|Jinny has been very ill and is currently undergoing rehabilitation in a Bangor facility so she will not be writing her article for awhile. She is making excellent progress and hopes to be able to return to writing her column in the near future... Adele.
The other evening my son, Chuck, was writing a story and requested my assistance. Chuck likes to write stories and has written quite a few, at least half of which involve some military conflict or other in a variety of time lines, including the future. This particular story had something to do with the Marines because he asked me if I knew if the Marine battle cry was 'Hoo-rah', or 'Oo-rah'. I told him that I was not certain which was correct, although I didn't think that the difference was particularly significant given that they would sound exactly alike if screamed by a bunch of Marines during a battle. Evidently, Chuck was not prepared to quite so blasé about it however, because he insisted on looking it up on the Internet. It turns out that the Marines like to yell, 'Oo-rah' when jumping out of planes or charging up hills or maybe even sprinting for the mess hall.
Evidently, there are quite a few battle cries and some are a great deal more eccentric than others. I knew that the Army says, 'Hoo-Ah', but I asked Chuck what the Navy and the Airforce said.
“The Navy says, 'Hoo-yah', he told me, 'and the Airforce says either 'Hoo-Ah' or Hoo-yah'.”
“The Airforce appears to be struggling with some ambiguity.” I noted.
“The Coastguard, the Russians, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police all say 'Oo-rah'. Chuck added.
The Mounties? I thought they would say something like 'Yee-Ha' or 'Mush' or something. And the Russians? Are they serious? Couldn't the Cossacks come up with something better than that? Chuck asked me if I wanted to hear some other battle cries. “Do you know what the French say?” He asked me.
“Ooo-La-La?” I guessed.
“No, they say 'Oo-Rah' like almost everyone else. The Greeks have an interesting one,” he added, “they yell 'Aera', which means 'Wind', but is interpreted to mean, 'Sweep them away like the wind'. The paratroopers yell it.”
OK...I've jumped out of a plane and I am here to tell you that when you are rushing towards the ground with the air slamming into you, you could be yelling, “I left my heart in San Francisco”, and it's going to sound like whatever you want to imagine because you can't hear diddly-squat unless you have all sorts of nifty electronic communication gear, and if you do, you really don't need 20 guys all yelling the same thing in your ear.
“Do the Germans yell 'Oom-pa-pa', and the Spanish yell 'Ole'?” I inquired.
“You're hysterical Mom.” Chuck commented.
As much as I enjoy research, I told Chuck that these battle cries, at least the contemporary ones, were pretty boring stuff. What ever happened to “Don't shoot till you see the whites of their eyes”, or “England expects every man to do his duty”?
Chuck assured me that things were about to get a lot more interesting. “You're gonna love what the British paratroopers say.”
“For Queen and Country”? I wondered. “Ta-Ta”?
“Apparently,” said Chuck, “the British paratroopers jumping into Tunisia during WWII said, 'Wa-Hoo-Mohammad.”
“Wa-Hoo Mohammad”? I was stunned. “Wa-Hoo-Mohammad”? I tried saying it. It had a certain tongue-in-cheek symmetry. I liked it. It sounded fun.
“What do the Scots say?” I asked.
“I can't read Gaelic.”
“They say, 'I can't read Gaelic'?
“No, it's in Gaelic and I can't read it.” Chuck answered. “The Finnish in WWII yelled, 'Hakka paale', which means 'Cut them down'. That later evolved into ''Tulta munille', which means 'Fire at their.....'.”
Here he injected a word which refers to an extremely sensitive and valuable part of the human male anatomy.
“The Finnish said that? The nice, easy-going, laid-back, basically pacifistic Finnish?” I was in shock. I could see that I might have to re-evaluate my life-long opinions regarding the Finns.
“It turns out that the most common 'Oo-Rah', comes from the word, 'Hurrah', or the Americanized 'Hooray',” said Chuck, “which sounds innocent enough until you find out that 'Hurrah' comes from the Turkish word, 'Ura', which literally translates as 'kill'.”
Good heavens! That means that when we say things like “Hip-Hip-Hurrah”, or “Hurray for our side”, we are actually saying, “Hip-Hip-Kill”, and “Kill for our side”. How disturbing.
If I ever find myself in a position to have to invent a battle cry I'm going to go with, “What's it to ya?”, or maybe just, “What's for breakfast?” I know one thing for sure, I don't think that I would want to be paratrooping into the middle of Finland yelling anything except, “I surrender”.