When Militarese Goes Wrong


It was bound to happen sometime - the fact that my first language fluency is Militarese has gotten me into a bit of a job pickle.

Well, it's not really a pickle. But there was a brief situation of concern.

I have a few clients that occasionally request freelance articles about military life geared towards civilians. I'm happy to oblige, and it's a nice change of pace from homeschooling, eating bon bons, and reading romance novels.


Anyway, in this particular article I was discussing service-related injuries outside the battlefield. I was trying to make the point that after twenty years of regular military training, like humping 60 - 70 pounds of ruck and gear around, body parts suffer - war or not.

The problem arose when I read that particular portion of the article aloud to a civilian editor (not the one I was turning the article in to, someone else who was helping me make corrections).

Civilian Editor: Did you just say humping?

Me: Whaaaa?

Civilian Editor: Did you just say humping a ruck? What is a ruck?

Me: Ruck sack - you know, the giant backpack thingie.

Civilian Editor: They hump it? I'm confused. What kind of training is that? Can you even say that?

Me: *silence*

Civilian Editor: Should we even be talking about this?

Me: I think you have the wrong idea.

So, there I was, at a complete loss as to how to describe someone hiking around, doing a road march, going on a mission, or whatever with a big ol' heavy backpack on. I mean, hiking and walking and marching all kind of describe it. But the truth is that they don't really describe it, either. What is being done is humping a ruck, and much to my surprise not everyone says that.

Air Force Guy, who is now home, was unavailable for comment so I found myself calling down my cell phone list trying to locate someone who could possibly give me a more socially acceptable term to use. Luckily my brother was in, because the next person on the list was Sarah's husband - and I didn't want to bother them with him just getting home from deployment.

Apparently the whole humping debacle has come up before, and my brother informed me that the word "rucking" (or rather, ruckin') could be used as an acceptable alternative that means the same thing. I had no idea. I made the substitution, but I have to admit that it still sounds wrong to me.

And, now that I think about it, perhaps the phrase "humping a ruck" does sound a little strange.

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