A Glossary: Troops and Sports Fans, Ace Guys and Dirt Bags

troops 1989

Troops, 1989

I suppose every family develops its own lingo, terms they use to describe their experiences together. Our family’s jargon is heavily influenced by my husband’s time in the military. He went to the U.S. Naval Academy, spent time on active duty in the Navy before I knew him, and for the first 24 years of our marriage was in the U.S. Naval Reserves and drilled once a month plus two weeks every year. Our kids grew up knowing a lot of Navy terms.

Not all of the expressions he used were official. Some can’t be mentioned in this blog, though he didn’t use those around our children either.

Four phrases in his lexicon described categories of people that my husband dealt with on a regular basis. Not all were flattering.

Here are the definitions of those terms, in descending order of desirability:

sara about to bolt

Sara, another one of the troops

Troops: This was a pretty generic term. “Troops” were just his gang of followers. Anyone could be a troop. The kids were troops from a very young age, as in “Come on, troops, let’s get a snack.”

Of course, dogs could be troops also. “Out to the back yard, troops. Now!”

There was some affection behind the term “troops.” But my daughter commented recently, “Dad, I never knew if you were calling me or the dogs.”

I usually was not a troop, mostly because I resisted orders, but I was sometimes lumped in by accident.

sports fans 1989

Sports Fans, 1989

Sports Fans: I’m not quite sure where “sports fans” came from. It wasn’t really a military phrase. My husband was not a sports fan. Neither was I, though both of our children grew up to be sports fans.

Sports fans were like troops, though this was a more ironic appellation. It was used when something wasn’t going quite right, as in, “Let’s go, sports fans. We’re late.”

People were sports fans, but animals were typically not.

Ace Guys: Things started to get negative when we heard “ace guys.” Ace guys were the people who did something stupid. They weren’t necessarily evil, just dumb—like the ace guy who ran over my husband’s camera with a truck.

The driver who cut us off on the freeway was an ace guy. The grocery store checker who put the oranges in the sack on top of the bread was an ace guy.

Family members weren’t typically ace guys. Maybe a brother-in-law on occasion, but rarely.

Dirt Bags: We did not want to be dirt bags, nor associated in any way with such people.

“Dirt bags” were the sailors who couldn’t keep their lives in order, so they never got to drills on time. They were often in debt and had an ex-spouse or two hanging around. Maybe an illegitimate child. Dirt bags got into fights.

We didn’t have any dirt bags in our family. My husband would have court-martialed them.

What are some odd terms in your family’s lexicon?

Posted in Family, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. To my dad, a top kick was his commanding officer. He escaped from COs at the end of WW II, but the phrase remained in his vocabulary ever after. Dad didn’t swear, but we knew he was extremely frustrated it something was dad-blamed. A jake-bat in my husband’s family was a real knot-head. If they wanted to make sure you understood something they said was for sure and certain, the phrase guaran-damn-tee-ya, was added to the statement. I never quite understood why that made their statement of belief more powerful, but in their eyes, it did.

  2. Fun post, Theresa. In our family we tended to make up our own words. One of my favorites is ma-ka-mon. This resulted from telling someone — a child — to “come on” over and over until it apparently ran together in her head and became makamon! To this day, we still use it. 🙂

Leave a Reply