WWII Slang From the Front

The language of military personnel during WWII was filled with slang words for the weapons and equipment in use. These terms have become part of American culture, but some soldiers got creative in their choice to describe how they saw their enemy’s forces working.

The “ww2 slang for american” is a slang that was used by the soldiers during World War II. The term “american” referred to any soldier from the United States.

“Our fighting guys invent slang because they are daring people who are unconstrained by propriety and have a limitless sense of taste. They search for new terminology in both their own and other languages. They use standard similitude technologies to make qualities work for the entire. They use concealed resemblances, are unconstrained, and have no bounds. They’ve used abbreviations, compositions, word constructions that sound like the sound, and picturesque synonyms to replace a hundred literary descriptions with far-fetched numbers. It’s been a lot of “duck-soup” (easy stuff) for them to get correct names into widespread use… They have added several new verbs and verb phrases to the national language. It must not be forgotten that our fighting troops came from all walks of life, that all parts and divisions of a free social order are represented, and that each man has brought his own distinctive and vivid language with him. Ours is a combat force made up of people of a hundred different ethnicities and faiths who speak one American tongue.”

—From Clinton A. Sanders and Joseph W. Blackwell, Jr.’s 1942 book, Words of the Fighting Forces

“These days, all military personnel, whether dressed in khaki, blue, or field green, speak a new and dynamic vernacular of their own. What exactly does this new lingo imply? ‘Not much,’ some could remark. However, it’s possible that they are unaware of their past. The new terminology has a significant impact. It implies that the words men say bind them all together. So a fighter’s jargon’s welding worth is nothing to sneeze at.”

—From Francis Raymond Meyer’s 1942 novel Fighting Talk

War generally produces its own culture, as well as a new language. Men are put together in close-knit, frequently dull, and sometimes hazardous conditions, and the slang they produce is both a product and a reinforcer of their bond. Wartime slang generates a “we” vs. “them” dynamic, with “them” referring not just to the enemy, but also to the civilian people at home who are unable to completely comprehend the reality of the fighting man.

No conflict has spawned more new slang than World War II, owing to its size. Thousands of new terms and phrases were coined during the Great War, and learning them provides an interesting and sometimes amusing soldier’s perspective on the fight.

War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases, by Paul Dickson “Wars produce huge volumes of vocabulary that sound as different as a musket, an M-1, and a Patriot missile,” writes since the Civil War. The agony of missing a girl at home, the dangers of interacting with women on the front, the need of confronting death (often with gallows humor), and, of course, the bad food are all issues that come in for the slang treatment. Self-important egoists, suck-ups, lazy loafers, and conversational narcissists, as well as individuals in the field who don’t contribute to the esprit de corps — self-important egoists, suck-ups, lazy loafers, and conversational narcissists — all earn a slew of nicknames. Finally, chaplains have long been the target of both sarcasm and adoration, earning a variety of amusing and wonderful nicknames.

 

The following is only a small sample of the colorful slang used during WWII. Some of the terms had been used in earlier conflicts, but they were resurrected and popularized during the Great War. Others were entirely new terms, coined on the European and Pacific fronts, respectively. A lot of the slang found its way into civilian society and is still used today, especially among Greatest Generation grandparents and their children.

Of course, some of the slang is salty, and it contains phrases that are today deemed pejorative. However, as the writers of the 1942 book Words of the Fighting Forces put it:

“Terms like appeaser, isolationist, and puritan emerge here, which will no doubt’shock’ the church. We make no apologies, and we haven’t removed any words as a result of what we thought such a group might do or say. These expressions are part of a vivid and alive language of men who live near to earth and close to death, words of men who fight the struggle of free men for our America and her Allies on far and distant battlefields, who man our ships in treacherous seas, and fight higher up.”

Enjoy.

Slang from the Front Lines of World War II

Ack-Ack. Anti-aircraft fire is being used.

The Swiss Navy’s Admiral. A conceited individual.

Ammunition is a term that refers to ammunition.

All-Out. With zeal, zealous determination, or zealous enthusiasm.

Armed to the gills Armed to the teeth; attentive; completely prepared; wary of danger.

Cow with Armor. Milk from a can. Armored Heifer and Canned Cow are two variations.

Shovel and Army Banjo

Chicken from the army. Beans with franks.

Strawberries for the army. Prunes.

Stick of Asparagus The periscope of a submarine.

