Aye, aye, captain.

Posted on 22. Apr, 2014 by in Culture, English Vocabulary

Photo by Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien

Photo by Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O’Brien

Today’s post is all about the military; the different branches of the military in the United States, some history about the American military, and military related vocabulary.  To start I should let you know that I was a “military kid” or “military brat” growing up.

Military brat” is your first vocabulary word of this post.  So, what does it mean? To have been a military kid does not mean that I was in the military as a child. The word for a child who is forced to be in the military (which doesn’t happen in the United States, but does happen in some countries around the world) is a “child solider”. A “military brat” is different; it is a child who has a parent who serves in the military. This term is associated with the unique subculture and lifestyle that military children and families experience. There are many distinctive aspects of having a parent in the military that affect children. For example, military personnel in the United States move often. Military employees in the United States move as frequently as every year. This leads to military kids often feeling like they have no hometown or place to call home. The parents of military kids also often get deployed (deployed = sent to work/fight in a different location) and thus military parents and their children can spend long periods of time away from each other.

So, as I said, I am a former military brat and therefore I have some experience with the military lifestyle, even though I am not in the military myself. Today I am going to draw on some of this experience for this post.

Let’s start with some introductory military related vocabulary:

admiral – a naval officer of very high rank
ammunition or ammo – a supply of bullets
arms – a synonym for ‘weapons’ and ‘ammunitions’
armed forces – a synonym for ‘military’ or ‘uniformed services’
barracks – a building where soldiers, and only soldiers, live
base – a facility, with multiple buildings and some land, where soldiers live and work and military operations are carried out
cadet – a young trainee in the military
camouflage or camo – military clothes and equipment that are designed to blend in with their surroundings
captain – a person in command of a ship; a high ranking military officer
colonel – an officer of high rank, usually in the US Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps
combat – fighting involving military personnel
combatant –  a person (or country) fighting in a war
commander – a person in charge of military troops and operations; a high ranking military officer
convoy – a group of military trucks, tanks, cars, or ships that are travelling together
enlist – to enroll in military service (sometimes this is a voluntary action, sometimes it is involuntary/mandatory action – the same word is used in both cases)
fleet – a large group of ships
fort – a military building, often made of stone, made strong to protect the people inside and the surrounding area
general – a military officer of very high rank
infantry – many soldiers marching or fighting on foot (not in vehicles)
lieutenant – a medium ranking military officer
medic – a solider who practices medicine
mess hall – a building where food is served for soldiers
MIA = Missing In Action – a term used when a person has gone missing during a military assignment
munition – military weapons, ammunition, and equipment
officer – a person holding a position of command or authority in the military
POW = Prisoner Of War – a person held by their enemy as a prisoner during a time of war
private – a soldier of very low rank
rank – a position in the hierarchy of the armed forces
recruit (v) – to ask someone to join the military
recruit (n) – a person who has newly joined the military and is not yet trained
salute – a gesture made with the hand as a sign of respect from one solider or officer to another, this gesture is usually performed when someone is arriving or leaving
soldier – a person who works/fights for the military establishment
troops – groups of soldiers
uniform – distinctive and identical clothing worn by members of the military
veteran – a person who has retired from military work
yeoman – a low ranking naval officer

Some history:
The history of the United States military began in 1775, before the United States was even an official country. The first American armed forces were called the “Continental Army,” “Continental Navy,” and “Continental Marines.” They fought against the British in the American Revolutionary War, when America fought for independence from Great Britain.

The United States armed forces currently consists of five different “branches” or types of military groups, these include the: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The United States has a tradition of a civilian controlled military, which means that the military is controlled (at the very top level) by political leadership, rather than professional military commanders. In America this means that the President of the United States is the head of the military (even though he may or may not have ever been in the military). This does not mean there are no professional military officers in the American armed forces. There are, of course, men and women who have served in the military their whole adult lives, but these people do not have ultimate control over military decisions just because they have worked in the military for a long time.  Elected people, like the President of the United States and members of the US Congress, make the ultimate military decisions in America, such as whether to go to war or not.  In the United States there is also an agency called the Department of Defense (DoD) that helps to make military decisions and carry out military operations. Each branch of the military also has a top officer, who works with the DoD and the American president to make the best military decisions possible for the country.

Another word you might hear associated with the US military and the DoD is “The Pentagon.” The Pentagon is the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense. The Pentagon is a central place where men and women from the different branches of the military work planning and making decisions for the military. This is a very large building that is built in the shape of a pentagon (a five sided shape) – this is where the name comes from.

Here is a little more information about each of the five branches of the American military:

The United States Army is the part of the military that is responsible for land-based military operations. The US Army is the largest part of the United States military. The main mission of the US Army, in their own words is, “to fight and win our Nation’s wars by providing prompt, sustained land dominance across the full range of military operations and spectrum of conflict in support of combatant commanders.”

The United States Navy is the main water-based branch of the United States armed forces. The US Navy is believed to be larger than the next 13 largest navies in the world, combined.  The first president of the United States, George Washington, once said, “It follows then as certain as night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious.” As you can see from this statement, America has had a long history of a strong navy.

The United States Marine Corps is the branch of the American military that is responsible for quickly providing soldiers from the sea or air to complete ground military operations. You can think of the Marines Corps as a mix between the Army and Navy; the Marines travel by ship or airplane, but fight on land. They are a versatile group of soldiers. The person in charge of the US Marine Corps is the same person in charge of the US Navy, but they are considered separate branches of the military because the Marines train to do different jobs than the naval personnel.

