.

Roll up your flaps: Stop talking.

See the chaplain: Stop grousing.

Skin: A reprimand, oral or written, for a flagrant violation of Army rules.

Snap your cap: Become excited, flustered.

Sugar report: Letter from a sweetheart

Taxi up: Come here.

Tiger meat: Beef.

T.S.: Tough situation! Tough sh**t!

T.S. Slip: When a soldier’s complaints become unbearable, his listeners frequently tell him to fill out a ‘T.S. Slip’ and send it to the chaplain. See the above.

Zombie: Soldier who falls in next to lowest category in Army classification tests; see goon.

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