Can You Tell Us the Meaning of These Military Phrases?


By: Allison Lips

6 Min Quiz

Image: Tim Bieber/DigitalVision/Getty Images

About This Quiz

It's not exactly a secret that the military has a language of its own. Some words are purely jargon. Others have a different meaning to a soldier than they do to a civilian. While you won't find anything truly classified on the internet, you will discover an extensive vocabulary that differs from what your average person uses in their everyday life. 

In the military, you learn new words for each letter of the alphabet, so that you don't confuse B with V or C and D. B becomes Bravo. V becomes Victor. C becomes Charlie. And D becomes Delta. You also learn everyday slang. For example, speedball, Tango Mike, TIC, and Rumint either don't exist in civilian slang or have an entirely different definition. 

On top of all the slang and casual language used among soldiers, the Department of Defense also provides official definitions for official phrases like Early Spring and above-the-line publications. 

Do you call yourself a military aficionado? Have your friends ever come to you for an explanation of the military words used in movies and on television? Is the military a considerable part of your career? Regardless of which branch of the military you're enlisted in or favor, you're going to enjoy this quiz! 

If you are inside the wire, where are you?

If you're inside the wire, you're in the confines of a military base. If you're outside the wire, you are off a military base.


If someone says that there is a SNAFU, what's going on?

SNAFU is a military acronym. It stands for "situation all fouled up."


Why would it be a bad thing if something is fubar?

In 1944, fubar entered English. It means fouled up beyond all recognition or repair.


In military slang, what flying object is a bird?

Instead of bird, military movies use "chopper" for helicopter. However, it is rarely used in real life because a chopper is a type of motorcycle.


Why would you go running for cover if you heard the big voice?

The big voice is the voice heard over the loudspeakers. It conveys urgent messages, such as incoming mortar fire, to let those stationed on the base to take cover.


CHU is a type of shelter, but which one is it?

CHU is pronounced "choo" and stands for containerized housing unit. CHUs are climate-controlled trailers that house two to eight soldiers.


What type of area is a COP?

COP stands for combat outpost. They typically house between 40 to 150 soldiers. On this type of base, all soldiers are placed on patrol and guard duty.


A fitty is a gun in the U.S. military, but which specific gun does it refer to?

While the U.S. military uses fitty as slang for an M2 machine gun or Browning .50 caliber machine gun, the word means something else in England. There, fitty means handsome.


Why wouldn't you want to be involved in a dustoff?

If a medical helicopter is on the way, a soldier might say "dustoff inbound." A medical evacuation is sometimes called a medevac.


If someone is talking about a bone, what type of aircraft are they discussing?

The B-1 is the successor to the B-52. It entered service in 1986.


When would someone say that its Groundhog Day?

The expression Groundhog Day comes from the Bill Murray movie by the same name. It is used for deployments where every day is the same, and there's no way to change it.


You may have heard about IEDs on the news, but what are they?

IEDs are any improvised explosive devices. They can be as small as a soda can to as large as a tractor-trailer. Iraqi and Afghani insurgents often use this type of weapon.


In military parlance, what is a gun?

The military never uses the word gun to refer to a pistol or a rifle. A gun specifically refers to a cannon with a long barrel that operates at a low angle and has a high muzzle velocity.


MRE's are edible, but what are they?

MRE stands for meal, ready to eat. They are given to soldiers when a dining facility isn't available.


Why wouldn't you want to be called an oxygen thief?

Oxygen thief is not a compliment. It is used for someone who talks too much or who is considered useless.


What does a Powerpoint Ranger do?

In the military, it is an insult to be called a PowerPoint Ranger. It has the same connotations as a desk jockey.


Secret Squirrel is a term that refers to what kind of mission?

The term Secret Squirrel has its origins in a 1965 Hanna-Barbera cartoon called "Secret Squirrel." The cartoon starred a squirrel wearing a trench coat. It parodied spy movies.


A self-licking ice cream cone exists to justify what?

The term "self-licking ice cream cone" isn't just used in the military for a document that serves no real purpose and sometimes provides information that doesn't prove anything. The word may have been coined by Pete Worden, who wrote a paper called "On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones" about NASA in 1992.


In the military, a woobie doesn't mean the same thing it does to a civilian. What type of garment is a woobie?

In civilian life, a woobie is a blanket or stuffed animal that comforts a child. In fandom, a woobie is someone who fans feel sorry for.


Two soldiers are talking about Willy Pete. What are they discussing?

White phosphorus is used in artillery. Because it is extremely hot, it is considered a chemical weapon when used against people. It is mainly used for illumination.


Which branch of the military is derogatorily called puddle pirates?

Puddle pirates are people who are accused of "playing" sailors. The name comes from the mistaken belief that the Coast Guard only operates in shallow waters.


In the military, a speedball isn't a drug reference. What is it?

Speedballs are dropped from planes, so that soldiers in a remote location ca be resupplied. They usually contain items like ammunition and clean water.


In civilian life, what would you call rumint?

Rumint is short for rumor intelligence or rumored intelligence. It was coined in 1989.


When soldiers are discussing moon dust, what are they talking about?

In Afghanistan and Iraq, there is a powdery dust that covers everything. When it loosens, the consistency is similar to flour.


If someone is cannibalizing a piece of equipment, what are they doing?

During World War II, the word cannibalize was given a new meaning. Instead of eating someone of the same species, it means taking salvageable parts from a piece of equipment to repair another piece of equipment.


How is a JDAM related to U.S. aircraft?

JDAM stands for Joint Direct Attack Munition. It specifically refers to a guidance kit that converts existing bombs into "smart" munitions.


If you see a fast mover in the sky, what type of aircraft are you watching?

Fast mover is slang for a jet fighter. It alludes to how quickly it navigates the skies.


What is going on if you are being voluntold?

Voluntold is a portmanteau of volunteer and told. Someone else is volunteering you to do something.


When you combine Bravo Zulu from the military alphabet, what are you saying?

In 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization established an international naval signal code to standardize the various alphabets used. It was called the Allied Naval Signal Book.


If you're black on something, what is going on?

You can be black on just about any military supplies. For example, you can run out of fuel, water and food.


What does it mean to be blowed up?

While the military may use blowed up as slang, the usual past participle is blown up. However, blowed is considered acceptable by many dictionaries.


Someone with a lot of chest candy has what?

Chest candy refers to medals and ribbons worn on a uniform. It can be a good or a bad thing.


Why wouldn't you want to receive a Dear John letter?

It is a letter service members receive when someone is breaking up with them. The term may have been coined by Americans during World War II.


If there is an embed with a military unit, what type of person is it?

An embed stations with the military unit to which they are assigned. They receive basic accommodations, such as food, water and transportation.


Which location is known as the Five Sided Puzzle Palace?

In 1982, James Bamford wrote a book called "The Puzzle Palace." His books focuses on the National Security Agency, whose responsibility is to acquire and decode information and secrets of other countries.


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