We may not realize it, but some of the phrases that we commonly use every day were borrowed from our military people. I mean, why not? They have colorful, creative jargons that could make the grimiest of situations sound pleasant. Here are some of them:
Got your six.
Meaning: I’m watching your back.
Soldiers usually reference directions with the hours of the clock. Imagine a giant clock where 12 o’clock is where your facing, three o’clock on your right, nine on your left, six o’clock position is on your rear. When somebody tells you, “(I) got your six,” it means he’s got your rear covered in case of an enemy attack.
No man’s land.
Meaning: a dangerous land or area; a topic that is dangerous to talk about
During the war in the trenches in World War I, the land between the opposing armies was called “no man’s land.” Later on, the phrase was also used to describe conversation topics that were hard to discuss and could anger someone in the conversation.
This one is pretty well-known and perhaps a favorite. But why would soldiers say “Roger that” rather than a short, straightforward, “Yes.” The old NATO phonetic alphabet design, the phonetic system used for communications over the radio to make sure that there wouldn’t be any confusion and the message is relayed clearly. R was pronounced as “Roger.” (You could read more about it here.) The soldiers would say “Roger” to confirm that they have “Received” the message or command. Although the new NATO phonetic for R is “Romeo,” the practice didn’t change. Could you imagine saying, “Romeo that” instead?
Bite the Bullet
Meaning: endure the pain without crying out
Figuratively, the phrase could also mean to endure hardships with fortitude. In the army, before anesthesia, the soldiers were usually given a bullet to bite whenever they were injured and had to be mended, stitched, or get cleaned up, so they don’t bite their tongues, at the same time stop themselves from screaming in agony. Imagine being amputated while conscious and without anesthesia. You might probably prefer to bite on a bullet instead, too.
Caught a Lot of Flak
Meaning: to be criticized harshly
Flak came from the Germans’ guns called Fliegerabwehrkanonen. Flieger means flyer. Abwehr is defense. Kanonen is, yep, cannon. During World War II, the military pilots had to fly through the clouds of shrapnels created by this flak. Hilter even ordered to construct a mighty flak tower due to Hitler’s rage against the British bombing in Berlin. Later on, the phrase equated to hurtful criticisms. Perhaps it has something to do with sharp words? You know sharp words, shrapnels.
There are still other phrases that were not mentioned, for sure. As much as we as Americans say we love peace, an awful lot of our common slang comes from war, doesn’t it?
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