An obscure bit of military slang

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 25 04:32:49 UTC 2008

"To live in shit"

To have everything go right, despite the fact that there's no reason
to expect it to and, especially, if there is a possibility that things
might go horribly awry.

I.e., at a full-dress inspection at the Army Language School. Whelan
forgot to put on the "brass" that's obligatory whenever the "class-A"
uniform is worn. Since these inspections took place only on Fridays,
he would have received a "gig" and been confined to quarters for the
weekend. However, by sheer chance, that Friday's inspection was
carried out by a Navy officer - the Navy, unlike the Air Force, had no
language school of its own and used the Army's school - who, being
unfamiliar with Army-uniform protocol, failed to notice that Whelan
was out of uniform.

Since Monterey, CA, where the Language School, now called the Defense
Language Institute, is located, is a major tourist destination only a
few miles from San Francisco, confinement to quarters was tantamount
to solitary confinement, since the barracks would have been as empty
as the Sahara till Sunday night. So, he was very lucky.

Another time, Whelan unexpectedly dropped by my crib. There would be
nothing of interest about this, except that this occurred in
Cambridge, MA, in 1972 and Whelan had seen neither hide nor hair of me
since we were students together in 1960, when I lived in Los Angeles,
and, hence, he had no reason whatsoever to think that I would be in
Cambridge. He was looking up someone else in the phone book, when he
ran across my name. Given that he hadn't seen me or heard about me in
twelve years, there was no reason at all for him to think that it
could possibly the same guy that he had known in the Army more than a
dekkid earlier. Of course, he could have called to check, but he
didn't. He simply dropped by. Needless to say, since he hadn't
bothered to call ahead, I might not have been home. But I was. And,
naturally, I might not have been the same guy. But I am. So, he was
very lucky.

Were I still in the military, I'd say that Dennis Whelan lived in
shit. And his luck o' the Irish neither began nor ended with these two

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list