How To Swear Like A Sailor
May 26, 2014 8:24 AM   Subscribe

A Dictionary of Navy Slang Compiled From Various Sources 67 pages of history and hilarity.
posted by timsteil (35 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

Terrific find, timsteil. How'd you come across it?
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:43 AM on May 26

This is cool. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:44 AM on May 26

It is a pdf.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:46 AM on May 26

I'm ex Navy, and some of these I had completely forgotten about. Like BOCOD.
posted by timsteil at 8:46 AM on May 26

Brings back mixed memories: some fond, but also reminds me of common encounters with racism, misogyny, and homophobia, and I separated just a decade ago.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:56 AM on May 26

posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:59 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

Screaming Alpha: A sailor who is on fire and is running around screaming

This happens often enough that they came up with a slang for it? Gulp.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:19 AM on May 26 [4 favorites]

Item number one (and two, moreso) seems to suggest that that propaganda movie is titled wrong.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

Nuts to butts.
posted by Hugobaron at 9:26 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

You know I came across a crossword puzzle the other day that claimed that SNAFU comes from WWI. I had no idea it was that old.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:41 AM on May 26

WWII, actually.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:45 AM on May 26

ctrl+F "Poopie Suit"

Yep, this checks out.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:49 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

Friday's also known as "Poet's day" among British office workers who want to get their weekend started about mid-afternoon. In their case, it stands for "Piss off early, tomorrow's Saturday".
posted by Paul Slade at 9:59 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

No Navy Cake in there, then? You'd need an English one for that..
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:14 AM on May 26

Not to mention Full Horatio.
posted by Dreidl at 10:24 AM on May 26

Sailor here. Some of these I've never heard, while others are golden oldies - but most are still used every day. What a great list!

I'll add:

Poop-n-Sweat: heads use sea water for flushing the toilets. In the Persian Gulf, that water is VERY warm. In a head with 6 or more toilets, it's a steam bath. You get the picture...
posted by matty at 10:32 AM on May 26 [1 favorite]

Wherein is answered one of the universe's eternal questions:

"What's in a geedunk?"
"Pogey bait."

This former SH throws down the mic and walks off... .
posted by CincyBlues at 11:17 AM on May 26

>>You know I came across a crossword puzzle the other day that claimed that SNAFU
>>comes from WWI. I had no idea it was that old.>
>WWII, actually.

Yes, hence my surprise. I would write it off as a typo but I've noticed that crossword puzzle writers often have a stunning grasp of etymological trivia that is deeper than the common wisdom.

On another not, if the original phrase really is Situation Normal; All Fouled Up I would even buy the British origins claimed by some.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:42 AM on May 26

Could have been a typo, could have been a mistake. I don't think it's because crossword writers know better than lexicographers.

(The OED's first citation is from 1941. Merriam-Webster's has "circa 1941" as well.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:59 AM on May 26

posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:05 PM on May 26

Wow, this brings back memories. As a Navy brat I grew up with a lot of this slang and still use it today. I still remember my dad telling my brother & myself not to spend all our allowance on pogey bait.
posted by govtdrone at 12:14 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

They missed JANFU. (Joint Army-Navy Fuck Up)
posted by pjern at 12:20 PM on May 26

Nautical but nice.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:21 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]

Not that I've known many sailors ;) but I can't see any Navy person saying JANFU. AFU, yes. But everyone in the Navy knows they're superior to Army plebes, so there's no way it could be a joint fuckup.

(Tongue planted firmly in cheek, obvs)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:22 PM on May 26

That's not what Vulcan Death Watch is.

The normal watch rotation on a sub is (starting from midnight) 6 hrs/6 hrs/6 hrs/6 hrs, rotating 3 teams (called watch sections.)

Vulcan Death Watch happens when an inspection is coming up and they need to run as many drills on each watch section as possible to get ready over a week or two. On a normal rotation, they would run a set of 2 or 3 drills on the morning watch, and another set on the afternoon watch. But that only gets two sections. To get the third, they would have to do another set on the evening watch.

That's not really practical, because then you'd be drilling for 18 hours. Nobody would get any sleep, because everyone not on watch is still required to play in the big fire/flooding/etc. drills.

So what they do instead, is modify the rotation to Vulcan Death Watches. That's 6/4/4/4/6 starting from midnight. That way they can cram 3 drill sets into the daytime 12 hours.

What that means is that 12 hours is pretty intense. The next drill is starting almost as soon as the previous one ends. It's 12 straight hours of the end of the world. Maybe catch a sandwich in there if you're lucky.

Can't keep that up for too long though because nobody has any time for maintenance or admin paperwork. Everything else goes to shit during VDW week, and then you have to dig yourself back out of the backlog later.
posted by ctmf at 2:11 PM on May 26 [4 favorites]

My dead dad, a (U.S.) Army Air Force captain working for OSS in London, claimed JABFU—Joint American-British Fuck Up—was in daily use. So perhaps JANFU is more often heard onshore among the admin brass.
posted by Jesse the K at 2:40 PM on May 26

Item number one (and two, moreso) seems to suggest that that propaganda movie is titled wrong.

My dad was in the Navy in the 70s and always says "oh dark thirty". The title "Zero Dark Thirty" really bugged him.
posted by rustcellar at 8:57 PM on May 26

My dad was in the Navy in the 70s and always says "oh dark thirty". The title "Zero Dark Thirty" really bugged him.

Thats odd.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:54 PM on May 26

Yeah, my dad (Navy from 1946-1978) always used "oh dark thirty", not "zero dark thirty". Also made us clean our racks, had us stand for inspection and occasionally treated us to geedunk, especially if someone had made him SOS (aka 'shit on a shingle' aka chipped beef on toast) for breakfast.
posted by easily confused at 6:25 AM on May 27

Mr. Krabs: There are thirteen bad words that you should never ever use.
Squidward: Don't you mean there are only seven?
Mr. Krabs: Not if you're a sailor!
posted by Flexagon at 8:03 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]

My favorites are cake dryer and "goes away"

A couple they missed:
Smoke box: a motor controller or electrical panel. Mythically, are metal boxes filled with smoke. If anything goes wrong with the equipment, the box lets out some of the smoke so you can see where the problem is.

Liberty for the Brave: Highly illegal, usually announced by the Chief or Leading First to signal "I won't be looking for you for the rest of the day, but official liberty is not authorized yet. If you get caught, don't be saying *I* told you to go."
posted by ctmf at 10:12 AM on May 27 [2 favorites]

Token Failure: (submarines, nuclear) The person(s) who will fail the written exam even if creative grading is required to make that happen. Allows everyone else to pass while not making the statistics give anyone the bright idea that exams should be more difficult. Rotated so the same person doesn't develop a failing trend over time and get into trouble.
posted by ctmf at 11:40 AM on May 27

Barney Clark: Slider topped with a fried egg. Named after the first man to receive an artificial heart.

Heh. These are fun.
posted by vytae at 11:46 AM on May 27

"Button Crusher" and "Cake Dryer" almost made me cry from laughing so damn hard. jesus. "Lettuce Browner" isn't bad either.
posted by emptythought at 7:10 PM on May 27

Not sure how I missed these on the first read-through, but

I actually rode both the "Helo Dunker, and Dilbert Dunker."
posted by timsteil at 7:17 PM on May 27

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