Slang Words and Phrases Used by American Soldiers During WWII


Here’s a List of Slang Words and Phrases Used by American Soldiers During WWII

It might come as a surprise to some, but, as it turns out, experts were actually looking into the slang words and phrases used by American soldiers as early as 1941. All of them were discussed and then documented in the journals of the American Dialect Society. Here’s a list of some of some of these slang words that appeared during and after the war.

Slang Words and Phrases Used by American Soldiers During WWII
Slang Words and Phrases Used by American Soldiers During WWII

Beat your gums: To talk a lot about a topic. (A.R. Dunlap, “GI Lingo,” 1945.)

Bedpan commando: Medical corpsman. (Dunlap)

Behaviour report: Letter to a girl. (Glossary)

Big wheel: “Anyone with a little authority.” (Robert Shafer, “Air Force Slang,” 1945.)

Blow it out your barracks bag”: “Shut up! Go to hell!” (Dunlap)

Bog-pocket: Tightwad. (Glossary)

Boudoir commando: Home-front hero. (Dunlap)

Browned off: Annoyed or fed up. (Also: Brassed off.) (Alexander)

BTO: “’Big time operator’—someone who thinks he is important.” (Shafer)

Bubble dancing: Dishwashing. (Glossary)

Cab happy: “’Nuts’ about driving.” (Dunlap)

Carrier pigeon: Serviceman acting as officer’s messenger. (Glossary)

Cornplaster commando: Infantryman. (Dunlap)

Devil’s piano: Machine gun. (Glossary)

Dit happy: “’Batty’ because of copying too much radio code.” (Dunlap)

Dodo: “A[n Air Force] cadet before he starts flying.” (Shafer)

Gremlins: “Mythical creatures who are supposed to cause trouble such as engine failure in aeroplanes, a curious piece of whimsy-whamsy in an activity so severely practical as flying. Now the gremlin seems to be extending its sphere of operations, so that the term can be applied to almost anything that inexplicably goes wrong in human affairs.” (Alexander)

Gubbins: “Used to describe almost any part of the equipment of a plane, with about the same meaning as gadget.” (Alexander)

Egg in your beer: “Too much of a good thing.” (Glossary)

Eggs: Bombs. (Dunlap, Alexander)

Fish: Torpedos. (Alexander)

Flak: Abbreviated form of German word Fliegerabwehrkanone, or “pilot warding-off cannon” (anti-aircraft fire). (Alexander)

French leave: AWOL. (Glossary)

Fruit salad: “A number of campaign ribbons worn on the chest.” (Shafer)

JANFU: “Joint Army-Navy foul-up.” (Dunlap)

Juice jerker: Electrician. (Glossary)

Kite: Airplane. (Also, cab.) (Alexander)

Landing gear: Legs. (Glossary)

Mae West: An inflatable rubber life-belt that added buoyancy to the wearer’s chest. “I need not enter into the anatomical details which throw light on this term,” Alexander wrote delicately.

Mae West herself sent a letter to the RAF, Alexander added, in which she showed “delight in becoming an integral part of the English language”: “I’ve been in Who’s Who and I know what’s what, but it’ll be the first time I ever made the Dictionary.”

Mae West, meaning 2: A tank with two protuberant turrets. (Alexander)

Maggie’s drawers: “Red flag used on rifle range to indicate a miss.” (Glossary)

Mickey Mouse movies: Instructional films in personal hygiene. (Dunlap)

Mitt flopper: A soldier who does favours for his superiors, or salutes unnecessarily; a ‘yes man.’” (Glossary)

Ninety-day wonder: “An officer who holds a commission by virtue of having attended a three-months course direct from civilian life” (Dunlap)

Penguin: Air Force servicemember who doesn’t fly. (Alexander)

Prang (verb): To smash or bomb a target. (Alexander)

Prune: An “inefficient airman.” (Alexander)

 “Roll up your flaps”: “Stop talking.” (Glossary)

“See the chaplain”: ”Stop grousing.” (Glossary)

Shit for the birds: “Nonsense, drivel, irrelevant matter. (A variant: ‘That’s for the birds.’ It’s meaningless.)” (Dunlap)

Skin: “A reprimand, oral or written, for a flagrant violation of Army rules. Presumably from ‘skin ‘im alive.’” (Shafer)

Snap your cap: “Become excited, flustered.” (Dunlap)

Sugar report: Letter from a sweetheart. (Glossary)

Taxi up: Come here. (Glossary)

Tiger meat: Beef. (Glossary)

T.S.: “Tough situation! Tough shit!” (Dunlap)

T.S. Slip: “When a soldier’s complaints become unbearable, his listeners frequently tell him to fill out a ‘T.S. Slip’ and send it to the chaplain.” (Dunlap)

Zombie: “Soldier who falls in next to lowest category in Army classification tests; see goon.” (Glossary)