By joining the military, you inadvertently sign on for any number of service related slurs. This is just point of fact, and shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as anything other than amusing. Newbies tend to take it a bit personally, and in the olden days -I think- a sailor calling a Marine a jarhead would be just grounds for a bar fight.

Things have changed substantially in the military, and I don’t have any recollection of starting a fight, engaging in, or hearing about many inter-departmental or cross branch fighting because of petty name calling, at least that I recall. Generally, the ones that I did hear about were alcohol induced and largely in the name of “fun”, or what passes for fun in the military, which is frequent, though hardly serious engagements of violence.

For better or worse, everyone is picked on in one way or another. I’ll think of as many as I can, elaborate on their origins and causes as well as I can, and you guys can feel free to add to it in the comments below. Because frankly, I find this shit amusing. Even (especially) the ones that pick on sailors.

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Term (that I could find background on)

“Grunt” (Applies to Marines/Army)

I know a few, but not enough to really grasp how soldiers feel about this one. It’s old as the hills, and to my knowledge, no one ever got diagnosed with PTSD from being called a grunt throughout their time in the military.

Evidently, according to my big book of military derogatory term origins, the term “grunt” started in Vietnam with its first appearance in print in 1969 as an acronym to describe the guys who ended up on the front lines.

G– general

R– replaceable/replacement

UNT– untrained

How reliable are my sources? No idea.


Bullet sponge (Applies to any combat-intensive branch)

General term for anyone whose likelihood of involvement in a firefight increases the odds of getting shot, and/or shot at. As you might expect, used by Navy personnel frequently in reference to ground based forces.


U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Kirk Benda, 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron specialist section chief, kisses his wife Melissa Benda
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Missile Sponge (Applies exclusively to Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates, at least for now)

A long time ago, these ships were considered fast and heavily armed for their size (about 450 ft) with a crew complement of (theoretically) 120-150. In modern times, these ships are packed to the gills with as many as 225 sailors (all male, except for female officers) and 0 missiles, due to reallocation of armament, and the impending decommissioning of the entire ship’s class.

This put the once-proud frigate into a permanent state of defense to be used as little more than a hedge for higher priority CGs, DDGs, LHAs, etc. In the event of an enemy missile launch toward a strike group, guess which ship would be sent out to absorb the impact to protect the other vessels?


Jarhead (Applies exclusively to Marines)

I’ve heard a couple of explanations for this. The first is the “high and tight” buzzed haircut that has long characterized the (motivated) Marine, and how the style somewhat looks like a jar.

The second explanation pertains to the combination of military uniform components: flat cover (aka, “a hat”) with a collar which allegedly makes the the head and neck look unusually cylindrical.

Personally, I’m more on board with the first.



Generally what members of the other branches call Navy sailors.

The closest thing to a viable explanation of the origin I could find is “squid” as it applies to inexperienced motorcyclists. Squids (the aquatic animal) can swim fast in a straight line, but like an inexperienced motorcyclist, has trouble changing direction quickly.

The connection appears to from back in the 60s, when sailors on the West Coast would buy fresh-off-the-boat Japanese motorcycles without any real riding experience, and ride around while schnockered. Damn sailors.


More Terms (without the wordy explanations)

Coastie– a member of the Coast Guard (which I don’t write much about, because right now they’re part of the Department of Homeland Security, until we go back to war)

Swabbie– another term for a Navy sailor. Adapted from the excessive amount of cleaning sailor do; “swabbing the deck” etc…

Zoomie– a member of the USAF

Puddle Pirate– a *slightly derogatory term for a Coast Guard member

Rotorhead– an aviation mechanic

Bubblehead– a Navy submariner

Dog Face– a grunt, or member of the Army

Ground Pounder– usually used to refer to a member of the Army, but could refer to any ground troops

Puddle Jumper, Puddle Pirate– another Coast Guard reference, because they stick comparatively close to shore. Usually used by sailors.

Flyboy– what everyone but Air Force people call Air Force people.

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