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Vocabulary Lessons from History

It seems like everywhere we look things change. Five years ago no one knew about tweets or twitter and ONLY teenagers used Facebook. Words change as well, some for the better. Following are a few examples of civil war vocabulary (some slang) that should give you a good laugh as you approach the fall. Did you know that a housewife was the common term used to refer to a small sewing kit. I bet these soldiers wished for a real housewife when they were afflicted with Bragg's bodyguards, better known as body lice. After the lice were gone, a soldier was much more likely to go "sparking." If one needed to skin an animal, they would reach for an "Arkansas toothpick," or a large knife.

The enlisted men always had fond terms for their superiors. How many of you have ever wanted to call your boss a greenhorn or a bugger or even better a "big bug." The generals were definitely "highfalutin" people, or "big bugs." They wore "chicken guts," the gold braid used to denote an officer's rank. The soldiers also had little patience with a "hospital rat," or one that was faking an illness. The favorite call of the day was the "Peas on a Trencher," or the breakfast call. Unfortunately, many soldiers ate too many meals of "sheet iron crackers" (hard tack), and experienced dysentery which results in the "green-apple quick step." Also after a long battle they would retreat for rest and some "Tar Water," "John Barleycorn," or "popskull" (contraband liquor) and the next day they would definitely not be "fit as a fiddle" but more likely "tight" or "wallpapered."

Now it is time for each of us to "toe the mark" and go make some "greenbacks" before someone around you has a "conniption fit" and tells you to "go boil your shirt," or in today's terms, "go take a hike."

Photo from U.S. Archives.

The souvenir program from Civil War Days in Duncan Mills, California offered the insight for this Bugler. This recent celebration is an annual two-day living history experience that is sponsored by the California Historical Artillery Society. Sources of the vocabulary words were: The Life of Johnny Reb and The Life of Billy Yank by Bell Irvin Wiley.

Lovers of Civil War History

Bell Wiley (1906-1980) was a professor of history at Emory University but he felt that he was a "common man." According to an article in Emory magazine, "Wiley did not attempt to see the nation's bloodiest conflict through the eyes of its generals. Instead, he preferred the trench-level perspective of the ordinary soldier.

"In the 1940s, Wiley toured the country in search of soldiers' letters. Eventually, he read more than thirty thousand and incorporated them into his best known works. The Life of Johnny Reb and The Life of Billy Yank stand as benchmarks a half-century after they were first published. More importantly, they represent a turning point in the quest to understand what led Northerners and Southerners to take up arms against each other."

The books still receive very positive reviews and are a must read for anyone interested in Civil War history.

Competitive Drill: How to Become a Professional Driller

Becoming a professional driller isn't difficult - just graduate from high school and keep competing at drill competitions in a mixed-level or post-high school level of competition. A mixed-level competition is typically an independent, state-level drill competition (such as the Florida Drill Competition). A post-high school competition is exclusive to high school graduates - this includes the solo division at the Midwest Regionals and the Isis World Drill Championships.

Professional Drillers are also recognized through membership in professional drill teams, such as The Royal Hawaiian Honor Guard or New Guard America. Though these members may not compete at every world championship, they do partake in many public performances throughout any given year.

But being a professional driller isn't just about spinning well - you have to act the part. This is where the Society of Professional Drillers comes in. Formed in 2010 by Matthew Wendling, the Society of Professional Drillers is a code of conduct designed to help the professional driller understand what is expected of them. The Society values Character, Education, Safety, and Excellence. This code of conduct was officially adopted by Sports Network International for all Isis World Drill competitors. Membership to The Society is free for all legal-age adults. Become a member here! Just sign it, scan it, and email it to: remington943@gmail.com.

Last, I implore you - as a budding professional driller, share your experiences and skills in any way possible. Professional drill is a young sport with few support systems. We all have skills, tips, tricks, techniques, and resources that we should share with one another. As a professional driller, it is your responsibility to lend a hand to other aspiring drillers, inspiring them to grow - both in their drill, and in their character.

Adam Jeup has been an active driller for 9 years and has competed at IWDC. He owns and operates Independent Drill, a learning resource for drillers of all skill levels. Stay tuned to the Bugler for more exclusive articles from Adam on competitive drill!

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