Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Slang load operations

Got crunk?Slang. We all use it. New words, re-purposed words, phrases that take on new meanings. Whether you use a dismissive "whatevs," get "crunk," or attend an event that’s "off the chain" we’re surrounded by colloquialisms.

What’s funny to me, is not how jargon differs from culture to culture, that’s pretty obvious, and not even how it differs from subculture to subculture. But what’s interesting is how different slang is employed differently within the same subcultures.

Working for the military, we are all about slang. From FUBAR to SNAFU and pogey bait to geedunk, from latrine to head and headgear to cover – we know how our slang. And there are, of course, certain phrases that are pretty service specific.

The Army has a term: hoo-ah or hu-ah (depending on who’s talking). It’s a multi-faceted term that has many meanings. To the newbie, it’s usually an affirmative response to a drill sergeant’s question. To a slightly more seasoned troop, it means, "Yes, I’m listening. Please continue." To a very seasoned troop it means, "Eff you, but by saying this you think I’m making an affirmative reply." And, by varying the emphasis on the first or second syllable, you can subtly change its meaning. Generally spoken with the emphasis on the first syllable gives the meanings stated above. If you yell it, it’s almost a battle cry. But if you put the emphasis on the second syllable, it becomes sarcastic and is generally used to make fun of someone who says "hoo-ah" seriously a bit too much.

Now, the Marine Corps has a phrase that is almost exactly the same and can be used in many of the same ways. The devil dogs say: "Ooh Rah!" It’s almost always used as an affirmative reply to some question or as an ecstatic cry. However, they will shorten the phrase down to an "Err" witch comes across kind of like a growl. When employed in this manner, it’s far closer to "hoo-ah." You have your affirmative "err," your sarcastic "err," and your dismissive "err."

I’m not sure what the flyboys and squids do, but I’m sure they have something similar.

What I’d like to know is what kind of slang do you use in your career fields? I’m sure engineers have specific terminology that has become slang for something. Educators? Chemists? City employees?

And, what is the funniest instance you’ve ever encountered of someone employing slang -- used correctly or incorrectly? We had this noncommissioned officer in my shop at Fort Huachuca who was very disconnected with the times. Which wouldn’t have been quite so bad, had he been aware of his disconnection. Once, we were having a discussion and one of the new privates in the office made some fun at the staff sergeant’s expense to which the SSG replied, "Are you dishing me?" I’m still laughing.

So, what’re yours?

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