Dec 8, 2003

Say what? 

I realized today as I drove home that many of you may need a Marine to English dictionary at some point to keep up with phrases I may use on the blog out of habit. Matty O’ Blackfive may have a plethora of Army stories that far exceed whatever I could give you, but I have one thing he does not – Marinespeak.

I intend to make this a recurring feature. At random intervals you’ll be given some Marine twist of phrase that makes very little sense to the rest of the world, but makes perfect sense to those of Mother Green and Her Killing Machine.

For those of you who are not Marines (or privileged enough to know a Marine) you may not be familiar with how we talk. We have a language all our own. It sprang from the way the Navy talks, because we sprang from the Navy. Now, the Navy speaks a really goofed up language that nobody else does – taking perfectly good words and replacing them with something completely different. For instance a “bathroom” is not a “bathroom.” It’s “the head.” And a “door” is a “hatch.” And a “window” is a “porthole” and well….. you get the idea. So we as Marines took all that on board and then created some phraseology that you probably won’t get ANYWHERE else.

Today’s phrase is:

Break it down shotgun style.

This phrase is not all that hard to grasp. You don’t even have to be this guy to figure it out. But what it usually references is more subtle.

So – exactly HOW does a shotgun “break down?” Simple. If you’ve no experience with weapons, think of Elmer Fudd. Well, maybe not Elmer, because he always had a shotgun that was both a double-barrel breech-loader AND a pump-action, but I digress. The point is, when you open a double-barrel shotgun to reload it, it looks like a big, obtuse letter “L.” The M-16 can be taken apart in much the same manner for cleaning.

See, an M-16 is held together by two pins, really. That’s all. They slide right in and out and are about an inch long and a quarter inch in diameter. If you remove the rear one, the top of the rifle rotates 90 degrees over the lower half and hangs there looking not unlike an open shotgun. In this manner you can quickly give the weapon a once over, knock off all the big chunks of crap inside and then quickly reassemble it.

At boot camp, it’s assumed that you know nada about cleaning or assembly of an M-16, so the first step is to “break it down shotgun style.” This turn of phrase has, in the Marine Corps, taken on the meaning of explaining things in the simplest terms, one step at a time. So, what I'm doing to you NOW, is basically breaking it down shotgun style.

The phrase even has a younger brother, one that describes breaking things down into even simpler terms, so that a small child (or a realllllly confused Private) can understand.

“Break it down Barney style.”

Yes, that Barney.

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