The United States Air Force is the airborne branch of the military.  The US Air Force organizes, trains, and creates equipment to provide offensive and defensive military air operations.  The US Air Force was initially part of the Army, but became its own separate military branch in 1947 as aircrafts and planes became more advanced and those working with airplanes needed more specialized training. An interesting fact about the US Air Force is that it wasn’t until the early 1990’s that women were allowed to be fighter pilots; a later date than many other countries.

The United States Coast Guard is the maritime (water-based) multi-mission branch of the United States military. The US Coast Guard helps to enforce maritime laws, preform search and rescue operations on water, patrol waters for safety, and protect the coast of America. The Coast Guard also helps in disasters, such as oil spills.

To finish off our look at the military today, I have a few military phrases to present.  You are likely to hear these phrases in movies or TV programs that have a military theme, or in real life if you are talking to someone in the US military.

aye aye , aye aye Captain, or aye aye Sir – This is a response that a soldier or sailor may give to indicate that an order has been received, is understood, and will be carried out immediately.  Saying “aye aye” is similar to saying “yes.” For example: “Sailor go get the maps.” “Aye aye Captain.”

hup, two, three, four – This is how the military mark a 4-count beat when marching.  Non-military people sometimes use this expression too when they want to get a group of people moving. For example, “Let’s get going, hup, two, three, four, let’s go.”

zero dark thirty – This expression means really early in the morning. For example, “We have to get up at zero dark thirty to begin training tomorrow.”

roger or roger that – This phrase is often said at the end of a message or conversation and means that the message was received. It is the same thing as saying “I understand.”

So, to end this post, I have one question for you:

Did you learn something new about the military today?

I hope your answer will be:

“Aye, aye” or “roger that.”

American Easter traditions

Posted on 17. Apr, 2014 by in Culture

easter rabbit & egg

This weekend will be Easter weekend for Christians around the world. It is a holiday celebrating the end of Lent and the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. Easter, like many holidays in the United States, is a religious holiday, but also a cultural holiday. Today we are going to look at some of the cultural celebrations of this holiday in America.

You can’t talk about Easter in America without talking about the Easter Bunny. Rabbits (whose babies are called ‘bunnies’) have long been symbols of fertility and spring. The association of a rabbit with the Easter holiday is said to come from Germany, and came to America with German immigrants. In the past children were told that “Easter rabbits” laid eggs for them to find on Easter day. Today the Easter Bunny brings not only eggs, but also candy to American children. The night before Easter children usually leave a basket out for the Easter bunny to put eggs in (or chocolate eggs, or just candy) for the children to find the next morning.

Easter eggs are associated with the Easter Bunny, but they also have significance of their own. Back in Medieval Europe eggs were forbidden to be eaten during Lent (Lent is a time for reflection and giving up unnecessary things). So, eggs that were laid during the time of Lent were often boiled or preserved to be eaten later. Easter Day, when Lent ended, there were a lot of eggs for people to eat!  There are many traditions around eggs at Easter time in the United States. One of these is coloring and decorating eggs with dyes or paint. Eggs are also used in games, such as an egg rolling contest, or by having adults hide eggs for children to find. When eggs are hidden on Easter and children go find them this is called an Easter Egg Hunt. Easter candy is now often shaped like eggs.

Other common Easter practices in America include having small Easter Parades and wearing new Spring clothes on Easter. Wearing a new ‘Easter Bonnet’ (a type of hat) is particularly common for girls and women.

Every year in America the holiday of Easter is celebrated by the President of the United States at the White House. This is one of the biggest American Easter celebrations and includes many of the traditions I wrote about above: a visit by the Easter bunny, an egg roll, an Easter Egg Hunt, lots of fun and candy! You can see what last year’s White House Easter celebration looked like in this video below.

YouTube Preview Image

Happy Easter Everyone!

Diplomacy and working out conflicts

Posted on 15. Apr, 2014 by in English Language, News

From: www.dailymail.co.uk

From: www.dailymail.co.uk

Diplomatic affairs have been in the news a lot lately, particularly related to the United States, Europe, and Russia, which makes it a great time to review some vocabulary related to international diplomacy, as well as words related to speaking in a diplomatic way.

First let’s take a look at some vocabulary related to international diplomacy:

diplomat: A diplomat is any individual who represents their country abroad. Diplomats help to negotiate treaties, attend formal dinners, arrange for visas, and attend meetings and negotiations.

ambassador: An ambassador is the President, Prime Minster, or King/Queen’s highest-ranking representative in a foreign country. Ambassadors are usually appointed by the leader of the country they represent.

embassy: An embassy is the office building for a country’s diplomatic mission abroad. Sometimes an embassy is also the residence of the ambassador, but other times the ambassador lives in another home. When inside an embassy building you are technically on foreign soil.

Secretary of State: In America this is the title for the person who is the head of the State Department and top most person responsible for foreign affairs, other than the President. The President appoints this person to work for him/her. The Secretary of State often travels abroad on behalf of the President. This person lives in the United States, unlike an ambassador who lives in the country they are working.

State Department: In America this is the federal department that sets and maintains foreign policies for the country. Many people work within the United States State Department, those people who work outside of America are called diplomats, those that work within the United States generally are not.

When there are international crisis or simply negotiations, it is important to use a particular kind of language, often what we call in ‘diplomatic language’ in English. One must say exactly what they mean to say and be very careful with what they say. You have to be quite proficient in a language to be a diplomat, ambassador, or embassy employee, and you also have to use certain language skills, which are listed below.

tactfulness – to be full of sensitivity toward others in what you say
honesty – to tell the truth and be sincere
encouraging – to give support and confidence
respect – to have admiration for another person’s opinions and abilities
directness – to aim in a certain direction and move toward it in the shortest way possible
persuasive – to be able to change another person’s ideas or help them see something in a new way

What other qualities or way of speaking do you think diplomats need?