World War 2 American Slang: A Collection

World War II created a brotherhood, and a language all its own. Men from a wide variety of backgrounds were thrown together in close-knit, often boring, frequently dangerous situations, and slang that came from those experiences tied them together and cemented their brotherhood.

WW2 slang helped create an “us” vs. “them” mentality, where them is not only the enemy, but the “Brass” and folks back home who can’t fully understand the world of the fighting man.


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There are currently 7 names in this directory beginning with the letter W.
Portable radio receiving and sending apparatus. Variations: Handie-Talkie;and Spam Can Radio;after its similarity to a can of Spam.
One who cannot swim.
Wash Out
To be eliminated from flight training.
Washed Out
Failure to make the grade in a flying school
Washing Machine
The mysterious and fearsome flying school administration as it descended on a hapless student to inform him he was being dropped from flight training
Washing Machine Charlie
A term applied, along with copious cuss words to a lone Japanese aircraft buzzing endlessly back and forth across an area, while only occasionally dropping a small bomb, The purpose being to keep the camp awake and in a nervous state. One Japanese airplane this author remembers sounded just like an old Maytag washing machine powered by a small gasoline engine- thus, the name
White Knuckle
A white-knuckle flight was a tense, attention –absorbing flight. It could result from flying in rough weather on instruments, or on a bombing run

WW2 Slang Sources:

“Glossary of Army Slang,” American Speech, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Oct., 1941).
“G.I. Lingo,” American Speech, Vol. 20. No. 2 (Apr. 1945)
War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War By Paul Dickson
FUBAR: Soldier Slang of WWII By Gordon L. Rottman

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