Thursday, January 10, 2008

Parvum Opus 260 ~ Smoke-Filled Brains

Number 260
January 9, 2008



Thanks to son Foy for the Christmas gift of FUBAR: Soldier Slang of World War II, not to be confused with War Slang by Paul Dickson, which I mentioned in PO 212. War Slang is a collection of U.S. military slang, while FUBAR is a 2007 publication by Gordon L. Rottman that covers U.S., British, German, Japanese, and Red Army slang. Need I explain fubar itself, which we've discussed before? F***ed up beyond all recognition.

Anent* our recent discussion of the whole nine yards, FUBAR gives the nine yards of machine-gun ammunition explanation, but also says, "More than likely it originated from an old British term 'up to the nines,' meaning perfectly or thoroughly." Like "dressed to the nines"? But he gives no further etymology of that phrase. The book was first published in England. (Dickson's book doesn't list whole nine yards at all.)

Some of the U.S. terms obviously originated before the war, such as mule skinner (mule handler) and moocher (as in "Minnie the Moocher"); many are still in common use. Many were used by my father; two of the milder ones in his vocabulary were knucklehead and knot-head. The book fell open at organized grab ass, which means calisthenics; Fred guessed this one right away.

Tommy, Aussie, Canuck, and Kiwi talk: A number of the Brits' words are derived from Arabic, Hindi, and other languages of the outposts of Empire. Here's a great phrase describing an admirable soldier: [his] blood's worth bottling. A bolshie was a complainer or contrary, irritating person; I assume it comes from Bolshevik. Chad was the British version of Kilroy, who was always here.

The German slang includes an odd English coinage which doesn't appear in the U.S. and British lists: aspirinjesus, a substandard physician, or one lacking in medical supplies. Blau (blue) meant drunk. Alcohol issued before an attacked was wutmilch (anger milk).

Disparaging Japanese names: ameko (American), chankoro (Chinese), chosen-jin (korean), rosuke (Russian). It's hard to get a feel for why or how these were disparaging, but I'll take Rottman's word for it. Haisen fuku meant defeat suits, that is, uniforms that ex-soldiers had to wear after the war due to clothing shortages. Haisen kutsu were defeat shoes. Kamikaze no fuki sokone meant "the divine wind did not blow", alluding to the defeat.

The Red Army called a type of hand grenade a lemon (compare U.S. pineapple). Natsmen was a derogatory general term for the many ethnic minorities in the USSR. Ruzveltovskie yaitsa were powdered eggs provided by Roosevelt's Lend-Lease program. (Yaitsa also translates to testes.) And do you remember SMERSH in the James Bond movies? It's a contraction meaning death to spies.

*Anent is my tribute to S. J. Perelman, who amused himself and me with the pointless use of archaic words.


Mike Sykes told me about a new Koran blog, courtesy of writer Ziauddin Sardar, a "sceptical" or moderate Muslim. Mike also sent the tip to Ophelia Benson, editor of Butterflies and Wheels, who wrote:

I can't help twitching rather. He means it to sound nostalgic-spiritual (at least I think he does) but to me it just sounds like rather intense indoctrination. And he calls himself a 'skeptical Muslim'...I wonder what a credulous one would sound like.

My response was, they sound like "BOOM!" Anyway, I haven't read the Bible thoroughly yet, so I'll defer reading the Koran thoroughly. I also mentioned another Koran blog some time ago, posted by Robert Spencer. Would this be the place to mention the Dallas cab driver who killed his two teenage daughters for being too American? The paper reported that his son Islam said, "Why is it every time an Arab father kills a daughter, it's an honor killing. It didn't have anything to do with that." ("Every time"!?!?) So he was just a typical crazy Americanized murderer? It's not really Mr. Said's Egyptian cultural custom, and the Muslim connection is just an awkward coincidence. However, there is now such a thing (psychologically, legally, or maybe only journalistically) as "sudden jihad syndrome".

