New retroacroetymythostupidnym

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Tue Aug 23 02:50:55 UTC 2005

On Mon, 22 Aug 2005 17:17:29 -0700, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

>Those army guys again. What a way with words !  :
>2003 _St. Petersburg Times Online_ (Mar. 23).
>Supply guys bring them bullets and beans, medics patch them up,
>helicopter pilots haul Airborne assault troops and provide air support
>when they get on the ground. The infantrymen call them POGs (rhymes with
>rogues): People Other than Grunts...."We all want to leave our marks
>when we leave. Guys who just want to do their three and leave, they end
>up being POGs."
>"Pogue" (rhymes with rogue) has been used in the Marine Corps since at
>least World War II.  It usu.referred to support personnel holding soft
>rear-area jobs, like clerk-typist, and well antedates the wide currency
>of "grunt," also seemingly of USMC origin.  I think it began to enter
>Army usage during the Vietnam War.
>The earliest quasi-ex. of "POG" I can find is this:
>1999 _Ft Gordon Ga?!?!!?_ (Usenet: ) (June 3)  Ft.
>Gordon is on the S. Carolina border in Augusta, Ga. Home of the Masters
>golf tournament....It's one of the most sought after assignments for
>pogues. (people other than grunts.)
>Googe also reveals the explanation, "Personnel Other than Grunts."

We can perhaps blame the L.A. Times for popularizing this one (or
"vectoring" it, as the urban folklorists say) -- it appeared in a
front-page story on May 25, 2002. As for Usenet appearances, here's a more
thoughtful post from 1999:

Andrew Reeves     Sep 27 1999, 3:00 am
Newsgroups: soc.history.medieval
Date: 1999/09/27
Subject: Re: Entymology of "Pogue"

>What is a pogue?

"Pogue," is, in U.S. military parlance, a derogatory term used to indicate
one who is not directly involved in war-fighting, i.e., one who works in
the company office ("office pogue"), or is simply in a Military
Occupational Specialty other than infantry and/or combat arms.  For
example, an infantryman wishing to insult a mechanic, bulk fuel
specialist, etc. would call him a "pogue."  It may have, at one time, been
used simply as a general insult, though by the mid-90's it had taken on
this particular meaning.

I have heard two explanations for the derivation of this word:

1)  Derived from a Tagalog word for "prostitute," which also led to the
term "poagie bait," which refers to candy bars, soda, ice cream, etc.

2)  Derived from the acronym POG (Person Other than Grunt).

I doubt the latter explanation, simply because popular entymology is
frequently wrong when concerned with acronyms, e.g. that favorite word
that is supposed to have come from "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge,"
"Fornication Under Command of the King," etc.  None of these are correct,
the word in question being derived from (someone correct me if I'm wrong)
an ancient Germanic word, "fecken," meaning "to pierce."

That's all from here, back to lurking.

Andrew Reeves
Former Office Pogue

There's further etymological speculation on "pogue" in the same thread:

Another acronymic variation is "POAG" = "Person Other than A Grunt", which
at least justifies the pronunciation of the vowel.

[Veterans News & Information Service (VNIS) newsletter]

Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2001 09:02:54 -0800
Subject: 13th MEU sergeant uses combat experience to lead
Submitted by: 13th MEU
Story by Cpl. Nathan J. Ferbert

Sporting subtle gold-rimmed glasses, straight brown hair, brown eyes and
protruding ears, some onlookers may say "POAG" (Person Other than A Grunt),
but Manning is no stranger to a combat environment.

--Ben Zimmer

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