1943 Army Slang Dictionary (Part 1)(LONG!!)

Mike Salovesh t20mxs1 at CORN.CSO.NIU.EDU
Tue May 11 08:38:56 UTC 1999

Barry A. Popik sent along a three-part slang dictionary from ARMY TIMES
back in 1943.  Thanks, Barry, for the memories . . .

A contemporary source is a contemporary source, all right, but ARMY
TIMES didn't get everything right.  Herewith some passing comments:

> AA--Anti-aircraft.
> ACK-ACK--Machine gun.

By 1943, ack-ack meant shells aimed at passing aircraft: anti-aircraft

> BOKSOK--Crazy or amok.  From "Tagalog," native Philippine dialect.
> BOONDOCKS--The wild back country.

I believe that both "boondocks" and "amok" came out of the Philippines,

> CHICAGO ATOMIZER--Automatic rifle.

Nope.  This was much more specific, and referred to a weapon made famous
in Chicago gang wars: the Thompson submachine gun, or Tommy gun, a .45
caliber, blowback operated automatic rifle with cylindrical magazine.

> DIDDIE BAG--Where soldier keeps valuables.
> DITTY-BOX--Small box used by men of sea for stowing treasured and necessary
> articles of small size--like picture of your girl.

They got it right the second time: it's a ditty bag.

> DING HOW--Everything O. K.

Imported by those who served in China; usually spelled DING HAO.

> EIGHTBALL--Man who is slow on the pickup.

More often a man who screws things up.  Often grouped with those who
duck out from assigned work: "Eightballs and AWOLs".

> FAN TAIL--Stern of a ship.

Well, the ARMY TIMES shouldn't be expected to get Navy stuff right:
is one word.

> GO-TO-HELL-HAT--Garrison cap.  Also known as overseas cap and fore and aft
> hat.

In standard issue form, the woolen, winter variety was also known as
"cunt cap" for the groovelike fold in its top.  ARMY TIMES simply wasn't
capable of printing the word; see "SNAFU".

> HOUSEWIFE--Sewing kit.  Invaluable little set of needles, thread, scissors
> and other accessories necessary for minor repairs.

OLD, old soldiers during WWII still pronounced this as if it were
spelled "husswiff".  (So did one of my drill sergeants in Korean War era
basic training.  He was a retread who  had served in the pre-WWII hoss
That reflects a relationship between "housewife" and "hussy".  (Oops!
"Retread": WW II veteran who went back into the army for the Korean

> SNAFU--Situation normal.  All fouled up.

I'll leave "fouled" as it is.  I think the derivative, FUBAR, "[fouled]
up beyond all recall", was invented in 1944 or 1945. Its absence from
this list supports that impression. I'll change my mind, of course, if
Barry exercises his talent for antedates . . .

Question: What was the third term in the series including SNAFU and
FUBAR?  I know there was one, but I've forgotten it.


The expression "the eagle flies" was probably more common in 1943; by
"Uncle Sam's party" wasn't used where I served.

Greg Downing is puzzled by three terms in the dictionary:

>SIDE MEAT--Well pleased. [???]

I think the phrase has been truncated -- from a possible "eating side
meat", the better cuts of pork, as opposed to "sowbelly".

>TURKSHEAD McGUIRK--Man skilled in tying knots. [is this a radio character
or something??? or does "turkshead" simply mean "knot," and the last
name is
nothing more than a cute rhyme?]

There is a knot called a turkshead, or turk's head.  But this is Navy
again, and ARMY TIMES is not the best kind of source . . . Neither am I.
Anyhow, either the U or the I is superfluous in the spelling of McGUIRK.

>YEHUDI--The little man who cracks you on the back of the head with a
mallet. [pop-cultural allusion????? otherwise, I'm clueless, other than
note that it's a Jewish name]

Yep, pop-cultural allusion.  "Who's Yehudi?  The little man who wasn't

--  mike salovesh             <salovesh at niu.edu>        PEACE !!!

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