Asthma. He’s known as the corporate wit since he’s full of wheezes (jokes).

AWOL stands for “absent without leave.”

Awkward Squad is a group of people that are awkward. Men who need more drill training.

Butter Axle Grease

A “broad-assed Marine” has arrived (i.e., a female Marine).

Baby. Mustard gets its name from its likeness to what comes out of a baby’s rear end.

B-ache/bellyache. To make a complaint.

Mysterious Bags Sausages.

Remove yourself from the situation. To escape out of a bad circumstance, such as a date, parachute jump from an aircraft.

Fire was used to baptize him. To have acquired one’s initial wounds after coming under enemy fire for the first time.

Sidecar on a motorcycle. Bathtub.

Acid from a battery. K-rations included artificial lemonade powder, which was deemed unfit to drink and was dumped or used as a cleaning solution on a regular basis.

Breakfast of Battles. A phrase used by the Navy to describe the hearty meal of steak and eggs served to sailors and Marines on the morning of a combat mission.

Keep an eye on the battleground. Under tough conditions, to do one’s best.

The Bayonet Course is a military training program. Treatment for venereal diseases at a hospital. The male member is referred to as a “bayonet.”

Beachhead. A fortified location on a beach where invading soldiers land.

Get Rid of Your Gums. To spend a lot of time talking about something. Gumming, jawing, and chin music are some of the variations.

Obtain the status of a Gold Star in Mom’s Window. It’s a nice way of stating “I was killed in action.”

Medical corpsman, Bedpan Commando.

Behavior report WWII slang.

Report on Behaviour A letter to a girl back in the United States.

Belly Cousin is a term used to describe a person who has a A guy who slept with the same lady you did.

 

Take a bite of the dust. Whether killed or injured.

Blanket drill WWII slang.

Drill using a blanket. A snooze.

Flying while blind. You’re going on a date with a lady you’ve never met before.

Foot Blister Infantryman.

Hospital Corpsman and Blister Mechanic

It’s Time to Blow It Out Your Barracks Bag! Keep your mouth shut! To Hell with you!

Body Snatcher is a character that snatches people’s bodies Bearer of the stretcher.

Bone. To investigate.

Brass that has been borrowed. False bravery fueled by drugs or alcohol. Bought Guts; Drugstore Nerve are two variations.

Sunshine in a bottle. Beer.

With a Heat Wave, Broad. Ladies having a venereal illness; passionate women.

Broad and Loaded with Lettuce A wealthy lady.

With Canned Foods, it’s a Big Deal. I’m a virgin.

Brown-noser. Ass-kisser. To gain favor, often known as “boot-licking.” Brownie is a variation.

Brush-Off Club is a club for those who want to get rid of their Men in the military who have had their women dump them. The Ex-Darling Club is a variation.

Big Time Operator (BTO) is a term used to describe someone who believes he is significant.

Buck is a private company. In the Army, this is the lowest rank.

Juice made from bugs. Repellent for insects.

Bunk Lizard is a creature that lives in a bunk. A sloth-like solider who is enamored with his bed. Sack Rat is a variation.

Turning and Burning Blackjack is a card game.

Morale that has been pre-packaged. It’s a film.

It’s time to cash in one’s chips. To perish.

Bathtub made of cast iron. Battleship.

The Last Anchor has been cast. To perish.

Milk with Cat’s Beer

Infantry of the Chair-Borne. Employees who work at a desk.

Chatterbox. This is a machine gun.

Please exit the building. To be assassinated; to perish.

Chicken Berry is a delicious chicken dish. An egg, to be precise.

Chicken feces. The term used by G.I.s to describe service restrictions and the apparently never-ending make-work duties. C.S. is a common abbreviation.

Chow hound WWII slang mess line.

Chow Hound is a breed of dog. Men who are constantly at the front of the mess line.

Fat. Muscle on the table.

A civilian; derived from “citizen”

Civilian attire, sometimes known as civvies.

Cooler for coffee. A loafer is someone who looks for easy work.

Collision mats WWII slang pancakes.

Mats for collisions. Waffles or pancakes

Cheesed to the max. I’m completely bored.

Gasoline Cooking. Having gained knowledge about something.

As refreshing as a cucumber. Alert and conscious; self-assured; relaxed.

Hands that are cool. One who is as refreshing as a cucumber.

Turner at the corner. A renegade.

Egg that has been cracked. A person who is foolish or ignorant.

