Can You Match the Military Branch to Its Jargon?


By: Deborah Beckwin

6 Min Quiz

Image: Paul Souders/DigitalVision/GettyImages

About This Quiz

With a total of over two million people on active duty and in reserve, the U.S. has one of the largest militaries in the world. With that many people, a unique culture will form—and one way to create a culture is through language. 

The U.S. military has many general jargon terms that are used across its branches. For example, midnight is called "balls," because with military time (or a 24-hour clock), 00:00 looks like four balls. But when it comes to the term "bag nasty," although it means some sort of undesirable food that you have to eat, what's in the bag can vary depend on what branch you're a part of.

Under the Department of Defense (DoD), there are four branches of the U.S. military. These include the U.S. Army, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force. The military has three other uniformed branches—the U.S. Coast Guard, the U. S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps. For this quiz, we'll just be focused on the military under the DoD.

So are you Bravo Foxtrot (ready for action)? We wish you the best on this quiz! Good luck!

In which military branch would you hear "Semper Gumby"?

In the Marine Corps, the phrase "Semper Gumby"—"always flexible"—is a variation of their other motto "Semper Fidelis (Semper Fi)", or "always faithful." "Semper Gumby" reflects how adaptable Marines have to be and to take it in stride.


Where can you find the "Lance Corporal Underground"?

Every branch has their way of explaining how gossip and rumors spread. In the Marines, it's the Lance Corporal Underground, because lance corporals are heavily involved in the Marines; they usually know what's really going on, whether it's the truth or it's just rumors.


In which branch can you take an "E-ticket ride"?

This term refers to when you could have different kinds of rides at Disney, with E-tickets giving you the best rides. So if you're on a E-ticket ride, you're having one crazy ride.


Where would you hear "grab some real estate"?

If you hear "grab some real estate," then you're in trouble for a minor infraction. It's time for pushups! Another phrase is to "beat your face."


Where will you find a "ninja punch"?

A "ninja punch" is slang for a non-judicial punishment—which are universal across the military. This kind of punishment is for an infraction that a commander doesn't deem worthy of a court martial. A non-judicial punishment may be demotion of rank or a loss in pay.


In which military branch would you find a "Dixie cup"?

So what is a "Dixie cup" in the Navy? It's nothing you'd drink out of but actually wear. Worn with a sailor's dress uniforms, the Dixie cup is the white canvas hat.


The "Good Humor Man" would be found in which military branch?

The "Good Humor Man" is not a who but a what. In the Navy, it refers to the summer white uniforms which could be seen as the uniform of someone who sells ice cream.


"Speed jeans" are worn in which military branch?

"Speed jeans" are worn by pilots—the G suit. Worn like chaps, they squeeze the midsection and legs of a pilot when they perform maneuvers that have a lot of G's or gravitational forces.


Where would you find someone wearing a "poopy suit"?

A "poopy suit" may sound like a flight suit you can use the bathroom in, but it seems that the nickname came from how smelly the suit would be after wearing it a while. It's a tight, insulated flight suit for when pilots have to fly over large amounts of water for a long time, so that in the case of needing to "punch out" (or eject), the pilot could stay warm in cold water until he was found and rescued.


A "good stick" can be found in which military branch?

A "good stick" is a pretty simple term. In the Air Force, it's a phrase for a good pilot, referring to the stick that pilots use to control their aircraft.


You probably know what "go ballistic" means, but which branch does this phrase come from?

So "go ballistic" does mean to lose your temper, and the term does come from the Air Force. In the military, it also refers to when a ballistic missile misses its target or loses power or control.


Which military branch knows about "fashion shows"?

A "fashion show" in the Navy is something you never want to be a part of, especially if you're on liberty (free time away from the ship). It's a punishment where a sailor has to go through four different kinds of uniforms for inspection: work, summer work, dress and summer dress. This is usually done to eat up one's "liberty."


Which branch knows "why the sky is blue"?

This question "Why is the sky blue?" is a sign of pride for the Army. The sky isn't blue because of the scientific reason that most of us know, but it's because of blue is the color of infantry badges, cords and discs—a proof of God's love for the infantry.


Which branch has the phrase "good initiative, bad judgment"?

"Good initiative, bad judgment" is a USMC euphemism for when a Marine does something, thinking they know best, but the outcome ends up being terrible. It's another way of saying, "Good idea, poor execution."


