Can You Identify the Meaning of These WWII Slang Words?


By: Allie T.

6 Min Quiz

Image: Willowpix/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Today's generation "speaks" with emojis and acronyms. This behavior isn't new though the format is completely different from past generations. It's common knowledge that older generations lament that they just don't understand "young people today." It may be hard to believe as we look at our grandparents and great-grandparents, but the generation that came of age during World War II had their own unique way of communicating too. 

From words like palooka, wilco, clams, gams, and jake, to entire phrases such as "blow it out your barracks bag" and "cooking with gas," the World War II generation was just as adept at developing colorful lingo as any other generation before or since.

So, if you knew that palooka means loser, wilco means okey dokey, clams refers to money, gams refers to legs, and jake a-ok, then you are likely to do well on this quiz. But if you knew that "blow it out your barracks bag" means "get lost," and "cooking with gas" means being "on to something," you just might answer all of the questions on this quiz correctly.

Think you've got what it takes to hang with the Greatest Generation? Let's roll! Go ahead and take this quiz! 

What is a SNAFU?

It was a popular acronym during WW II and it is still used today. The word _uck was a common word used by military men as an everyday word.


Who was a G.I. Jesus?

A G.I. Jesus was a member of the Armed Forces who served as the religious minister at camp. Regardless of the soldier's denomination, he or she could confide in the chaplain.


When a person went "bucking for a Section 8" they were trying to get what?

Some soldiers would do anything to grab a Section 8 - from getting themselves declared crazy to shooting themselves in the foot!


Becoming acclimated to the way a ship moved meant a sailor was getting his what?

Without a seaman having his sea legs, he might not manage his way around the ship well or get seasick.


"Kilroy Was Here" was a type of what?

The words were associated with the drawing of a bald man, who sometimes had a few hairs, with a big long nose, who peeked over a wall with the fingers of each hand clutching the wall. This graffiti is engraved on the WWII Memorial in Washington, D.C.


What did the letters CB mean?

There were usually only two reasons a soldier would be confined to his barracks. One was if he was sick but not sick enough for the infirmary, and the other was if he was being disciplined.


Why didn't men like to get a Dear John letter, even if their name was John?

When a Dear John letter arrived, it was his sweetheart informing him that she found someone else to date or marry. Many times, having a sweetheart back home was the only thing that gave the soldier a will to live.


When someone said, "See the chaplain," what did he or she mean?

Soldiers could see the chaplain to talk over their problems, no matter how big or small they were. Chaplains were also available to give last rites to those who were dying or died, and to marry couples.


A person who gives his opinion on everything is a what?

An Armchair General did not care if he was informed or not, he still had an opinion. A modern version would be a Monday morning quarterback.


A know-it-all about military regulations was called a what?

A barracks lawyer was a know-it-all who complained more about military regulation than anything else. He was also known as a "guardhouse lawyer."


Mae West was not only a famous actress, but soldiers also used her name to describe what?

The Inflatable life jacket was invented by Peter Markus in 1920, and he got his patent in 1928. WWII was the first major war that had Inflatable life jackets to protect their soldiers.


Canned or tinned food was called what?

During WWII, C-rations were better than nothing but they did not taste very good. As time went on, the military put the food in a pouch and added goodies such as brownies.


What was a noncom?

A non-commissioned officer was, and still is, a military officer who has not yet earned his or her commission. A commissioned officer usually earns their commission through going to college instead of coming up through the enlisted ranks.


A Hershey Bar was actually used as a form of what in parts of Europe?

Soldiers in Europe used the famous chocolate bar as a means to "buy" something. The bar was especially made for the military to be more calorie dense and less tasty than the popular mainstream version.


A poster of a sexy movie star was called a what?

WWII brought on the age of the pin-up. Men needed beautiful women as morale boosters. Some of the most famous pin-ups of WWII were Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake and Betty Grable.


A pecker checker checked soldiers for what?

