What'd you say?

19 Oct 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake

Not everyone can make it through boot camp and the military life that follows. Fortunately, sounding like you have is a bit easier.Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines alike have one thing in common: a nearly indecipherable language. The cornerstones of this sly speak are abbreviations and acronyms, and the military capitalizes their use at every turn.I'm not sure who came up with the idea of using them, but according to some informal research, thousands of hours have been saved by not having to say words in their useless entirety. These hours were promptly put into developing more acronyms to save even more time to come up with more acronyms.Who doesn't need more time? Just as the civilian world has used the military to learn about leadership style and cool camping gear, I offer the world our language. I call it Militarese. But first you have to understand it.Sometimes acronyms are invented because a word is just too cool not to stand for something, like the HALO (High Altitude, Low Opening) jump, a means of parachuting in from high distances, SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) or TRAP (Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel). Sometimes acronyms are so popular they become mainstream diction, like the word Laser (Light amplification by simulated emission of radiation).It also works to take the part of the word that sounds the best. The Navy offers a fine example of this with the word PHIBRON, which stands for Amphibious Squadron. The "phib" was taken from the first word and added to the "ron" from squadron. This technique is also seen in CONUS, or Continental United States.In many acronyms, shorter words like "the" and "of" are not often given a designator. Such is the case with MOB, or Mission Order of Battle. However, it is imperative your new word sound catchy, making it sometimes necessary to include the insignificant articles. This is used in POTUS, or President of the United States.Numbers work too, as the Marine Corps shows us in their Rapid Response Planning Process, or R2P2. Two Rs and two Ps, get it? Pronunciation is also important if your new language is to capture a following. The words should roll off the tongue. Take a MEU, or Marine Expeditionary Unit, for example. The brevity is pronounced "Meyou," not with each letter enunciated, as in "M - E - U."The true master of Militarese will weave his new slang together to form complete thoughts without ever using a word with more than two syllables. Here's an example: "POTUS is going to CONUS to see the MEU and PHIBRON do the R2P2 about a TRAP."The U.S. Military still has some kinks to work out of their language. It is not uncommon to find acronyms or abbreviations that mean the same thing. The acronym AO has caused many an embarrassing moment at meetings. Does it mean Area of Operation, Air Officer or Angle Off? We also have words that are just not as efficient as possible, like AmCits, or American Citizens. Is anybody really saving enough time with that one?Still, speaking Militarese is simple and can make any life easier, as it has done for the men and women of the Armed Forces. Even those who serve our military can benefit from using the language at home. A question like "Has anyone seen the newspaper or the remote control?" takes too long. Shorten "anyone" to AE, "newspaper" to EWSP (pronounced uze-p) and "remote control" to REMCON. You have the much shorter "Has AE seen the EWSP or the REMCON?" You'll be reading your newspaper and watching television before the other guy finishes his question.