1943 Army Slang Dictionary

Jim Rader jrader at M-W.COM
Tue May 11 11:59:50 UTC 1999

While checking this list against LIghter's RHHDAS, I noticed that a
close-to-identical glossary was published in the Oct., 1941, issue of
_American Speech_ (v. 16, no. 3, pp. 163-69). A footnote says "this
glossary is drawn from a list prepared by the Public Relations
Division of the United States Army." Some items in the _AS_
list are omitted in the _Army Times_ list, while the latter has some
items not in the earlier list.  The editing was not so careful, so
that, for example <peep> appears in both lists, but <jeep> only in
the _AS_ list, though the <peep> entry in the _Army Times_ list
assumes the existence of <jeep>.  The _Army Times_ has <G.I.> "to
clean thoroughly," not in the earlier list (with earliest date 1944
in RHHDAS). (<G.I.> was still Army vernacular during my military
service, 1971-74).  <SNAFU> is not in the earlier list.

A few other comments: Both glossaries have <dit da artist> "radio
operator."  This reminds me that when I served in signals
intelligence, Morse intercept operators were called "ditty-boppers."
(Guys with this MOS tended to be looked down on because the work was
deadly boring and required no linguistic training.)  I always assumed
this was based on <dit> "a dot in radio or telegraphic code," though
RHHDAS has a host of cites for <diddybopper>, <diddlybopper>, and
<dittybopper> (supposedly from AAVE) that have nothing to do with
Morse code or the military.  Possibly the expression I knew was a
convergence of some descendant of <dit da artist> and the civilian

The foreignisms in the list are interesting.  <Ding how> "Everything
OK" is in both lists.  The source is Standard (Northern, Mandarin)
Chinese <d^ing ha^o> "excellent."  Cites in our file claim the
collocation was introduced into English by the Flying Tigers, but
RHHDAS documents it back to 1921.  Its currency didn't seem to
outlast WWII.

The _Army Times_ (though not the _AS_ glossary) has <boksok> "Crazy
or amok. From 'Tagalog,' native Philippine dialect."  The word is
glossed almost identically in the sole cite in RHHDAS, from a Nov.,
1942 issue of _Leatherneck_: Boksok--Crazy or amok.  From "Tagalog,"
native Philippine dialect.  Merriam cite files have an almost
identical glossary cite, under "Marine Slang" in _Dictionary of
Service Slang_, by Park Kendall (N.Y.: M.S. Mill Co., 1944):  boksok
- crazy or amuck. Stems from "tagalog," native Philippine dialect.
Obviously all these are copied from one source, whatever it was.  The
cite slips were reviewed for W3 by Harold Conklin, a Philippine
specialist who served as etymology consultant, who wrote on one
"probably mistaken 'folk' etym."  Presumably he means the word is not
Tagalog--or does he interpret the gloss as meaning <boksok> comes
from the word <Tagalog> itself?  In any case, I can't find the word
in the limited Tagalog lexical resources available in the office or
on line.  The word was not entered in W3.

The sole other cite we have for <boksok> is actually in text.  I want
to type out the whole passage because it's interesting, but I better
do some real work now, so my comments will be continued. Stay tuned
(if you have any interest).

Jim Rader

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