A Language of its Own

Anyone who has ever spent any time in uniform knows that the military is different than almost every profession on Earth, including the language. There is no doubt the military has its own lingo – acronyms, phrases and slang that only your brothers in arms will understand. So where did this lingo come from? Let’s take a break from the crime, politics and bothers of the day to day and explore how some GI’s long ago blabbing became today’s common communication.

It would take volumes to record and explain every military slang or phrase, if the origins could even be determined. But here are a few of the favorites, what they mean and how they came to be so popular.

SNAFU (Situation Normal, All F**KED Up!) – The meaning is obvious; a situation is bad, but as expected based on past experience. If soldiers have learned one thing it is that history repeats itself and when it does things are usually bad. While civilians may believe this is a product of Hollywood (Remember “Tango & Cash?”), sources actually contribute it to either U.S. Marines or US Army Soldiers during World War II.

slangFUBAR (F**CKED Up Beyond All Recognition) – a close relative to SNAFU, this phrase is generally an indication that bad things have gotten even worse and unlikely to get any better. Like SNAFU, this phrase is credited to soldiers of World War II and was first recorded in late 1944, and is still going strong!

BOHICA ( Bend Over, Here It Comes Again) – in the same history repeating itself theme as SNAFU, this is an indicator that something bad is coming – only now it is used as a warning and offers an opportunity to get prepared. Like so many others, this phrase is a result of disgruntled service members in a war zone – this time Airmen in Vietnam. Again, every war shares some of the same aspects, including those doing the fighting being less than happy with the situation.

Oxygen Thief – every unit has one; that member who is less than useful and does more talking than working. This is a short, to the point means of identifying them. An oxygen thief usually spends their time talking about what they could or would do rather than doing it, leaving the real work for the Meat Eaters (see below). Although the situation has existed since the first Roman Legion hit the cobblestones, most urban dictionaries credit it to the Gulf War era.

Meat Eater – just as it can describe the true predators of nature, those who hunt others to survive, this term is often used to distinguish true warriors from those who sit behind a desk or work far from the action. Over time there have been a long list of similar terms, all making the same point, but this one gained popularity during the early years of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts and quickly became most often associated with Special Ops members.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

3 thoughts on “A Language of its Own

  1. Tom,
    What about so many others! From WIMP (weak incompetent malingering pussy)to ARMY (ain’t ready for Marines yet) to JARHEAD and others?
    LT Shoe

  2. Blue Falcon? Origins of “hooah, oo-rah, hoo-yah, & whatever the Air Force says”? LPCs? Not a bad list, but you barely scratched the surface!

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