Mike also found examples in the OED of "Selah" being used by various writers who don't seem to know exactly what it means.

As for that make-up glow, he reminded me of the old saw, "Horses sweat, gentlemen perspire, but ladies only glow a little." I like the adaptation from the band Men at Work in "Down Under", where "the women glow and the men plunder." Great band, great song, video so-so. (Digression: When my brother first heard that song, he said he'd had a similar experience, but I don't know what he meant. The Vegemite sandwich? More likely the head full of zombie.)

And Mike wrote about traditions:

I recall seeing a report once of a notice on the notice board of some military establishment that said: "From next Monday, it will be a tradition ..."

Always good to plan ahead, otherwise you don't know what you might end up with. I worked for an editor once who said we had a tradition because something had been done annually for about two years. People really need traditions.

(And a correction: I should have typed


By the way, Dave DaBee and I agree that the noble Albert Tudor-Smythe of S.P.E.C.S. is fictional ~ The name "Tudor-Smythe" is a giveaway ~ but he found links to a real organization, the Queen's English Society, and lots of other good stuff:

A lecture for the Churchill Society by Ian Bruton-Simmonds of The Queen's English Society: A Criticism of Modern Linguistics with Suggestion for Improvement of English through the BBC. Following the links, he found Pain in the English, a follow-up interview on the lecture, and a BBC article, but doesn't know where he heard Tudor-Smythe say "Damn them!"


I don't know why the presidential candidates chose to start campaigning two years before the election instead of one. If they have jobs, they're not doing them. But I can no longer keep pretending they're not in our faces all the time. Luckily, if you miss Dave Barry, and if you feel like you have to pay attention to politics, you can read his coverage of the primaries, pols, polls, etc. online. And luckily for me, politics is mostly all about words.

There was a bit of a tempest last week when Hillary Clinton said Obama perhaps "hadn't done the spade work", alluding to his relative inexperience. People suggested that maybe this was this a racial slur. When I was in college, my friends and I (all white) thought the word "spade" was cool; colored was not cool (though "people of color" is now), Negro was too-too, and we'd never use anything insulting like the N-word. I don't think Eventually, maybe because "black as the ace of spades" sounded sort of offensive, the word faded away, although "black" with its attendant power came in vogue. I doubt if Hillary was making a racial allusion, although there's some merit to the idea that she never says anything that's not carefully planned. In any case, we can't throw out ancient expressions like "doing the spade work" (which means doing fundamental labor, not black labor), or "calling a spade a spade". Interestingly, though the latter phrase may have had some racial tinge (no pun intended) in recent times, it goes back to 178 B.C. in Plutarch, according to The Phrase Finder. I do not think Mrs. Clinton would be so crude as to make a racial slur.

She cheered up tremendously after she won in New Hampshire following the Iowa debacle, and said now she's "found her own voice". What voice was she using before? People are interpreting this voice business in various ways, but maybe she heard some of the "spade" criticism and meant to imply those were someone else's words. Or something.

Unity and change are big Democrat buzz words now. I agree that everyone should unify with me and my opinions. But change what, who, where? A female or black president would be change of the color or shape of the skin of the president, but I suppose change refers to the war or the capitalist economic system.

1 comment:

Muslims Against Sharia said...

Most of the Western Muslim establishment is comprised of Islamist groups claiming to be moderates. True moderate Muslims reject Islamic supremacy and Sharia; embrace religious equality and democracy.

What is a moderate Muslim? According to a dictionary, a moderate is a person who is opposed to radical or extreme views or measures, especially in politics or religion. Yet, majority of the public seem to be struggling with the definition of a moderate Muslim. Perhaps we can make this task easier by defining a radical Muslim and then defining the moderate as an opposite of the radical.

Muslims Against Sharia compiled a list of issues that differentiate moderate Muslims from Islamic radicals. Hopefully you can help us grow this list. 2008/01/what-is-moderate-muslim.html

Poll: Who is a moderate Muslim? 2008/01/poll-who-is-moderate-muslim.html