Soldier slang, however, has a peculiar appeal. That's understandable. Waging war is a risky, all-encompassing endeavor — physically, emotionally and psychologically. War reveals humankind at its best and its worst, and war-fighter slang, reflects the bitter, terrifying, sometimes inspiring hell of it.
Every war adds something new — and often obscene — to the soldiers' vocabulary. World War II-era Hollywood dialogue glamorized (and often scrubbed) combat slang, but the warrior's rhetorical swagger, irony and biting humor predate film by several millenniums.
Often, new idioms and phrases describe old, difficult truths. Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz said that war is the realm of "friction." World War II veterans invoked Murphy's Law: "If something can go wrong, it will." As you'll see in the brief lexicon I've pulled together below, the New Greatest Generation (the generation fighting the war on terror) dubs it "the suck."
"Embrace the suck" isn't merely a wisecrack; it's an encyclopedic experience rendered as an epigram, gritty shorthand for "Face it, soldier. I've been there. War ain't easy. Now deal with the difficulty and let's get on with the mission."
That's sound advice for a nation at war.
Air jockey: Fighter pilot or a fixed-wing pilot. On rare occasions, might refer to a helicopter pilot.
Ali Baba: Slang for enemy forces. Originated in the Persian Gulf War.
Battle rattle: Slang for combat gear. "Full battle rattle" means wearing and carrying everything (helmet, body armor, weapons).
Beltway clerk: A derisive term for a Washington political operative or civilian politician.
Bilat: A bilateral conference between coalition military units and local people. ("We're going on a bilat to discuss the security situation with Haji.")
Blackwater: Specifically, a private security firm operating in Iraq. Used as slang, can mean any private security firm. "Gone to Blackwater" indicates that a soldier quit the armed services and went to work for a private security firm.