Know the Lingo
"A different language is a different vision of life." ~Federico Fellini
I see the importance in learning another language. It opens doors that would otherwise be closed and gives you an opportunity to communicate with people from other cultures. As a military wife, I learned really early on that there was another obscure type of language that I had to master or my life was going to be difficult. That language is the one of acronyms and catch phrases ~ I'll call it Military Speak.
Military speak is the peculiar way that service members communicate. The idea is that thoughts and communication on the battlefield need to be clear and brief so many things are abbreviated. The food on the battlefield is called a Meal Ready to Eat or MRE. The uniform worn by the Army is now a Desert Camouflage Uniform or DCU. The man at the top is the Secretary of Defense or SecDef. Even your MACOM or Major Command affiliation is shortened like Central Command is CENTCOM or the United States Army in Europe is USAREUR.
When I first married Vic and we went to get my ID (identification card) on post, they called me a dependent. I think abbreviating that word would add insult to injury. There are military words for civilian words, a dependent is someone who is in your family, a spouse or child. The commissary is the grocery store, the PX or BX is the shopping area, the latrine is the bathroom, the class 6 is where you buy liquor and the field house is the gym. I had a neighbor who took me around our first post to point out things and tell me their new names. She also showed me the ropes on shopping on post and helped calm my fears as a new military spouse (dependent).
One part of military speak always makes me chuckle. This is the phonetic alphabet. There are words associated with each letter of the alphabet so that letters don't get mistaken for similar sounding ones. This is most important if you are on the battlefield trying to call in an air strike or supplies or back up and you are giving coordinates. In the civilian world we have heard this on a phone call when the operator isn't sure if you are using the letter M or N for a name or address. The funny part is that there are specific words, universal words that are used for each letter yet people use other words instead. Yesterday I was on the phone with an operator in Missouri. She was trying to take down an address and when she read it back to me she tried to use the phonetic alphabet. Instead of using the assigned words per letter, she made up her own. You know you are a seasoned military spouse (dependent) when you recognize that the phonetic alphabet is being slaughtered. Instead of Mike India Charlie she said something like Mary Igloo Cake to represent the letters MIC. Ten years ago, a very wise Soldier told me that I had better use the correct phonetic words or not at all, because the results are not only confusing but ridiculous. Yesterday, on the phone, his words came back to me.
The flip side to this is when you run into a particularly motivated Servicemember who uses the phonetic alphabet for everything, not taking a breath between words to clearly communicate. Talking to that person on the phone is like having a run in with Buzz Lightyear or trying to speak Morse Code. It makes you want to yell "Stand Down, Soldier" or something out of a military movie.
My conversation with Missouri ended without incident, and I thanked my operator for her diligence in getting the information right. When I got of f the phone, I had a nice laugh about our bilingual family, our military culture and how I've come to learn the lingo.
(side note, when spellchecking this piece, the computer had a field day! )