Crumble it up. In order to prepare for an inspection, you need have a haircut, shoeshined, and a newly pressed shirt, among other things.

Cupid’s Itch is a condition that affects both men and women. Any kind of venereal illness

Dad. The group’s oldest member.

The battery is dead. A pessimist is someone who is irritated or depressed.

Dead Nuts On is a phrase that means “I’m fond of” or “I’m in love with.”

Greetings, John. A letter from one’s wife or lover announcing the end of their relationship.

Chaplain and Devil Beater

The Devil Dogs of the Sea are a group of sea dogs. The Marines, to be precise.

The Piano of the Devil. A machine gun, to be precise.

The Devil’s Scream. There’s a bugle call.

Bizerte’s filthy Gertie. A lady who is promiscuous.

Make a Hitch. To serve in a military enlistment.

Make one’s contribution. To serve in the military at a period of war; to work in the military.

Infantryman, Dogface.

Food for dogs. Hash with corned meat.

Dog show WWII slang foot inspection.

Showcase of dogs. Inspection of the feet.

Tags for dogs. Two metal identification tags, one to be collected and the other to be left with the corpse after death, are worn around the neck.

Money. Do-Re-Mi.

Downhill. An army enlistment’s second half.

Soup with duck. This is a simple assignment.

Dude it up, dude. To put one’s finest uniform on.

Beaver, ecstatic. A soldier is so eager to please his superiors that he offers for any work that comes his way or shows remarkable dedication in other ways.

 

It’s Eagle Day. Payday is also known as “the eagle’s shitday.” A nod to the American eagle, which may be seen on various coins.

Ear piercer. A person who won’t let you say anything on the edge.

Beer with an egg in it. It’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

Eight Ball is a game that you may play with your friends A soldier who gets into so much difficulty that he becomes a burden to his unit; derived from the traditional belief that being behind the eight ball in pocket billiards is bad luck.

Eisenhower’s blazer. During the war, General Dwight D. Eisenhower popularized the short, fitting, belted jacket.

Emily Posters is a fictional character. Naval cadets were so named because they were handed a reduced form of Emily Post’s etiquette book.

File number 13 is a wastebasket.

Flak. Fliegerabwehrkanone is an abbreviated version of the German phrase Fliegerabwehrkanone, which means “pilot warding-off cannon” (anti-aircraft fire).

Flyboy. An enticing pilot (usually used ironically).

FUBAR. Foulled (or screwed) up to the point of no return.

Garbage Catcher is a device that collects garbage. Food is presented in eight depressions on a metal mess tray.

Gasoline Cowboy is a character in the film Gasoline Cowboy. The armored division’s member (usually a tank driver).

Gertrude. A receptionist.

Legs. Get-Alongs.

Get to work. To begin going; to take to the air. Borrowed from the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom.

An enlisted soldier with a G.I. (government issue) uniform. “To be a G.I.” implies just doing what is approved and without taking any risks.

Gibson Girl is a fictional character created by Gibson. A hand-cranked radio transmitter found in airplane life rafts, named for its wasp-waisted design, which is evocative of Charles D. Gibson’s lovely, idealized woman drawings.

Jane G.I. A woman who served in the Women’s Army Corps. G.I. Jill and G.I. Josephine are two variations.

G.I. Jesus chaplain WWII slang.

Chaplain G.I. Jesus.

G.I. Joe is a fictional character created by George A. Romero. A soldier, to be precise.

Gink. A knucklehead.

Ginkus. It’s a gimmick; a gimmick.

Give it a six on the deep end. Put it out of your mind; keep it a secret. The term “the deep six” comes from an earlier navy slang term for a burial at sea, which was derived from the practice of burying individuals six feet beneath.

Charley, have a good time. A person who enjoys carousing; a generous individual.

Gear for Grandma. Low-range gear.

Gravel agitator WWII slang infantryman.

Agitator for Gravel. Infantryman.

Lawyer for the Guardhouse/Barracks. A person who understands very little yet speaks a lot about military law, rules, and “soldier’s rights.”

Ham that failed its physical examination. Spam, the ubiquitous canned pork that was supplied up to 2-3 times per day to troops.

Hashburner WWII slang cook.

Cook in the hashburner.

Warrior of the Hangar. An aviation mechanic who brags about what he’d do as a pilot.

