If you’ve been “voluntold” would you know what just happened to you? How would you react if somebody referred to you as a “zoomie”? What about if you were told to “beat feet”? If these military phrases have you baffled, read further for some easy clarification.
We’ve translated some of the most common military slang terms so you can be included next time someone “comes up on the net.”
When you hear the slang term “Joe” you might think we’re talking about coffee. Yet when it comes to military slang, a “Joe” is far from that cup of jitter juice you know and love.
In the army, “Joe” is short for “G.I. Joe” and typically refers to any low-ranking soldier or junior enlisted personnel. In some circles, calling someone a “Joe” can be seen as derogatory.
“Grab some real estate”
Believe it or not, we’re not referring to realtors serving in the military when we say to “grab some real estate.” Instead, this military jargon takes on a more literal meaning.
When someone is told to “grab some real estate” they’re essentially being told to get down on the ground and prepare to do push-ups (usually as a punishment). While real estate won’t make you rich in this instance, it’s sure to make you fit!
It’s easy to assume that the military slang term “LEG” has to do with a soldier’s two lower limbs, but technically it just stands for “low-entry ground soldier”.
A “LEG” is any infantry soldier that will go into battle by traveling over land, instead of dropping in by parachute. LEGs can travel to the battlefront via transport, or on foot as their name implies. NAP, or non-airborne personnel, is a similar term often used interchangeably with LEG.
Despite its name, a “fister” is not someone who readily uses their fists to punch people in the face. In fact, this term isn’t associated with boxing in the slightest.
Instead, a “fister” or “FiSTer” is a soldier who’s a part of the Fire Support Team, aka FiST. A soldier in this key combat role provides target information for artillery units, and often directs cannon fire.
“Beat feet” aka to quickly move on out
In order to thrive in the military, you have to move fast. Especially in combat, rapid movement is a huge key to success and even survival, which is why you’ll often hear the term “beat feet”. This order means to move out at the fastest speed you can round up.
“Zoomie” aka a United States Airforce Pilot
While 2020 has made us all relate anything with the word “zoom” in it to online video conferences, the term “zoomie” is completely different in the context of armed forces. In fact, this term refers to the United States Air Force Pilot. This slang term gets its name from the speed of a modern jet fighter that flies faster than the speed of sound.
“Don’t get wrapped around the axle”
“Don’t get wrapped around the axle” aka keep your eye on the big picture
If you’re driving and a length of cable gets wrapped around your vehicle’s axle, it’s likely that the outcome won’t be pretty. When the term “don’t get wrapped around the axle” is used by soldiers, it means that you should keep your eye on the prize, rather than get stuck on small, insignificant details.
“The good idea fairy”
“The good idea fairy” where “good ideas” just means assigning extra tasks
Despite its positive connotation, being called “the good idea fairy” is far from a compliment. In fact, this military phrase refers to an officer who comes up with new ideas about how things should work around the base, which almost always requires extra work for lower-ranking soldiers.
“Gear adrift, is a gift”
“Gear adrift, is a gift” aka tactically-acquired gear
Saying “gear adrift, is a gift” is similar to saying “finders keepers losers weepers”. In military slang, this phrase means that if someone takes unattended gear, they haven’t stolen it, they’ve simply “tactically acquired” it instead. If they get caught, it’s still larceny under the code of Military Justice, but soldiers often get away with it while in boot camp.
“Charlie foxtrox” or more accurately, complete chaos
In the 1950s, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) created a phonetic alphabet that became adopted by the military. In this alphabet, Charlie is used for the letter C, and Foxtrot is the letter F.
When combined, it means chaos, for lack of a better, more appropriate word. If a soldier says it’s a “charlie foxtrot” down on the battlefield, soldiers must brace themselves for the worst.
“Fourth point of contact”
“The fourth point of contact” is just another term for one’s behind.
