A Guide to GI Slang image

A Guide to GI Slang

This article presents a list of contemporary glossary of US Army slang terms prepared by the United States War Department Bureau of Public Relations in 1941.

Slang has always been popular with troops of a military organisation, and contemporary GI slang terms have been popularised by film and television productions in recent years. Some examples of usage have been dramatised for the purposes of the production however, and this has inevitably seen their use spread into the living history world.

The following glossary has been taken from Volume 16, Number 3 of American Speech (October 1941), a journal published by the US War Department Bureau of Public Relations. The orignal article is titled Glossary of Army Slang, and it can be used to enhance first-person impressions, and is also useful when referencing first-hand accounts from veterans.

Term Meaning
AA Anti-Aircraft
A.B. Area bird; cadet walking punishing tours in area of barracks
ACK-ACK Machine gun
A.F. Audio frequencies (Signal Corps)
Albatross Chicken
Armored Cow Canned milk
Army Banjo Shovel
Army Brat Son or daughter of Army Officer
Army Strawberries Prunes
AT Anti-tank
Augustine Cadet who enters Military Academy in August (West Point)
AWOL Absent without officel leave
B.A. Busted aristocrat; Cadet Officer reduced to ranks (West Point)
Baby Mustard
B-ache Complaint, or to complain
Bad time Time spent in guardhouse, which must be made up
Bail out Parachute jump from plane
Barker Heavy artillery gun
Barracks 13 Guardhouse
Bathtub Motorcycle sidecar
Battery acid Coffee
B.C.L. Broadcast listener (Signal Corps)
Beam, flying the iron Pilot following railroad track
Beam, flying the wet Pilot following river
Beam, riding the To pretend innocence; to look at ceiling (Flying Cadets)
Bean gun Rolling kitchen
Beans Commissary Officer
Beast New cadet (West Point)
Beast barracks Period of elemtary training for new cadets (West Point)
Behavior Report Letter to a girl
Belly robber Mess Sergeant
Bend the throttle To fly plane or drive vehicle above normal speed
Bible Army Regulations
Big John Recruit
Bird dogging Lower classman dancing with upper classman's girl (Flying Cadets)
Biscuit gun Imaginery appliance for shooting food up to pilots who are having difficulty in landing (Flying Cadets)
B.J. Before June; applied to 'plebes' lacking in respect for upperclassmen (West Point)
Black strap Coffee
Black Wednesday Calisthenics with rifles (Flying Cadets)
Blase Fresh; indifferent to correction (West Point)
Blind A fine imposed by court-martial
Blind flying A date with girl you have never seen
Blisterfoot Infantryman
Blitz it Polish something
Blitz wagon, or Buggy Staff Car
Blitzes Air patrols
Blow your top, to Vocal loss of temper
Board fight Recitation in which problems are worked out at blackboards (West Point)
Bob-tail Dishonorable discharge
Bog-pocket Tightwad
Bone To study or strive for something
Boodle Candy, cake, ice cream, etc. (West Point)
Boodle fight Any party at which boodle is served
Bootleg Coffee
Boudoir Squad Tent
Bowlegs Cavalrymen
Brace Exaggerated position of attention
Brass Empty cartridge shells
Brass Hats GHQ Officer; Staff Officer
Brass pounder Radio telegrapher (Signal Corps)
Bread Sergeant Mine Planter, dining room orderly
Bruss An exaggerated brace (Flying Cadets)
B.S. British Science; prolonged discussion (West Point)
Bubble dancing Dishwashing
Bucking Extra attention to personal appearance when competing for higher rank or favors
Bucking Extra attention to personal appearance when competing for higher rank or favors
Bucking for section 8 Seeking discharge for military ineptitude (not grounds for dishonorable discharge)
Buddy seat Motorcycle sidecar
Bug Speed key on transmitter (Signal Corps)
Bug Instrument recording performance in Link Trainer (Air Corps)
Bugle To avoid reciting by standing at blackboard until end of period (West Point)
Bugs Any solids found in soup
Built-in head wind Implication that plane designer has intentionally lowered its cruising speed (Flying Cadets)