Haywire. Used to describe a piece of equipment that was acting strangely or an incident that went sour. The term comes from the usage of haywire (baling wire) to repair agricultural equipment.

Hubba, Hubba, Hubba, Hubba, Hubba, Hubba A man’s expression of approval, excitement, or enthusiasm for a lady.

Jane is a female.

Jane-Crazy. I’m too fond of ladies.

Jap. Anything Japanese; a Japanese person.

Jawbreakers. Biscuits for the army.

Jeep. In the Army, a compact, low, khaki-colored automobile is often used.

Jeepable WWII slang jeep.

Jeepable. Only a jeep can go through (said of a rough road).

Jerry. Anything German is a German.

Joe. A cup of coffee.

Biography of “Joe Blow.” Written for publication in a local newspaper, a brief biographical essay on a battling guy.

 

Electricity. Juice.

Electrician and Juice Jerker

Member who is only sweating. Pending or potential member of the Brush-Off Club; he has no idea where he stands, but the mail no longer delivers “Sugar Reports.”

Khaki-Whacky. A lady who has an unhealthy obsession with males in uniform.

Knucklebuster. Wrench with a crescent shape.

Kraut. “Sauerkraut” is a German word.

Rumors about latrines. Untrue reports have surfaced.

Lay an egg drop a bomb WWII slang.

Create an Egg. Detonate a bomb.

Looseners. Prunes.

Amps and voltage are both low. Ambition and ideas are lacking.

Mae West is a well-known actress. When inflated, an inflatable life jacket that fit around the neck and down the chest bulged the chest. The singer/comedian was recognized for her tiny waist and enormous breast, therefore she was given this name.

Maggie’s Chest of Drawers “He shot a whole clip but all he got was Maggie’s drawers,” as in “He fired a full clip but all he got was Maggie’s drawers.”

Movies starring Mickey Mouse Personal hygiene instructional videos.

Mickey Mouse is in charge. Small-minded rules, restrictions, and bureaucracy.

A Million-Dollar Injury A wound that forced a soldier to leave the battlefield and maybe return to the United States for treatment, but did not permanently disable or maim him.

Misery pipe WWII slang bugle.

Bugle. Misery Pipe.

Milk and Moo Juice

Monkey Clothes are a kind of clothing worn by monkeys. This is a full-dress uniform.

Mousetrap. Submarine.

Infantryman. Mud Eater.

Ninety-Day Wonder is a book about a ninety-day wonder. An officer who has received a commission as a result of completing a three-month course while still in civilian life.

Nip. A person who is Japanese. Short for “Nippon,” which is a pronunciation of the Japanese term for “Japan.”

Mechanic and Nut Buster

One and only WWII slang O.A.O.

O.A.O. (as in “one-and-only-girl”) is an abbreviation for one-and-only.

The chaplain, Padre.

Trooper, write a paragraph. A member of the “Chair-Borne Infantry,” or “Chair-Borne Infantry.”

Checker Pecker A doctor who examines the body for signs of venereal disease.

Look around (Son of a Jeep). The term “bantam car” is used in organizations where the term “jeep” refers to bigger cars.

Penguin. A member of the Air Force who does not fly.

Pep tire WWII slang donut.

Pep Tire is a brand name for a tire. It’s a doughnut.

Snout of a pig A gas mask, to be precise.

Pineapple grenade WWII slang.

Pineapple. A hand grenade, to be precise.

Pinup. A woman’s image for a soldier to hang on the wall of his quarters.

Podunk. The hometown of a soldier.

Lettuce in a pocket Money that is printed on paper.

Girlfriend, Popsey/Popsie.

Motorcycle. Popsicle.

P.S. I’m a man. One has prior military experience, while the other has served a previous term of service.

That belongs in your mess kit! Consider it.

Ratzy. A German name that combines the words “rat” and “Nazi.”

Reg’lar. A regular soldier is one who is regular, first-rate, and exceptional.

Retread, a World War I veteran who fought in World War II.

Happy Ribbons! One’s own decorations might make one feel dazzled.

Rock-Happy. Boredom, particularly on the Pacific’s stony islands and atolls.

Roger! Instead of alright or right, this expression is used.

Rootin’, rootin’, rootin’, rootin’, rootin’, rootin’ Son of a Gun is a film that tells the story of a man who A person who is full of energy.

Rookie. A newcomer.

The Royal Order of Whale Bangers is a prestigious organization dedicated to the protection of whales. An “exclusive” club for pilots who have launched depth charges on whales by mistake, mistaking them for enemy submarines.

