How To Speak Military for Wifes

November 3, 2015

A reader recently sent me a list of naval terminology, and I immediately understood the implication of the gesture: Despite being a military dependent for more than 28 years, I’m not well versed in the lingo. I’ve been known to call an aircraft carrier’s gangway “that slippery ramp thing-a-majig,” and to think that AWOL is actually spelled “A WALL.”

But I’m not alone. Most military spouses are utterly mystified by their husband’s shop talk. We listen to so much of it, yet we seldom understand. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. Because I’m not in the military myself, who could blame me when I don’t understand messages such as the following my husband sent over e-mail: Expect to RTB NLT 1700. Please have dinner ready NET 1730. And send me your shopping receipts ASAP. V/R Your Husband. (Dustin tells me this translates as, “I’ll be home at 5:00, so let’s eat at 5:30. I need to balance the checkbook tonight. Love, Dustin.”)

Despite my mental block to military jargon, however, I sat down to review the glossary of terms sent by the attentive reader. And, I admit, I had to laugh. The publisher got it all wrong. Not one of the definitions was correct. How such an error could slip by the editors and make it into print is beyond me. But nevertheless, here are the corrections, for all of you out there who, like me, are annoyed by such careless editorial mistakes.

Batten down: To make a hatch watertight by putting the battens against the tarpaulins. Correction: What I have to do to the house when a hurricane comes. Meanwhile, my husband evacuates with the aircraft.

Chock: Blocks placed around an aircraft’s tires to keep it from rolling. Correction: What Owen used to draw Big Bird on the living room wall.

Bitter end: Free end of line, wire or chain. Correction: What I call Homecoming if my husband fails to notice how much weight I’ve lost or that I colored my hair.

Purchase: One or more blocks rove with a wire. Correction: An act of shopping, which I’m basically forbidden from while my husband is away – especially if the purchase is to take place in a mall or Target.

Relative bearing: Direction of an object in relation to one’s current perspective. Correction: The process of me putting up with my husband’s family.

Take a turn: Pass a line around a cleat and hold it. Correction: My husband’s opportunity to change the baby’s diaper after he’s been away.

Roger: How pilots acknowledge receiving information over the radio. Correction: The neighbor who mows my lawn while my husband is gone.

Lifeline: Lines erected around edges of deck. Correction: The Spouse Club.

Slack: Loose part of a line. Correction: What I wish my husband would cut me when I forget to have the car’s oil changed. I can only handle so much car maintenance.

Break out: To take something out of storage in order to use. Correction: What happened to my face the night before Homecoming.

Call: Boatswain’s pipe. Correction: What I wish my husband would do when he’s late for dinner.

Clamp down: To swab down the deck with water. Correction: What my teeth tend to do every time Dustin tells me about another “unexpected” detachment.

Chain of command: System of command that is exercised from superior on downward. Correction: Wife…Husband…Children…Pet.

Classified information: Official information requiring protection in the interest of defense. Correction: The amount of shoes I bought while my husband was deployed.

I know, I know. It’s unbelievable to think the editors of the glossary could overlook such glaring mistakes. Don’t worry, dear readers, I’m looking out for all us wives who know without a doubt that 0130 does not mean 1:30 a.m., but represents the pre-pregnancy weight we’ll never see again.

By Sarah Smiley

Devin Joy
djoy@incharge.org

Devin is a graduate of Valencia College in Graphic and Interactive Design. Devin has over ten years of experience designing educational and inspiring materials for print, web and other media.