Bull pen Military prison yard
Bully beef Tinned Corned Beef
Bunk fatigue To sleep or rest
Bunk flying Talking aviation in barracks (Air Corps)
Bunkie Close friend, or one who shares same shelter
Burn and turn Game of blackjack
Busted Reduced in rank
Butch Medical officer
Butt Cigarette
Butt Remainder; as ‘butt of the month.’ (West Point)
Button chopper Laundry
Button up To close a tank (Armored Force)
Buttoned up Orders carried out
Buzzing a town To do the town; in Air Corps, to fly over it
Cans Headphones (Signal Corps)
Canteen soldier One who wears non-regulation clothing or insignia
Captain of the head Latrine orderly on Mine Planter
Care boy Driver of tank (Armored Force)
Carrier pigeon Officer’s messenger
Carrying a heavy load Fatigued or melancholy
Cathead kid Soldier guarding a mine cable over the cathead (Mine Planters)
China clipper Dishwasher
Chinese landing One Wing Low (Air Corps)
Chow hounds Men always at head of mess line
Class 'A' pass Reward for efficiency and good conduct; permits absence at all times when not on duty
Class 'B' pass Permits absence between retreat and reveille
Clutch, slipping the Criticising
CO (KO) Commanding officer
Cock pit fog Mentally lost
Coffee cooler One who seeks easy jobs
Cold Without error (West Point)
Comb it Detailed inspection of a tank
Commissaries Groceries
Company punishment Punishment fixed by company commander
Company stooge Company clerk
Con Confinement to quarters (West Point)
Copenhagen Chewing snuff
Cosmolines Artillery
Country club Randolph Field
Cousin Close friend
Cow Member of Second Class, third year at Military Academy (West Point)
CP Command post
Crawl To admonish
Cross bar hotel Guard House
Crow tracks Chevrons
Crumb hunt Kitchen inspection
D Deficient (West Point)
Daily bulletin Orders issued to regiment by regimental commander
Daily details Daily work schedule issued by 1st Sergeant
Dawn patrolling To arise before reveille
Day room Recreation room
Deadlined Vehicle laid up for repairs
Deck monkeys Deck crew of Army Mine Planter
Decode To explain
Demo (pronounced 'deemo') A demerit (West Point)
Devil's piano Machine gun
Diddie bag Where soldier keeps valuables
Dihedral oil Imaginary substance which recruits are sent to procure (Air Corps)
Ding how Everything O. K.
Dis Discipline (West Point)
Dit da artist Radio operator
Dodo Flying Cadet who has not yet made a solo flight
Dog robber Orderly
Dog tags Identification disks
Dogface Enlisted man
Dog show Foot inspection
Doodle bug Reconnaissance car, or tank
Dopes off Acts stupidly
Doughboy Infantryman
Dough puncher Army baker
Doowhistle See Ducrot
Doowillie See Ducrot
Downhill Second half of enlistment
D.P. Dining permit (West Point)
Drag Equivalent to date; also, to apply water and shoe polish to a newly appointed cadet officer (West Point)
Drive it in the hangar Stop bunk flying
Drive up Come here
Dry run To practice; a dress rehearsal
DS Detached service; away from organization
D.T. Double time
Dual A flight with instructor; a date with chaperone (Flying Cadets)
Ducrot Anything the name of which is not known; applied to all plebes, as ‘Mr. Ducrot.’ (West Point)
Dud Unexploded shell
Duff Any sweet edible
Duffle bag Clothes bag
Dumbflicket See Ducrot
Dumbguard See Ducrot
Dumbjohn See Ducrot
Dx man Radio operator interested in contacting amateurs in foreign countries and distant places
Egg in your beer Too much of a good thing
Elephant Cadet taking dancing lessons (West Point)
Engineer Cadet in top academic sections (West Point)
Ether Radio telephone (Signal Corps)
Fat friends Balloons
Fatigue Work detail
Fatigues Work clothes
F.D. Full dress
Fess A failure (West Point)
File Waste basket
Fileboner One striving to get ahead (West Point)
Find To discharge a cadet for failure in studies or conduct (West Point)
First grader Master Sergeant
First man First Sergeant
Flanker A tall person (West Point)
Flash gun Machine gun used for training
Flower pot Plane Power Turret (Air Corps)
Flying boxcar A bomber
Flying Chinese One wing high-other wing low (Air Corps)
Foot locker A barracks truck
