English to Militarese FAIL - Case Study #2543


One of the instructors at my gym is a Marine currently awaiting information on the packet he submitted for OCS (or do Marines call it OTS? I get all the different service terms confused fairly frequently). He is a very nice guy and a great coach - he's already got quite a following in the kickboxing classes and he's only been at our gym about six weeks!

And it's not just women who swear by his coaching either, so although he's really is a cutie, I don't think that's the only reason for his following. His classes are hard, and they are effective. He's very good at leading, and kids in particular think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Anyway, sometimes he and I have some service-related conversations going on; he likes to get all "Oorah" and I like to remind him that the Air Force has better cable channels. He waxes poetic about the Beef Rav MREs and I remind him that the Air Force has this thing called a "cafeteria" where hot food is served (although the Navy's lobster dinners totally win in that category, I think).

We were having one of those conversations last week when I experienced a major English to Militarese FAIL.

As the coach and I were talking about MREs and cafeterias, I changed subjects suddenly - because, hey, I'm female and it's what we do.

"So how's your package?" I asked.

This made total sense to me, because the previous conversation we had was centered on the fact that he had just submitted his package for OCS. In my mind, this made perfect sense. I did not realize at the time that you should not just go asking Marines about their "package" without the benefit of some context.

The coach looked shocked for a moment, with his mouth hanging open, and then finally seemed to figure out what I was getting at.

"Oh, you mean my package for OCS? Well, I'm waiting for this waiver to come through..."

It wasn't until I had left the gym, showered, fixed my hair, watched a movie, eaten lunch, and sat down at my computer later on that evening when I figured out that I had committed a conversational faux pas. A terrible one. Have you ever had delayed onset humiliation? Yeah, I had that. My face was red for the next couple of hours.

I seriously considered joining a different gym.

However, they do know me there, they've seen me lose my pants while jumping rope (boxing does wonders for weight loss), and they know my history for verbal gaffes of the humiliating sort, so I think I'll stick it out.

In the back, though. Where hopefully the coach won't noticed me for awhile. Hopefully.

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