Cosmoline, Punk, Red Lead, Sand, Slum (Army Slang, 1940)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Nov 29 06:11:33 UTC 2002

   This list of 1940 is a year earlier than most of our WWII slang lists,
such as Kendall (1941).  It comes from the Temple University clippings files
(military folder).
   From the (PHILADELPHIA) EVENING LEDGER, 20 July 1940:

_Army Has Language_
_All Its Own,_
_From "Sand" to "Slum"_
   "Pass the cosmoline and sand; I'm going to try to improve this slum."
   If you are among the youngsters who have applied for enlistment in the
United States Army in the recruiting station in the Custom House, you will
more than likely hear this expression at your first mess on Uncle Sam.
   What is really meant is, "Pass the  butter and sugar.  I'm going to try to
improve this stew."  But, soldiers, like other men in any socialized
profession, like to use a language of their own.
_Defines "Brass Hats"_
   And what a colorful jargon it is!  We are indebted to Colonel Frederick
Schoenfeld, commanding officer of the recruiting station, for the following
   "Brass hats"--staff officers.  The Colonel would not say so, but the
connotation of the term isn't always very complimentary, as in the case of
the widely known controversy between the late "Billy" Mitchell and his
superior officers.
   "High ball"--salute to a superior officer.
   "Guardhouse lawyer"--something like a sea lawyer, a man without authority
who is always telling his fellows what their rights are and who usually is a
   "Flying time" and "bunk fatigue"--sleeping period.
   "Jaw bone"--credit.  It's one of the most well-used terms in the army and
means doing a lot of talking to borrow anything from a cigarette to a dollar.
   "Red lead"--catsup.
   "Tin hat"--trench helmet.
   "Dodo" and "Kiwi"--men in the air corps who don't fly.
   "Grease monkey"--a mechanic.
_Pass a Piece of "Punk"_
   "Butch" and "old man"--commanding officer.
   "Top  kick"--first sergeant.
   "Gravel agitator" and "red leg"--artillerymen.
   "Scrambled eggs"--brass decorations on the cap visors of officers ranking
as majors or better.
   "Shavetail"--second lieutenant.
   "Bobtail"--one how has been dishonorably discharged from the army.
   "Go over the hill"--to desert.
   "Gold fish"--canned salmon.
   "Bean day"--Wednesdays and Saturdays.
   "Dog robber"--a ranking officer's orderly.
   "Juice"--any liquid food.
_Guess Who's Gertrude"_
   "Gertrude"--an office clerk.
   "Pilll roller"--an elisted man in the medical department.
   "Slum"--principal article of food at a meal, usually used, however, to
denote stew.
   "Pocket lettuce"--paper money.
   "Lower the boom"--to strike another person.
   "Slum burner"--the cook.
   "Hay burner"--a horse.
   "Chili bowl"--a haircut.
   "Half gone"--to be hungry.
   And many, many unprintable ones.
   In addition, each post or local detachment often coins slang terms of its
own, which are not generally used in the army as a whole.
_"Wounded" by "Cognac"_
   A well-known one heard along the Philadelphia waterfront for many years
was "Cognac shrapnel."  It was coined by a well-known stevedoring official
who died here recently.
   A veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion, this man
has been wounded several times in the service of his country but had a
comparatively safe job during the last war and used to like to kid his fellow
officers who had similar duties.
   "Are you one of the boys who got cognac shrapnel during the last World
War?" he often asked.
   It seems that the detachment lived in a very comfortable chateau in France
and the famous French liquor was always plentiful; hence, the unusual
"casualties," which were never listed on the record books.

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