Foot slogger An Infantryman
Foundation Day on which list of those to be dismissed is published - See find (West Point)
Foundling A dismissed cadet (West Point)
Foxhole Pit dug by a soldier, a one- man trench
French leave Unauthorized absence
Freshman A recruit
Fried egg Insignia of U. S. Military Academy
Frog sticker A bayonet
Funeral glide Plane out of control (Flying Cadets)
G-2 Inquisitiveness
Galvanized gelding Tank
Garrison shoes Army dress shoes
Gas house Saloon or beer garden
Gas house gang Chemical Warfare instructors
Gasoline cow boy Member of Armored Force
Gear Radio equipment (Signal Corps)
Geese Bombers in formation
General's car A wheelbarrow
Get eager To strive to the utmost
G.I. Government issue
G.I. Haircut One-inch trim
G.I. Hop or G.I. Struggle Dance held on the Post
G.I. sky pilot Chaplain
G.I. war Maneuver
Gig Unfavorable report
Gig getter A rifle which, in spite of all efforts at cleaning, fails to pass inspection
Glamour boy Draftee, Selective Service trainee
Gnome Member of second battalion; see runt (West Point)
Goat Junior officer in post, regiment, etc
Goaty Awkward, ignorant
Going up To take off (Air Corps)
Gold brick One who gets by without doing his share of work
Gold-fish Salmon
Goofs off Makes a mistake
Goon Soldier who falls in lowest category in Army classification. - See Zombie
Grandma Low gear. See Rachael
Gravel agitator Infantryman
Grease monkey Air mechanic's assistant
Grey ghost The stage Commander's airplane, so named because it is the last plane one rides in before being washed out (Air Corps Training Centers)
Gross See wooden (West Point)
Growley Tomato ketchup; to blush (West Point)
Grunt Electrician's helper (Signal Corps)
Guard house lawyer A person who knows little but talks much about regulations, military law, and 'soldier's rights.'
Gun To gun anything is to have the waiter get it (Flying Cadets)
Halt and freeze Assume position of attention
Ham Amateur radio operator
Ham shack Amateur radio station or building
Hard rolled Packaged cigarettes
Hashburner Cook
Hash mark A service stripe
Hedge hop Short flight
Hell buggy Tank
Hell cadets Field musicians; drummers and buglers (West Point)
Herdbound Soldier or animal unfit for further military duty
High freq, or U. H. F. Ultra high frequency bands above 30 me (Signal Corps)
Hit the silk Use a parachute
Hitch An enlistment period
Hive To discover, to catch
Hivey Quick to learn (West Point)
Hob Provost Marshal
Holy flaw An expression of extreme surprise, disgust, or joy (Air Corps)
Homing device A pass or furlough
Hooks Chevrons
Hypo happy Interested in photography
IC Inspected and condemned
In the field Campaigning against an enemy under actual or assumed conditions
Iron horses Tanks
Iron ponies Motorcycles
Jackson Form of address for any soldier
Jawbone Credit. To buy without money. To shoot a weapon over a qualification course when it doesn’t count for record
Jeep A term applied to bantam cars, and occasionally to other motor vehicles; in the Air Corps, the Link trainer; in the Armored Force, the 1 1/2 ton command car. See peep
Jeeter A lieutenant
Joker Wiseacre
Juice jerker Electrician
Jumping jeep Autogiro with jump take-off
Keeps dainty Well behaved
Kick A dishonorable discharge
Kid Bomber Co-pilot (Air Corps)
Kiwi A non-flying commissioned officer of the Air Corps
Knuckle buster Crescent wrench
Lance jack A temporary or acting corporal with the same duties and authority as a regularly appointed corporal, but without the pay of the grade
Landing gear Legs
Latrine rumors Unfounded reports
Laundry Faculty board which passes on Flying Cadets. See Wash out
Lead and zinc mines Planes (Flying Cadets)
Leaden breeches Inert, lazy
Let her eat Drive at full speed
Lid Apprentice operator** - An incompetent operator (Signal Corps)
Lift him To discharge an operator (Signal Corps)
Limp line Men reporting at Sick Call
Little poison 37 mm. gun
Live ammunition Ball ammunition—full charge of lead and powder
Low on amps and voltage Lacking ambition and ideas (Air Corps)
Lower the boom To deliver a knockout punch
