May I Check the Bilingual Box?


I have become a verber.

Please understand, my grandmother spend 35 years teaching college preparatory English.  She used to grade the letters we sent her and send them back to us with corrections.  To this day, our conversations are peppered with things like, "I am so tired I just want to go lay down."

"Lie down.  You want to lie down.  You LAY the book down, but you lie down."

My "verbing" drives my Grandmother crazy, and it's all the fault of my being a military spouse.

I should probably define "verbing" before I go any further.  Verbing, according to the illustrious Calvin and Hobbes, is the act of taking a noun and making it into a verb.   For instance, you can have emotion.  But if you "emote" (a word I saw in one of hubby's omnipresent study manuals for some thing or another in official Air Force doctrine), you are making that "emotion" into a verb. 

Usually it's easier just to say "feeling", but it doesn't sound as fancy.

In any case, long ago I began my acquaintance with a new language - militarese.  It includes quite a lot of odd characteristics such as verbing and words that no one outside of the service has the least idea as to the definition of.   In fact, many of those words aren't actually words, they are acronyms that stand for something else.  We just pronounce them like they are words.  Sometimes we verb the acronyms, too.

My family, who all served themselves (but they served last century...snicker), quite often have no idea what I'm talking about.

"So, airforcewife, when are you guys scheduled to move again?  Do you know where?"

"Well, you know if I could I would PCS every year - there's just so much to see of the world.  But we're not sure when the next assignment board will come up and so we might have another year on station before we get orders and can start PCSing procedures."


"Also, the BAH here is much more equitable than it was at our last assignment, and I no longer cringe quite as much when hubby's LES arrives."


"Are you still there?  Did Cingular drop our call?"

"I have no idea what you just said.  Are you going to be moving soon?"

And that is just the beginning.  I never mentioned anything about TDY's, POV's, the BX, or how I just can't get used to the transition from calling them SPs to calling them SFs.  There were a few years there when hubby was working in PSYOP that our family was totally confused by our referrals to "sigh-op".  I finally resorted to writing PSYOP = PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS on large pieces of paper and mailing them out for people to refer to when they were confused.   

Also, that's just the acronyms.  Thanks to the news, most of the country is now used to the term "deployment".  Not used to it the way we are used to it, of course, but they understand what it means.  When hubby came home from Afghanistan, though, I found yet another term I had to explain to family members - decompression.

Hubby had over a week outside of theater in mandatory decompression time before he could come home - and I was left trying to explain to irritated family members that no, he could not come straight home, as the Air Force was doing it's level best to make sure that PTSD could be detected and treated as soon as possible.  This is decompression.  To verb it - he was "decompressing". I'm still explaining it.

And then there was the half-hour discussion with people about the intricacies of "coining".  It included my brother's brilliant (yet semi-cheating, but he IS going to law school) method of always winning the coin challenge - he carries the Chaplain's coin.  Of course, he is challenged on it every single time, but so far his explanation has worked, "Are you trying to say that the SecDef outranks GOD?"

And finally, not for militarese is the simple "COOl!" enough to suffice.  No, we must go our own way; HOOAH!  HOORAH!  And, for those of us in the Air Force there is OUTSTANDING! 

Honestly, I do think that militarese should be considered a second language.  For sure, we do need to translate often enough.  I even have a sure fire way to determine someone's fluency...  If you have ever led a family discussion using PowerPoint slides, you score native speaker.

Show Full Article

Related Topics


Military Spouse Videos

View more