Friday, February 27, 2009

Marines: Why Are They Called JarHeads?

The Marines: "The Few, The Proud."

President Obama gave a speech this morning to the Marines at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. As I watched these tough-guys tear-up as Obama said his administration would end the war, would increase medical care, would increase their pay (biggest applause line), did respect their service, would update the GI Bill to provide real benefits for those who serve, I thought about the Marines. And all the other people who join the military. Military families share much in common with each other: not too much money, lots of transfers from lonely place to lonely place where the other people who are "like" you are also military families. Blankets, towels, sheets all stamped "Property Of U.S. Navy, Army, Marines." Shopping at the Ship Service and the Commissary, and medical care provided at the sick bay.

I thought President Obama's biggest line was when he said (essentially) that the most privileged people in our country have spent the last 8 years stealing, lying, cheating, lining their own pockets while destroying our nation, but these people in the military had done the right thing, signing up to serve the country and put their lives on the line to defend it. Corny, but think about it. Most of the people who have been engaged in massive looting, pillaging, raping of our nation, stealing grandma's retirement, and having no feelings of compassion for the other people in this country whatsoever, are educated, wealthy, privileged, connected people. And that is how they behaved. It's quite a contrast with the very poorly-paid yet much more honorable people in our military services.

The people in the military are neither as noble and honorable as the politicians claim, nor are they as limited as the Wall Street Criminals believe. They are just people. Not as rich as some others, often with a lot more integrity. But some of them are racist, sexist, violent. There's that part too.

The Marines were formed in 1775 to serve as a naval infantry. They are responsible for providing force from the sea. They are a component of the Department of the Navy, and rely on the Navy for training, transportation, and other logistics. So the Navy takes its ships full of Marines to the landing site, and the Marines go onto the beaches to attack the enemy. While the army might travel by land. The Marines, of course, were critical in the U.S. war in the Pacific during World War II. There are today 200,000 U.S. Marines, with 40,000 reservists.

And the language. Like all other special, somewhat isolated groups in our society, military people have their own language, much of it way too crude to be repeated here. Each of the separate branches reserves their greatest scorn for the other branches, and have special derogatory terms for the non-warriors. Some of the terms are now a part of our mainstream language, but the origin is fairly interesting. Here are a few words for those who would like to learn how to speak Marine (I've omitted some of the most offensive from the list):


An insulting word meaning Marine. Generally spoken behind their backs, and never to their face. Origin of the term is unclear. Some say the Marine haircut makes the men's heads resemble a mason jar. Some say that a Marine's head is empty, just like the jar is. Some say the term came from WWII when the Mason Jar Company went into war production mode and manufactured helmets for the Marines.

Here are some others:

Air Force salute: when someone shrugs their shoulders.
ARMY: Aren't Ready for Marine's Yet;
Aren't Really Men Yet
Battle buddy: sarcastic euphemism deriving from orders for Marines to not go on liberty alone when stationed overseas.
BCGs: Birth Control Glasses. Unattractive military issue glasses.
Bird farm: aircraft carrier.
Boondocks: isolated area. From the Tagalog word "bundok," which means the mountain jungles of the Philippines.

Boot camp: recruit training for enlisted Marines. Supposedly it comes from the fact that recruits wears boots every day of their training.
Brain bucket: helmet.
Bus driver: Air Force pilot.
Canoe U.: United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD.
Chair Force: derogatory term for the US Air Force.
Chairborne ranger: someone who works in an office.
Cinderella liberty: liberty expiring at midnight.
Death by PowerPoint: long and boring briefing.
Disneyland East: Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps at Arlington, Virginia.
FNG: Fucking New Guy.
FUBAR: Fucked/Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.
FUBIJAR: Fuck yoU Buddy, I'm Just A Reservist.

GI: Government Issue
GI can: garbage can, also known as circular file.
GI house: place where garbage is stored until it is hauled away.
Gung ho: Chinese phrase meaning to "work together."
Hollywood Marine: graduate from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego.
Honcho or head honcho: person in charge, from the Japanese word for "boss."
Irish pennant or IP: loose thread or string on a uniform.
Jesus slippers: government-issue flip-flops for sanitation in showers.

Joe: coffee. Named after United States Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels who eliminated beer and wine from naval ships, declaring nothing stronger than coffee would be allowed.
Lance criminal: derogatory term for Lance Corporal.
Leatherneck: nickname for Marine. The Marine uniform once included stiff leather collars to protect their throats from swords.
Lost Lieutenant Finder: hand-held GPS unit; a joke based on the reputation of new lieutenants for being incompetent in land navigation.

MARINE: Muscles Are Required, Intelligence Non-Essential or My Ass Rides In Navy Equipment.
Meat Gazer: observer who watches the Marine pee into a cup for drug testing.
MRE: Meal, Ready-to-Eat, standard U.S. field ration. Or, sometimes called "Meals Rejected by the Enemy."
NAVY: Never Again Volunteer Yourself
No Such Agency: National Security Agency (highly secret spy agency)
REMF: Rear Echelon Mother Fucker, a derision for someone who serves in a non-combatant role.
Red death: corned beef with cabbage.
Red lead: ketchup/catsup.

Remington raider: typist.
Sandbox: Iraq or other desert area.
Semper Fidelis: Marine Corps motto, meaning "Always Faithful."
Semper I: selfish or self-centered behavior.
SNAFU: Situation Normal, All Fucked Up.
Swab: mop. "Swabby" is an insulting term for a sailor. Supposedly this comes from the practice of sailors in old wooden ships having to swab the decks to keep them from warping.

USMC: United States Marine Corps
Uncle Sam's Misguided Children
U Signed the Motherfucking Contract
U Suckers Miss Christmas
Unlimited Shit and Mass Confusion.

WAG: Wild-Ass Guess, sometimes prefaced with the word "Scientific".
Weekend warrior: reservist.
Wilco: Voice procedure term shortened from "Will Comply".
Zoomie: pilot, usually an Air Force pilot.
Zoomie U: United States Air Force Academy

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