Home » Army Life and Stories » JEAN SHEPHERD & Army Slang



My SHEP’S ARMY contains two stories in which Shepherd refers to army slang: “Army Phraseology” and “Casual Company Education,” suggesting that some of it could not be said on the air. In the book’s appendix, linked to those two stories, I give some mentionable and unmentionable terms I could find on the Internet.

I’m ever grateful for proffered info from what one could refer to as “Shep’s Spies.” Shepherd enthusiast Joel Baumwoll, on the Facebook group “I’m a fan of Jean Shepherd” led me to the Internet page: The Palm Beach Post  of October 20, 1941, featuring an article by John Ferris titled “Military Slang Of 1941 Makes Things Different.”  Although none of the slang terms are unprintable, they add amusing info regarding words probably familiar to Shepherd while in the army. I mainly limit this list to food-related terms, as Shepherd had focused on them in “Army Phraseology.”

KP conscript                       pearl diver

KP dishwasher                  bubble dancer

Coffee                                  battery acid, bootleg, blackstrap, ink, java

Ketchup                               blood

Beef                                      canned willie, tiger meat

White fish                           sewer trout

Chicken and turkey         buzzard meat

Canned milk                       armored car [typo? should this be “armored cow”?]

Bread                                    punk

Rolling kitchen                   bean gun

Commissary officer         beans

Prunes                                  strawberries

Solid matter in soup        bug

Hash                                      slum gullion

Cook                                      slum burner

Mess sergeant                  belly robber

 Cold cuts                            horse meat [navy term, but also army as well?]


Non-food terms too good to omit:

Letter from girlfriend     sugar report

Letter in reply                            behavior report

Reportedly a navy expression, but maybe army also?:

Changing underwear without taking a shower is referred to

as “taking an electric light bath.”


No wonder that Shepherd, lover of words, enjoyed such slang!




  1. mygingerpig says:

    The article in the Palm Beach paper offers evidence supporting Shep’s description of Army slang as a language unknown to civilians. 212-874-7145 646-641-2659

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