The pecker checker was a doctor or a medical assistant also known as a pricksmith who was given that nickname since they had to examine men's private parts.


What was R & R?

Rest and relaxation was also known as rest and rotation. R & R gave soldiers a break from fighting to chill out in a neighboring town, camp or base, away from the action.


Beans was a nickname for what?

Cooks sometimes had special relationships with the sergeants. For example, if a cook allowed a sergeant to bypass the food line, that cook might avoid having their name put on the duty roster to do more work. Sometimes cooks who fed the army or marines had to build makeshift kitchens out of fuel barrels.


A pineapple wasn't a fruit, it was slang for what?

A grenade is a small explosive device that is thrown by the soldier's hand. Grenades can explode on impact or after a set amount of time.


Lettuce or carrots were called what?

Carrots or lettuce may have been called rabbit's food, but rabbits shouldn't eat all vegetables. A rabbit should eat a balanced diet of hay, grass, fresh fruits and vegetables.


AWOL means what?

In order to take a break from service, a soldier or officer needed to request leave and have it approved. An AWOL soldier or officer was one who took a break without obtaining the proper approval first.


If a person didn't have "jack" they didn't have any what?

Not having "jack" is a term still used in the present to mean that one does not have any money. The term can also mean that a person doesn't have a home, job, spouse or food.


Gruesome twosome was what?

Regulation shoes worn by the WACS (Women's Auxiliary Corps, U.S. Army) were uncomfortable. Although the WACS were first frowned upon and hated by their male counterparts, as time went on the women earned respect from their peers.


"Sparks" is the nickname given to what?

In the U.S. Navy, radio operators were found in the "Radio Shack." The various positions included Broadcast Operator, Inbound/Outbound Traffic Checker and Teletype Repairman.


A D-ration was what?

D-Rations have been a part of a U.S. soldier's military rations since 1937. This ration served two purposes: a pocket-ration taken for a burst of energy and a boost for morale.


Dumbo was not only a Disney character, but also slang for what?

Dumbo's mission was to rescue U.S. pilots and seamen who were in trouble. The original plane was a heavy bomber aircraft that was converted to carry a lifeboat. The lifeboat could be dropped in the water near the people who needed to be rescued.


A unlucky or sad soldier was nicknamed what?

The slang came from the comic strip of the same name. "Sad Sack" was a comic that told the story of an unnamed sorry private in the U.S. Army and his humbling experiences of military life.


What was Anastasie?

This term was used widely in France. It was named after St. Anastasie, who had her tongue cut out by the order of Emperor Diocletian, and was therefore unable to speak.


Lead poisoning wasn't about filthy water or lead paint during WWII, but rather, it referred to what?

It wasn't just any bullet; it was a shot that caused death or injury. During WWI and WWII, bullets were made by hand.


A chatterbox meant what?

Machine guns were more mobile during WWII and became a fundamental part of the mobile tactics during the war.


A man or woman who flagged a 4-F was what?

A 4-F or 4F was a designation given to a new U.S. military recruit who was unfit for duty. He or she could have been found not acceptable due to dental, medical or other problems.


Housewife was slang for what?

Soldiers received sewing kits at different times and places. Therefore, one soldier's sewing pack could be different than the man's next to him. Most kits had two to six spools of thread, plus a couple of needles, a thimble and a pair of scissors.


A lemonade powder found in rations was called what?

Soldiers said the drink was so disgusting that they used it as a cleaner. Coffee also had the nickname of battery acid.


A letter from one's sweetheart was called a what?

A girlfriend or wife was considered a sweetheart. Since they were sweet and sugar is sweet and they reported what was happening at home, a letter from a sweetheart was called a sugar report.


What was a Behavior Report?

The behavior report let a soldier's girl know how he was doing and how much he cared for her. The sweethearts at home looked forward to letters from the front lines just as much as the men looked forward to the sugar reports from home.


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