The “fourth point of contact” is a phrase used by paratroopers to refer to one’s behind. This is because when you land from a parachute drop, there are five points of contact. The first three are the feet, lower legs, and the upper legs, which eventually lead up to the fourth point, also known as the butt. Finishing off the list is the fifth point, which is the torso.
“Come up on the net”
“Come up on the net” aka get in on the gossip grapevine
When you “come up on the net”, the net in question is a communication net, where gossip travels quickly in any military setting. The information within this net is usually something a soldier shares about his personal life with his buddy. Another term related to coming up “on the net” is the private news network.
“PX Ranger” or, the Post Exchange Ranger
The PX (Post Exchange) is a general store that all military bases have. When someone is referred to as a “PX Ranger”, this usually means they’ve gone overboard in equipping themselves with way too much gear from the PX. Typically, this means they’ve acquired a heap of stuff that’s not actually needed.
“CAB-Chaser” or someone trying to win a combat action badge.
Contrary to popular belief, a “CAB-chaser” is not someone trying to hail a taxi in a busy city. In military speak, this term means that a soldier is dead-set on winning a medal in combat. Specifically, a CAB is a combat action badge such as a Purple Heart or a Medal of Honor. If someone is a “CAB-chaser”, they typically go above and beyond in their daily work.
“Beat your boots”
“Beat your boots” translates to a strenuous exercise often dealt as a punishment.
If you’re caught committing a petty misdemeanor in the military, chances are your officer will put you to work. In doing so, you’d likely be told to “beat your boots”.
This doesn’t mean to literally beat your footwear, as they never did anything to hurt you, but it means to bend down to touch your feet and then snap upright. This strenuous exercise makes for effective punishment.
“Dash-ten” is a nickname for an Army equipment manual
A “dash-ten” has nothing to do with fast movement over a short distance, but it’s actually an instructional handbook. In fact, U.S. Army equipment manuals all have a number that ends in dash-ten, which gives this slang term its name.
“Back on the block”
“Back on the block” refers to a soldier thinking about their civilian past.
When a soldier starts reminiscing about being “back on the block”, it means that the topic is in the past, back when the soldier was a regular civilian. In the military, civilians are described as nasty, which simply means scruffy in army circles.
“Check your six”
“Check your six” is just another way to say “watch your back!”
Six is the lowermost number on the dial on a clock face. When used in a military context, six o’clock means to the Great. So when a soldier says to “check your six”, they’re reminding you to watch your back and proceed with caution.
“Embrace the suck”
“Embrace the suck” is a not so fancy way of saying learn to accept the bad.
Sometimes, there are military duties that are tedious in the extreme and unpleasant, to say the least. But if you join the armed forces, that’s just something that comes with the job. In order to succeed, one must “embrace the suck”, as those in the military call it.
A “soup sandwich” is just an unpleasant punishment.
The “soup” portion of the phrase “soup sandwich” is replaced with a much ruder word than soup, but we’ll leave that to your imagination. If a mission fails due to carelessness, those responsible may have to eat this exceedingly unpleasant sandwich. Only metaphorically, we hope.
“Voluntold” is exactly what it sounds like. You’re given no choice.
As you’ve probably guessed, “voluntold” combines the worlds voluntary and told. If you do something voluntarily, you do it by choice of your own free will. But in the military, being “voluntold” to do something means you’re asked to volunteer for a task, but it’s obvious there’s no real option to say no.
“Left-handed monkey wrench”
A “left-handed monkey wrench” is completely made up, and often mentioned as a harmless prank.
One of the most important things to know about a “left-handed monkey wrench” is that it doesn’t exist. While some tools may be adapted for left-handed people, a monkey wrench does not need to be. In the military, it’s a common and favorite prank to send a lower-class, rookie soldier to the stores to fetch a non-existent, “left-handed monkey wrench” and watch as chaos unfolds.
“A good piece of gear”
“A good piece of gear” is a kind compliment across the Armed Forces.
