The Bilingual Sailor

The Bilingual Sailor

By: Garland Davis

The North American Bluejackets of the past developed a unique language that we all learned starting with “Boot Camp.” There were universal terms that everyone understood and there were terms that had meaning to individual ratings. This language evolved a little differently on each ship. Example: Midway did a 113 day I/O cruise from Subic to Pattaya. During that trip everything became SERIOUS.

“Man when we get into port, I am going to drink some SERIOUS beer.”

“I am going to get me some SERIOUS pussy when we get to Pattaya.”

“Man, that is some SERIOUS beer.” When the beer was VERTREPed aboard for the beer day and steel beach cookout.

One sailor to another while looking down on the flight deck, “Dude, this is a SERIOUS fucking airport.”

Whatever the word or phrase of the moment, we understood it. Some of the new words became part of the lexicon, others were forgotten. As we transferred to different ships and stations the Language of the Sailor became pretty much standardized. We understood each other. Well, at least us Asia Sailors did. I cannot vouch for those LANT FLT dudes. They were always a little out of sync. And they have always been jealous of us because we had Subic.

When dealing with civilians we sometimes have difficulty communicating. Primarily because civilians are a little slow. You must remember that civilians live a sheltered life and have no idea where Subic is located or the entertainment and activities offered at the Subic City amusement park. The following glossary is to help you deal more effectively with them.

Skivvies: Civilians don’t understand this. It will not work to go to Victoria’s Secret to buy a gift your wife or girlfriend and say, “I want some of them fancy crotchless skivvies for my shack job.”

Skivvy Check: This is an inspection held by shipmates to determine who buys the next round (the dude wearing skivvies does). It is not proper to hold a skivvy check on the patrons of the lounge at the Holiday Inn while on leave.

Shack Job: Another term that civilians are unfamiliar with. You would introduce your shack job to a civilian as, “My companion, or my roommate.”

Skank: Same rules as those that apply to “Shack Job”

Skag: Same rules apply.

Bar Hog: In the civilian world female employees and patrons of bars and clubs are not referred to as Bar Hogs. They are genteel young ladies unless they are old and over the hill then they are Bar Hogs.

NOTE: The Bar Hog capitol of the world is Norfolk, Virginia, if you can believe a fucking thing those LANTFLT pussies say. In my opinion, you have to go to National City, California to meet the elite of the Bar Hog world. ENDNOTE

Bar Fine: We all know that a bar fine is a scam cooked up by the Mama-sans to separate a sailor from his money. We paid it grudgingly but willingly. In the civilian world, the proper way to meet a genteel young lady in a bar or club is to offer a seat or ask if you may buy her a libation. An improper way to start a conversation with her is, “Hey baby, I ain’t seen you here before. You still cherry? You do BJ’s? How much is your Bar Fine?”

Rug Rats, Crumb Crunchers, Curtain Climbers, Tricycle Motors, Snot Eaters, and etc.: All terms that apply to a Shack Job’s children. Probably not a good idea to use any of these terms to refer to your sister’s kids.

War Club: We all know that it means the largest container of an alcoholic beverage. Usually the cheaper the booze, the larger the bottle, in other words, War Club. When you ask a civilian clerk for a “War Club” it is not unreasonable to think that he may a bit apprehensive. The proper request is, “Gimme the largest bottle of the cheapest shit you got.” He will understand, especially if you are in uniform.

Head: Due to its use in many movies, most civilians actually know the meaning of head. They think it is “cute” when you ask for the head.

Pisser: We know that means urinal but civilians are perplexed when you remark, “You know your head would be a lot nicer if you put in a couple of pissers.”

Shitter: Again a perfectly good description of a toilet stool but your host may be a little upset when you tell him, “Boy, I wouldn’t go in there for a while. That one was really a stinker. It smelled so bad that I thought it was going to wreck your shitter.

Ass Wipe: A self-explanatory and accurate description of its primary use. Civilians refer to it as toilet tissue which opens it up for many other uses.

Happy Sock: This term is understood solely by sailors and its closest equivalents in civilian life are Bounty Towels and ass wipe. (Never ever pick up a single sock in berthing!)

Fart Sack: A big ass sack you put your mattress in.

Shit on a shingle: Any of a myriad variety of creamed of or other sauces served for breakfast, usually over toast. Civilians look upon these as generally unpalatable but then they have never been hungover, starving, and need a stick to your ribs breakfast in order to make it through the day until “Liberty Call.”

Buzzard Puke over a hockey puck: A sailor’s quaint euphemism for Creamed Tuna or Turkey Ala King over Biscuits. Not a popular civilian dish either. But again, it will get you through a hangover and on to “Liberty Call.”

Horsecock: Usually a term used to identify cold cuts. Not a proper way to order a sandwich at Subway!

Set the Special Sea and Anchoring Detail: Either a happy or a sad occasion. It depends on whether leaving or entering port. This is one where civilians think, “Oh don’t they look so cute in their sailor suits, standing up there on the ship?”

And let’s not forget “Fuckin’ A” or “Fuckin Aye” for emphasis on the positive or you bet your ass. When the subject is serious sailors often use, “Fuckin’ A Ditty bag” to convey the seriousness of the moment.

Another confusing term for civilians is “Geedunk”. This is a term used to describe the place where you buy “Pogey Bait.” If you don’t know the meaning of Pogey bait, you will probably have to ask a LANT FLT sailor, I’m not going to explain it here.

“Two Blocked” or “Tube Locked” for snipes: Meaning there ain’t no more room in this two-pound sack for another five pounds of shit.

Tell a civilian that you are going to “Hit the Rain Locker” and they will look at you with a total look of stupefaction.

Traveling around Asia, sailors have incorporated foreign words and terms into their everyday usage. Some of the following come to mind:

Itai: Japanese for “Ouch.” A sailor may use it, “Stop fucking around and get that deck finished or I am going to lay some “Itai’s” on your ass.

Beaucoup: French for much or a lot. Used by sailors of the Viet Nam area to mean “a whole fucking lot”. For example: “When we get into port I am going to drink beaucoup fucking beer.”

Mama-san: Slang Japanese term for Mother. A sailor uses it to refer to the proprietor of a bar or Skivvy House.

Skivvy House: A brothel. I always envisioned going into competition with Victoria’s Secret by opening a chain of lingerie stores called “The Skivvy House.” I figure our clientele would consist of Shack Jobs, Skanks, and Bar Hogs. Probably go over well in National City.

Damn, I almost forgot Honey-ko: The proper way of addressing your Shack Job or any other Bar Hog you meet.

I could probably go on with many more. But you get the gist. Just be thoughtful when dealing with civilians, and LANTFLT sailors. Remember they are pussies who have led a sheltered life.


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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.


3 thoughts on “The Bilingual Sailor

  1. Mike Gardiner says:

    Hey Shipmate if the “westpac stripes”. A favorite acronym we used Back in the 60’s 70’s & 80’s:
    my LBFM (lil brown fucking machine)
    Or LBRPFM: (lil Brown, rice propelled, fucking machine!)
    Or my “honey-Ko” looks like a 59’ Chrysler with the smile she has.


  2. sweep sailor says:

    I was aboard a wood hulled MSO for three and a half years (’59––’62) and stood many a watch in the pilot house before I made third class EM. We always had signalman or quartermaster close at hand near the wing bridge. I used to watch them with the signal lamp talking to other ships. The blinks were so fast it was incredible! Then the semaphore flags, that was fun to watch. Their arms looked like windmills and I was always amazed at how they read em so fast. Then the signal flag display to the yard arms were something ot behold. Great time to be in WesPac.


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