L.P. Unattractive (West Point)
Maggie's drawers Red flag used on rifle range to indicate a miss
Make To appoint a cadet officer; one recently appointed (West Point)
Marfak Butter
Mash in To push in the clutch pedal
Max A complete success (West Point)
Mechanical rats Two-way loudspeaker system connecting barrack sleeping quarters with non-coms' room
Meat wagon Ambulance
Mice Small balls of lint on floor. See rats
Mill Guardhouse
Mill A typewriter (Signal Corps)
Missouri national A tune supposed to bring rain (West Point)
Mitt flopper A soldier who does favors for his superiors, or salutes unnecessarily; a yes man
Mole hole Photographic dark room
Motor pool Garage
Motorized foot locker Bantam car
Motorized freckles Insects
Monkey clothes Full dress uniform
Mother mccrea A sob story
Muck Muscle (West Point)
Mustard A smart pilot
NCO A Non-Commissioned Officer
Netted Radio sender and receiver properly tuned on same frequency
North Dakota rice Hot cereal
Number 1 man A machine gun operator
O.A.O. One and only (West Point)
O.C. Officer in charge
OD Olive drab; officer of the day
Off the beam Incorrect (Air Corps)
Officer's line A row of houses occupied by officers and their families
O.G. Officer of the guard (West Point)
Old file An old soldier
Old fogy pay Extra pay for additional service after four years
Old issue An old soldier
Old man Company or Regimental Commander
Old settler An old soldier
On the carpet Called before the Commanding Officer for disciplinary action
One striper Private 1st class
Orderly room Company headquarters
Over the hill To desert
Over the hump To retire after service of 30 years
Padre The Chaplain
Paring knife Bayonet
Parted his teeth Scored a bull's eye
P.C.S. Previous condition of servitude; occupation before entering Military Academy (West Point)
Pearl diver Kitchen Police
Peashooter A pursuit plane
Peep (son of a jeep) Bantam car; used in organizations in which jeep is applied to larger vehicles
Peep sight An expert gunner
Persuader Inertia Starter Switch
Pfc Private 1st Class
Pick up your brass Get out of the way
Piece The Army rifle
P.M.E. Practical Military Engineering; a box luncheon (West Point)
Podunk A cadet's home town or its newspaper (West Point)
Police To throw away; to clean up; to be transferred to a lower academic section; to be thrown from a horse (West Point)
Poop sheet Drill schedule or any written announcement
Popsickle Motorcycle
Pounding brass Transmitting on a hand key (Signal Corps)
Pour on the coal Give it the throttle
Power birds of war Flying Cadets
PO'd Pissed off
Prairie dog snarl Mine cables twisted together (Coast Artillery Mine Planters)
Pred Cadet's predecessor at Military Academy (West Point)
Pro Proficient (West Point)
Prop wash An expression of disbelief (Air Corps)
P.S. Parlor snake; to escort visitors around post (West Point)
Punk Bread
Push button pilots Pilots using PT-13's or PT-11's for training; easier to operate
PX Post Exchange
PX coupons Post Exchange checks
Quartermaster gait A step longer than the regulation thirty-inch pace
Quill To report for a delinquency (West Point)
Rachael High gear. See grandma
Rain room Bath house
Rat race Mounted review in Armored Force
Rats Balls of lint that suddenly appear on the floor during an inspection of quarters. See mice
Ranked out To be compelled to defer to a senior, as to be ranked out of quarters
Raunchy A name applied to anything that is in bad shape or dirty (Air Corps)
Red leg Artilleryman
Refugees Recruits or newly arrived selectees
Regimental monkey The drum major
Regular A Regular Army soldier
Remount Recruit or Green Horse
Re-up or take-on To reenlist
Reverse Disfavor (West Point)
R.H.I.P. Rank has its privileges (West Point)
Rise and shine Call used to awaken soldiers
Roger! Expression used instead of okay or right (Air Corps)
Roll up your flaps Stop talking (Flying Cadets)
Rollings Cigarette tobacco
Rookie A recruit
Runner A messenger
Run the guard Leave or enter camp furtively
St. Vitus Davenport A tank
Salve Butter
Sammy Syrup (West Point)