Despite what most may believe, “a good piece of gear” doesn’t actually refer to a good piece of military gear. In fact, it’s a compliment that soldiers give one another when someone is exceptionally effective in their role.
“Full battle rattle”
To have your “full battle rattle” is to have everything you need and more.
A soldier’s “full battle rattle” is the full range of equipment they need before going on their mission. Some of this equipment includes a flak jacket, canteen, rifle, and 180 rounds of live ammunition. The “rattle” portion of this phrase comes from all of the noise you’ll make once you’re equipped with all of that gear.
“Days and a wake-up”
“BLANK Days and a wake-up” means you have a certain amount of days until the day you depart. It’s basically a way for soldiers to count the time until their last day on base, before deployment, etc.
“Days and a wake-up” refers to a peculiar way that those in the military measure time. The “wake-up” part of the phrase refers to the final day of an assignment, so “X days and a wake-up” means that you’ll have a certain amount of days to go wherever you are and then the following day, you will depart.
A “fobbit” is just a cautious soldier.
In the military, FOB stands for forward operating base, and a “fobbit” is a soldier who tends to not stray further than said forward operating base. A soldier who falls under this term is either extremely cautious or simply lacks courage and initiative.
Warning: “Blue falcon” is one of the rudest words in a soldier’s vocabulary
A “blue falcon” is not a type of bird, but a euphemism that’s generally considered to be one of the greatest insults you could say to a soldier. This is because a “blue falcon” is a soldier who seems to mess up things big time for his comrades.
“Standby to standby”
“Standby to standby” is just a fancy way of saying stay alert and do nothing.
“Standby” is one of the most common and dreaded commands a soldier hears on a daily basis. When a soldier is told to “standby to standby”, they’re expected to remain alert, yet do nothing. This can last for hours on end if a soldier gets unlucky.
“Chest candy” is slang for medals and ribbons galore.
When a soldier is decked out in medals and ribbons on their dress uniform jackets, they have “chest candy”. These highly-decorated soldiers wear their “chest candy” with pride as it signals that they’re highly accomplished.
The “chair force” is a pretty accurate pun.
While this next military slang term isn’t entirely respectful, it’s pretty accurate. The “chair force” refers to USAF personnel who spend their days at a desk rather than at the controls of a fighter jet. In the Marine Corps, this is referred to as the “Remington raiders”.
“Why the sky is blue”
“Why the sky is blue” references infantry fighters’ blue insignia.
While NASA says the sky is blue from the diffusion of sunlight by Earth’s atmosphere, the U.S. Army would have to disagree. “Why the sky is blue” is a phrase that’s believed to be caused by the fact that infantry fighters wear blue insignia and the sky being blue is the atmosphere’s way of celebrating that.
“Blues buddies” is something you’d call a group of Marines when they wear their Blues uniforms.
The phrase “blues buddies” in military slang refers to the smart dress uniform worn by the Marine Corps, which is known as the “Blues”. When this uniform is worn by a set of serving marines, they can be referred to as “blues buddies”.
A “field strip” has nothing to do with stripping or field trips.
Believe it or not, a “field strip” does not refer to a field trip in the nude, or an order to stand in a field and undress. In fact, a “field strip” is when a piece of equipment is dismantled in the field without a workshop. This is where soldiers are required to strip the vehicle or piece of kit down and repair it, no matter their location.
“Lance corporal underground”
“Lance corporal underground” references gossip and speculation.
The phrase “lance corporal underground” does not refer to a group of disgruntled lance corporals. Instead, the slang refers to an active rumor mill that takes place in the Marine Corps and any military unit out there. This phrase refers to the gossip and speculation that travels fast among lower ranks.
“Pop smoke” is just a fun name for signaling cartridges.
In the military, Pop Smoke doesn’t refer to the late hip-hop star known for his rapping, singing, and songwriting. Instead, this phrase refers to signaling cartridges that are used to help a helicopter hit its landing spot as it comes in to touch down.