The Department of Veterans Affairs has published a list detailing the vocabulary of Operation Iraqi Freedom -- a list that contains such entries as "death blossom," a term originating in the 1984 science-fiction film "The Last Starfighter." It is used by servicemen to describe fire sprayed indiscriminately in all directions. The list also includes the terms "Mortaritaville" and "Bombaconda," both referring to LSA Anaconda, a base near Balad, Iraq, that is frequently the target of mortar attacks.
"Soldiers use these terms because they try to make the best they can of their situation and give things kind of a humorous angle," said Lt. Col. Charles Kohler of the Maryland National Guard.
The term "Mortaritaville," a reference to the Jimmy Buffett song "Margaritaville," is only one of many terms soldiers use to take the edge off an environment that is potentially frightening and often beyond their control, said Indiana University linguist Michael Adams.
"It's making a really terrifying experience manageable by attempting to make it familiar," Adams said. . . .
"It's language for them made by them to consolidate their social relationships," he said. "In war, people's survival depends on (these relationships)."
Military slang is versatile and can refer to anything in a soldier's environment - equipment, locations, or people.
Maj. Liam Kingdon, who works for the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at the University of Maryland in College Park, said he has heard fellow service members referred to as "fobbits." The word is a contraction of Forward Operating Base (FOB) and "hobbit," a creature from The Lord of the Rings known for its sedentary habits.
"It's basically a soldier, sailor or airman who never leaves the base," Kingdon said. "You've got people there who leave the base all the time to go on patrol, and you've got people who literally just stay on the base."
"[Slang terms are] part of my everyday language now," said Matt Robbins, who lives in College Park and is a senior at the University of Maryland.
In 2008, Robbins deployed to Tikrit, Iraq, as a communications specialist, and said his stay there has made him acutely aware of differences in cultural customs.
"In Iraq, you don't show the bottom of your foot to people; it's considered impolite," Robbins said. "I still don't do that."
He also recalls the fact that soldiers referred to Iraqis as "hajis" -- an Arabic term describing a person who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
But in this particular case, Robbins said, the use struck him as derogatory, so "I don't use that anymore."
The term "haji" has various derivatives, such as the designation "haji shop" for a cart or booth run by natives, where DVDs, soda and other small items are sold.
Slang terms referring to features of a base are also common. . . .
Other terms link life in the military to items or concepts familiar from other environments -- often, the environment is home, or a favorite movie. For example, improvised vehicle armor made from scrap metal is also known as "hillbilly armor" and a truck with large amounts of add-on armor may be designated a "Frankenstein." . . .
The fascination with military-speak has also led to expressions of artistic creativity. Earlier this year, alternative rock band Cracker released a song called "Yalla Yalla" -- Arabic for "let's go" -- built around military slang, including such terms as "Bombaconda" and "haji."
At least some of these terms are likely to make it into everyday language, Adams said. When that will happen is unclear because "those serving have to bring the terms home and influence the use of those who haven't served."
But maybe the day when "couch potatoes" become "fobbits" is not so far off.
My primary reason for posting this excerpt was because I found the article interesting. My secondary reason was my frustration while reading the part about the term "haji."
First of all, the term is hajji, according to both Arabic and the AP Stylebook. Omitting a "j" changes the pronunciation of the word.
Second of all, although American military personnel tend to use the term derogatively, hajji is an honorable title, used to refer to Muslims who have completed the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca (one of the five pillars of Islam). Although the hajj should be completed by all Muslims, not all Muslims to whom military personnel refer have done so. Therefore, the term is a misnomer.