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.

About the Author


airforcewife started her military journey as an Army National Guard wife, but upon experiencing base housing decided to aim high and made the switch to the Air Force. That's worked pretty well for Air Force Family so far, even though airforcewife holds the spouse world record for Come to Jesus talks with various members of the command.

Air Force Family has four children, two pit bulls, and a Mother-in-Law who lost her mind eight years ago. Despite the reputation of pit bulls, airforcewife would like to assure you that her Mother-in-Law is truly the most dangerous of the group, and is banned in more places than the dogs.

airforcewife gets through Air Force Guy's frequent deployments and TDY's by frequently attending her boxing gym, after the chance discovery last deployment that hitting things really does make life better. She also volunteers as the Ambassador for Sew Much Comfort to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center and in a variety of other causes throughout the year.

airforcewife has no idea what the future holds, but decided five years ago that she wants to be Andi when she grows up.

18 Comments on "When Militarese Goes Wrong"

  1. Lol.. What a great way to start the morning! :)

  2. I have *OBVIOUSLY* been away from SpouseBuzz for FAR too long! Thanks for the laugh!

  3. That's funny!! :)

  4. I love it. Yes it can get confusing to outsiders. I noticed looks myself a couple of weeks ago when another wife and I were shopping at Burlington Coat Factory. We all talk in a different language apparently! Haha

  5. I certainly hope you enunciated your substitute word very, very clearly, or you might have found yourself without a job….

  6. I totally understood what you meant by "humping a ruck", its funny 'cause I just told my grandmother the other day that the men and women enter service in tip top shape, and come out, in less than perfect shape.
    Such is the life we lead.
    Where can I read more of your work?

  7. That was a hilarious recreation of the conversation.

  8. I have *OBVIOUSLY* been away from SpouseBuzz for FAR too long! Thanks for the laugh!

  9. That is funny. My son overloaded his rucksack when he just guessed how much he was suppose to carry, and we took him to the chiropractor. I'd like to see civilians just TRY to carry a heavy rucksack on their backs for a 10 mile road march. They'd soon find out that the rucksack actually humps you. Army Vet husband assures me humping is the technical term for carrying a rucksack. Keep educating the silly civilians.

  10. i have never heard it any other way than humping and never thoguht anythign about it. but now that you wrote this i can see where a civi would be like WHAT!..lol and i agree with joyce that the ruck does the humping..lol

  11. I had this very conversation with my mother-in-law over Christmas. You never realize how different your life is compared to that of a civilian until you mention "humping" or "PCS" or "TAD" or… you get the idea.

  12. But, the one that always makes me laugh is PMS—my Army guys keep insisting it means Professor of Military Science.

  13. That is so funny. My husband of 3 years, has been a military man for 12 years (long before he and I got together) and I know so little. He keeps using phrases and I just have to look at him and wonder. I think though I wouldn't have thought anything was wrong with Humping a ruck. I would have laughed, but I think I would have gotten it. Perverted thoughts aside…

  14. Humping a ruck is the correct term. Long term it hurts.
    The one term I advise not to use at a white tie affair is "I got to get bagged". That will raise eyebrows.

  15. "…and I didn't want to bother them with him just getting home from deployment."
    You didn't want to ask them about humping?

  16. Gosh even within the military spouses and such don't know what the other might be talking about, has anyone noticed that? I've hung out with wives whos husbands so something different then mine (obviously), and I'll say that he's out doing trainning at GATOR or that one day he'll go on a VIP and they have no clue what those mean. In all honesty gator is still undefined to my husband, but VIPs are almost like a secret service mission here in the states. The military life is never an easy one, especially when you attempt to share it with civilians, but as long as we know what we're talking about I'm thinking that it's all going to be smooth.

  17. I can still remember my assorted uncles faces as one tried to explain the term to me as a wee little girl. . .
    It involved something about a camel cause I always hear him and picture a camel's hump when I hear it, lol.

  18. CanuckLad | May 2, 2012 at 12:23 pm |

    One that is pretty common here (being Canada) is C.O.C.K.

    No i'm not saying that to be rude, accronym for Confirmation of Combat Knowledge.

    Basically though its when you the military is feeding you the big weenie so to speak.

    The term is used as such: wow that course was nothing but belt fed c.o.c.k!
    or our section/platoon/etc got c.o.c.ked bad on this exercise we went on.

    Have gotten weird looks bout that and humping ruck several times!!

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