The Anchor is sandpapered. to do unneeded tasks

Saltwater Cowboy is a fictional character. Marine.

Salt and sea dust.

Consult with the Chaplain. Stop whining and accept the fact that you’re in an undesirable circumstance. To put it another way, I am unconcerned with your predicament. Tell someone who is paid to be concerned.

 

Serum. Drinks that make you feel good.

Shack Man is a fictional character. Man who is married.

Toast. Shingles.

It’s a shite on a shingle. On bread, with chipped or creamed meat. S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Souls.”

Penis. Short Arm.

Between the earphones, there is a short circuit. There was a mental slip.

Grape-Nuts. Shrapnel.

Shutters. Taking sleeping medications.

Arms on the sides. Coffee with cream and sugar.

Chaplain and Sin Buster

Tootsie is six and a half years old. A female who makes a flying cadet so careless with time that he misses his weekend off and receives six demerits and twenty penalty tours.

Chaplain and Sky Scout.

Snafu. Situation is regular, yet everything is messed (or screwed) up.

Snore Sack is a sleep aid. Bag for sleeping.

S.O.L. stands for “stupid out of luck,” which is commonly shortened to “sure out of luck” or “soldier out of luck.”

Mars’s son. A soldier, to be precise.

Chaplain and Soul Aviator

Soup. Fog, clouds, rain, and, most importantly, fog.

Kitchen police (K.P.) assignment: Spud Duty (i.e., peeling potatoes).

Spuds with a layer of bark on them. Potatoes that haven’t been peeled.

Stinkeroo. The quality is poor; the grade is low.

Stripe-Happy. A soldier who is too eager for advancement.

The Sugar Report is a report about sugar. A letter from a young lady.

Suicide Squad is a group of people who have committed suicide. Those who are forced to operate a machine gun while under fire.

Drawers with Superman on them. Underwear made of wool.

Suit of Superman. Long, one-piece underpants from the government.

Swacked. Intoxicated.

Make an effort to sweat anything out. You’ve been waiting a long time for something.

She didn’t write anything else. That’s all; the company mail clerk’s standard yell at the completion of a mail run.

That is reserved for the birds. nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense, nonsense,

Thousand-Yard-Stare. The name given to the appearance of a guy with a combat-torn mentality.

Beef and tiger meat.

Pickle in a Tin A submarine or a torpedo.

T.N.T. Not tomorrow, but now.

Figure of the Torpedo A lady with nice proportions.

Buttons in a Tough Row to Shine It was a difficult task.

T.S. It’s a difficult position! That’s a tough nut to crack! To put it another way, don’t be disheartened by bad luck.

Slip, T.S. Listeners regularly advise soldiers to fill out a “T.S. Slip” and mail it to the chaplain when their complaints become intolerable.

Uncle Sam’s Get-Together. Payday.

Hometown hero, U.S.O. Commando.

Valley Forge is a town in Pennsylvania. In the cold, a makeshift tent city.

Walkie-Talkie. Receiving and transmitting radio equipment on the go. Handie-Talkie and Spam Can Radio are two variations, named for their resemblance to a can of Spam.

Walrus. One who is unable to swim.

Get rid of it. To be taken out of flying training.

Wilco. Will abide by the rules. This radio code was adopted by civilians and used by all branches of the military. “Roger — wilco,” which translates to “All right, I’ll do it.”

Zombie. In the Army classification exam, a soldier who falls into the lowest group.

Zombie. In the Army classification exam, a soldier who falls into the lowest group.

Sources:

American Speech, Vol. 16, No. 3, “Glossary of Army Slang” (Oct., 1941).

American Speech, Vol. 20, No. 2, “G.I. Lingo” (Apr. 1945)

Paul Dickson’s War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War

Gordon L. Rottman’s FUBAR: WWII Soldier Slang

 

 

The “ww2 meaning slang” is a website that has been created to help people learn about the slang used during WWII. It has been compiled from sources such as letters, diaries, and memoirs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What slang was used in ww2?

A: During World War 2, the term Yank was used to refer to Americans.

How did people in ww2 speak?

A: People spoke in a variety of ways during World War II. There was the British accent, the American accent, and many others that existed separately from each other.

What did they call soldiers in ww2?

A: A soldier in World War 2 was referred to as a soldier and not an army.

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