In which branch do people dread hearing the word "Field Day"?

"Field Day" is the weekly inspection day of the barracks, which usually happens on a Thursday night. Marines have to clean everything from top to bottom and not have anything out of place.


What branch came up with the term "Army proof"?

In the Air Force, "Army proof" is the same thing as "foolproof." It means something has been explained very simply and usually has pictures.


"Fox One" would be said in which military branch?

This is fighter pilot talk from the Air Force, but it's also for NATO pilots. "Fox One" means a radar-guided missile was launched.


Where would you hear that it's time to "beat feet"?

If you're a soldier and you hear "beat feet," you'll know what you need to do. It means it's time to move from where you are quickly.


Which branch knows who "Pvt. Schmuckatelli" is?

"Pvt. Schmuckatelli" is also known as "Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli"—he's the anonymous screw-up of the Marine Corps, whom Marines should not be like. He'll be invoked by leaders to remind Marines to not be like him if they're out having fun, etc.


In which branch would you do an "azimuth check"?

In the Army, to make sure you're headed in the right direction and aren't too far off course, an azimuth check is a land navigational procedure that a soldier would use. It's also a term meaning to check in and see how well a certain task is being done correctly.


Which military branch will most likely use the term "The Beach"?

For Navy sailors, a lot of time is spent out at sea. So "The Beach" refers to any place that is not water—land. If you hit The Beach, it's time to get your land legs back.


In which branch would you find "golden hands"?

Someone who has a pair of "golden hands" is a compliment for a pilot. It means they can fly really well.


In which branch does "fire watch" belong?

"Fire watch" is another term for guard duty. This used to be a more specific term, where sentries would look out for actual fires. Now it can range from guarding barracks or having a shift with a machine gun in a war zone.


What branch has an "anymouse"?

"Anymouse" is a play on words for "anonymous." It's the lock box where sailors can drop off anonymous suggestions.


Which branch could most likely tell you what a "goat rope" is?

In the Air Force, a goat rope is a screwed-up situation. It's usually the kind where humor error is the main cause of the mess. This is used in the Navy, too, but it originated in the Air Force.


Where would you find the "Private News Network"?

The Private News Network is not something you'll find on TV (although there is a satire and humor site by the same name). It's the soldier gossip or the rumor mill. It goes by the acronym PNN.


What branch does the term "11 Bang-Bang" come from?

"11 Bang-Bang," also known as "11 Bullet Catcher," is slang for an Army infantryman. The name comes from the military occupational specialty code (MOS) for an infantryman, which is 11B, read 11 Bravo.


In what military branch will you find "skating"?

Just like everyone, the Marines have their ways of slacking off, and "skating" is their term for it. Skate is actually an acronym of the skating philosophy: "Stay out of trouble, Keep a low profile, Avoid the higher-ups, Take your time and Enjoy yourself."


In what branch would you see a "barber pole"?

The "barber pole" refers to the red-and-white needle which can indicate air speed in some aircraft. So if you're "riding the barber pole," it means you were flying at top speed.


The "Good Idea Fairy" belongs to which branch?

As a junior soldier, this is not someone you want to meet. The "Good Idea Fairy" tells an officer or a sergeant to find extra work to do, work that soldiers usually find to be useless.


"Improvise, adapt and overcome" is the unofficial motto of which military branch?

As a smaller branch of the military, the Marines are used to making do with less because they receive far less funding than the Army. The funding limits force Marines to be more creative and resourceful with what they have.


Which branch of the military uses the term "99"?

The term "99" (pronounced "niner niner") is a call made by air-traffic controllers. It means that all aircraft within a unit are being addressed.


Where would you find the "A-gang"?

The "A-gang" is slang for the auxiliary division of a ship or submarine. They're responsible for the auxiliary equipment, such as the heating and A/C, refrigeration units, hydraulics and more. Members of the auxiliary are called "A-gangers."


Which military branch does the term "40-mike mike" NOT belong to?

"40 mike-mike" refers to either a 40 mm grenade or a M203, which is a grenade launcher typically mounted under a M16 rifle. The Army and Marines would most likely be handling this kind of artillery.


Which branch knows how to reply to the question, "Why not Minot"?

"Why not Minot?" is a joke about being stationed at Minot Air Force Base in very cold North Dakota. The answer? "Freezin's the reason!"


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!