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Slang

“It’s not slang”, you say. Maybe, maybe not. Many words we use today come from slang used in the military. Here are some I thought you’d like to know.

From the Civil War

Bummer: “man, that was a bummer. Bummer was used in the Civil War to denote deserters, stragglers and looters. Following the Army’s predilection to shorten words “Bum” came into use.

Deadbeat: From the Civil denoting anyone exempt from military action, even in uniform.

Fluke: Originally a failure or fiasco. Later used to describe a fortunate turn of events as a result of luck rather than skill or planning.

Mugger: A prisoner who preys on fellow, weaker prisoners.

Red Tape: Official orders were delivered with red ribbon tied around the packet denoted it’s official origin and importance of delivery. To do something properly you had to get past the Red Tape. As more and more regulations and orders were issued to subordinate units, these units were said to be buried in Red Tape.

Slum: Not a place but a thing. Slum was a stew made from whatever was handy. If you were sitting there eating, you were slumming. Later changed to a verb for either getting by with little effort or resources or being idle.

Smart Money: Monies paid to soldiers who were wounded. “Not smart enough to duck.” Also used to describe payment to avoid military service thereby avoiding the chance of being wounded and receiving “Smart Money”.

Tap Out: Originally a drum beat to order all lights in the camp to be extinguished. That is why the bugle which replaced the drums was called Taps. General Butterfield ordered the change and thought the soothing, slow bugle call would express the darkening camp and urge soldiers to snuggle down and sleep. Falling aslepp was therefore referred to as “Tapping Out”. Later any reason to fall from the formation was called Tapping Out.

Hooker: During the Cival War and Army in the field would be followed by it’s Supply Train and in alot of cases the families of the soldiers. The Supply Train provided a ready source for all the soldier’s needs. Fulfilling a need, prostitutes often were in the Supply Train. The Army of Union General George Hooker had an usually large contingent of prositutes and were therefore named “Hookers”. The red light district of Washington D.C. was referred to as “Hooker’s Division”.

From World War Two

Dope: Coca Cola. Someone fond of the soft drink was called a Dope Head.

Goof: Marijuana. Hence…Goof Off, Goof Ball, Goof Head and of course Goofy. Think aboout that the next time you’re at Disneyland.

Rat Race: An Aerial manuever. Also known as “Tail Chasing”. An open formation usually used in air made turbulent by the planes in front.

Shack Up: To live with a woman you are not married to. Referring to the Native Shacks on Pacific Islands werein you might find eager and willing local women.

Swing Shift: As Industry geared up to support the War an additional work force was added to the workers who went home at 4PM. These folks worked from 3PM to Midnight. The Shift from Midnight to until the Morning shift came in was called Graveyard.



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