Sand-rat A soldier on duty in rifle pit at direct practice
Scandal-sheet The monthly payroll
Scatter gun Machine gun
Script Special orders
Second grader First or Technical Sergeant
See the chaplain Stop grousing
Self commencer Engine hand crank
Serum Intoxicating beverages
Sewer trout White fish
Shack man Married man
Shack rat Garrison soldier who has made a friend in the city and usually goes to town every night
Short circuit between the ear phones A mental lapse (Flying Cadets)
Shot gun Machine gun
Shutters Sleeping pills
S.I. Saturday inspection (West Point)
Sick call Hospital call
Side arms Cream and sugar
Side meat Well pleased
Side swiper Speed key on a transmitter (Signal Corps)
Six and 20 tootsie Any bit of young enticing femininity who is responsible for a flying cadet returning late from a weekend leave; '6' and '20' meaning 6 demerits and 20 punishment tours (Air Corps)
Skag Cigarette (West Point)
Skin Same as quill (West Point)
Skirt patrol Search for feminine companionship
Sky scout The Chaplain
Sky winder Air Corps man
Sky wire An antenna (Signal Corps)
Slapping it on Fining a soldier for a petty offense
Slip Recorded tape (Signal Corps)
Slipping the clutch Talking or criticizing
Snore sack Sleeping bag
Snow them under To exaggerate
Soap suds row NCO's living quarters and area—because their wives do own laundry
Soft money Paper currency
Soiree Unwelcome task; also used as verb (West Point)
Soup Dynamite
Spec To memorize (West Point)
Special duty Soldiers used for special jobs; clerks, typists, etc
Speed artist An expert radio telegraph operator who can send at high speeds on a hand key (Signal Corps)
Spin in Go to bed or take a nap (Air Corps)
Spoon up To clean up (West Point)
Spoony Neat in appearance (West Point)
Stack String of messages (Signal Corps)
Static agitators Radio students
Static bender Radio Operator
Steam shovel Potato peeler
Storm Name applied to condition one is in when he is excited and doesn't know what he is doing (Air Corps)
Street monkeys Members of band
Strictly cut plug Well pleased
Sugar report A letter from a girl
Superman drawers Woolen underwear
**suntans Lightweight tan summer uniforms
Swacked Intoxicated
Sweating Anticipating
Tac Officer of Tactical Department (West Point)
Tailor mades Factory-made cigarettes
Tarbucket Full dress hat (West Point)
Taxi up Come here (Air Corps)
TC Training cadre
Tear 'em out Clash gears
Third grader Staff Sergeant
Three striper Sergeant
Throw the book Give maximum punishment
Tie up To blunder (West Point)
Tiger meat Beef
Tin hat Steel helmet
Toothpick village New type wooden barracks for selectees at Army posts
Top cutter First Sergeant
Top kick First Sergeant
Tough row of buttons to shine Hard job
Tub Scout car
Tub, in the About to be washed out (Flying Cadet)
Turkshead mcguirk Man skilled in tying knots (Coast Artillery Mine Planters)
Turnback Cadet dismissed and readmitted to lower class (West Point)
Turned in Reported for misconduct
Two striper Corporal
Typewriter .30 Calibre Machine Gun
U.H.F. Ultra high frequency bands (Signal Corps)
Uncle Sam's party Payday
Valley forge Temporary tent city in cold weather
Wagon soldiers Field Artillerymen
Walkie-talkie Portable radio receiving and sending apparatus
Walrus One who cannot swim (West Point)
War shoes Heavy shoes
Ward man Hospital attendant
Wash out To be eliminated from flight training
Washing machine The flight Commander's airplane
Weather-krock Meteorologist
White discharge Any form of discharge other than dishonorable
Windjammer Bugler
Wing-heavy Inebriated
Woods, in the On maneuvers
Woof woof Battalion sergeant major (West Point)
Writ An examination (West Point)
Yard bird A raw recruit
Yearling Selectee
Yearling A member of Third Class (West Point)
Yellow legs Cavalryman
You're gigged Means that one has been reported for violating a rule or regulation
Zombie Soldier who falls in next to lowest category in Army classification tests; see goon

Source: “Glossary of Army Slang.” American Speech, vol. 16, no. 3, 1941, pp. 163–69. JSTOR.

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