Dec 20, 2003


I had intended to present you a definition of the term "Ooh-rah" this evening as a parting holiday gift. But I'll tell you this now: most Marines don't know where it comes from. Really. We don't. It's just..... there.

Now some will tell you that it comes from the Turkish word for "kill" - Urah (but I never really believed that one, and I can't find a Turkish translator that gives a phonetic spelling, so who knows if that's even right). I had a roommate who told me that the Russians in "War and Peace" said Urrah to each other, but I wouldn't know because I've never had an urge to try and make myself go blind from reading a 1000-plus page tome.

So the history of "Ooh-rah" is mysterious. A Google search led me to this page which says that Ooh-rah came from Recon Marines imitating the dive klaxon on submarines that would sometimes deposit them onto the enemy's shores. That wouldn't really surprise me one bit. But all of this is not the real point. The point is that "Ooh-rah" is a Marine's fighting spirit summed up into one word. It's an affirmation, a motivational statement, and a battle cry all rolled into one.

The other services have tried to cop our style. You Army guys out there can show me definitive proof that "Hoo-ah" came before "Ooh-rah," but I'll never believe it. "Hoo-ah," to most Marines, comes off sounding weak. Sorry, Matt, but it does. It's not so much the word itself as it is the way soldiers pronounce it. It comes out sounding like a question: "Hooah?" Marines speak in the affirmative: "Ooh-rah." Period end stop.

Then there's the Navy and "Hoo-yah." Hoo-yah came from the SEALs and they should have kept it instead of allowing it to escape into the wilds of the regular Navy. See, the Navy uses Hoo-yah in an entirely different manner than the Marine Corps. For us, a hoo-yah is an object. It can be used to describe almost anything and can be nearly every word in a sentence. For example, when I was learning how to clean an M-16, a Gunnery Sergeant told my class the following:

Alright, lemme break it down shotgun style. That hoo-yah right there? Slide it out of the way so that you can reach that other hoo-yah under it. Good, now take the pin outta that hoo-yah right there.... no the other hoo-yah... yeah that one..... and clean all that crud out of it. Use those two hoo-yahs from your cleaning kit for that. Now,.......

And it all made sense with the rifle laid out in front of us. So if you say "Hoo-yah" to a Marine, he'll likely answer with "What?", "Where?", or "Which one?"

Then there's the Air Force, who, in their bid to live up to their reputation as the Silliest Service There Ever Was, tried to make their motivational cry - get this - "Air Power!" ......... wha? They had been using the Army's "Hoo-ah," but decided to dare to be different and spawned that abortion of a moto phrase. If any you Air Farce... er... Force guys out there can explain that, get back to me. Seriously, I have to know.

Any way, "Ooh-rah" will be around until the end of time or the Corps, which ever comes first. I'm betting on time giving up the fight before we do.

While I'm gone, I leave you the address to a blog that looks like it could use some patronage. I give you this for two reasons. First, it's called oohrah.org and I found it while checking out the history of "Ooh-rah." It looks like it's run by a former Marine (there are no EX-Marines.... except Lee Harvey Oswald..... and that's debatable - hell, he hit what he aimed at). The second reason is because his December 10 entry is titled "Howard Dean Is An Idiot." I like this guy already.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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