Military Rhymes: A Collection Of The Phrases That Capture Part Of A Culture

The Long March

I’ve long been a fan of military rhyming couplets. I think they seem to be such an intriguing aspect of American military culture. Here, with a lot of help from my Task & Purpose colleagues, are some I and they remembered. Please add yours in the comments section.


Lots of these are infantry sayings, but not all of them. I wonder if the rhyming couplet is a thing in just parts of the military. Or do niches like intel and EW have their own sayings that just aren’t as well known?

  • “Kick the tires and light the fires.”
  • “Smokin’ and jokin’.”
  • “Every room with a boom.”
  • “We’re rackin’ ‘em and stackin’ ‘em.”
  • “Haze gray and underway.”
  • “Shoot and scoot.”
  • “Spray and pray.”
  • “You snooze, you lose.”
  • “Sun’s out, guns out.”
  • “Different spanks for different ranks” (From JS)
  • “Runnin’ and gunnin’.” (From DW)
  • “Locked, cocked and ready to rock.” (From JS)
  • “Nuts to butts.” (From BvR)
  • “In the rear with the gear.” (From BL)
  • “If it ain’t raining, we ain’t training.” (From JK and others)
  • “Wakee wakee, eggs and bacee” (From MN)
  • “Choose your rate, choose your fate.” (Navy saying) (Fm RJ)
  • “Two is one and one is none” (That is, always pack two of everything) (Fm DJ)
  • “Bottle to throttle" (time from last drink to first aviation duty) (From “Bluto”)
  • “Dip it and rip it!" (For when you've established a long duration OP and you need tobacco and caffeine to stay awake all night) (From MS)
  • “When in doubt, whip it out!” (No, not a Donald Trump quotation. It is a paratrooper saying about your reserve chute) (From RM)
  • “Knees to the breeze” (More paratrooper talk, this one from JK)
  • “If it flies it dies” (From SA)
  • “Last to know, first to go” (Fm JC)
  • “It’s not gay when you’re underway” (Fm JB)
  • “3 and 5 keep you alive” (fuel and ammo) (Fm JD)
  • “Warheads on foreheads” (Air Force saying)
  • “Snoopin’ and poopin’” (What Recon does) (Fm “Iron Captain”)
  • “Gear adrift is a gift” (Marine Corps rationale for stealing) (Several entries)
  • “No comms, no bombs.” (Commmunications guys) (From TS)
  • “Wattage in your cottage” (Radio PSYOPS) (From RB )
  • “Balls to the wall” (Giving aircraft maximum power for takeoff) (From “Charlie Sherpa”)
  • “Semper Fi, do or die” (ZI)
  • “I’m Jo-jo the duck, and I’m all fucked up” (Army basic and corrective training) (JS)

And of course, the classics that began it all, the Iliad and Odyssey of NCO sayings:

  • “Drop your cocks and grab your socks"
  • “This is my rifle, this is my gun/ One is for fighting, one is for fun” (From “Charlie Sherpa”)

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