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Lexicon (Vocabulary for family members)

By Donald Roberts 

It occurred to me that with plebe parents coming on each year, it might be good to have a lexicon guide.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | W | Y | Z

Ac Board
Short for Academic Board. On occasion, when a Midshipman is struggling academically, they will be required to appear before an Academic Board for review of their situation. It can result in separation, but seldom so. More often than not, restrictions are imposed with the intent to help the Midshipman overcome his/her academic difficulties.

A message that was sent to the whole Navy, commonly used to broadcast policy changes or congratulations.

Alpha Code
Think of this as a "Student Number" - but they never call it that. Each Midshipman has a 6-digit alpha code. The first two digits is their class number. The last four digits are unique to each midshipman. For example, everybody in the class of 2022 will have an alpha code of 22xxxx. By the way, each Midshipman's email address is in the following format: M+[alpha code] For example: The "M" stands for Midshipman.

Blue Nose or Bluenose
An honorary title bestowed on those who have crossed the Arctic Circle on a ship. Elaborate ceremonies involving humiliation (and in the past, hazing) generally accompany the award of the title, and some ships present elaborate certificates signed by Neptune, Davy Jones, and such figures. See Shellback.

Brigade Medical Unit - where the Midshipmen go when they are sick.

You'll sometimes see this as a band around the arm of one of the Midshipman watchstanders. It's a gold band. It stands for Batalion Officer Of the Watch. Any Midshipman wearing this is on duty.

This is all 4000+ Midshipmen, often referred to as "The Brigade of Midshipmen." The West Point equivalent would be "The Corps of Cadets." The Brigade is divided in half between 2 Regiments, the 1st and 2nd Regiment. All the even numbered wings of Bancroft Hall (on the left side while facing the main entrance from T-court) are the 1st Regiment. The odd numbered wings (on the right side) are the 2nd Regiment. Each Regiment is divided into 3 Battalions. The 1st, 2nd, & 3rd Battalion are in the 1st Regiment. The 4th, 5th, & 6th Battalion are in the 2nd Regiment. Each Battalion has 5 Companies. Companies 1-5 are in the 1st Battalion. Companies 6-10 are in the 2nd Battalion and so on. Companies are further divided into Platoons and Squads.

The Navy/Marine version of jail. Hopefully the only contact your Mid will have with the Brig is telling you stories about sailors that end up there.

The way Midshipmen often refer to an injured comrade.  For instance, when a Plebe is on crutches, she/he is frequently referred to as a "broken Plebe."

Bubble PT
A swimming version of PT for the broken Mids.  Not a favorite for the non-swim team members.


Bull Ensign
The senior most Ensign in the wardroom, indicated by an oversized set of Ensign bars that they wear onboard ship.  I do not know if this tradition is followed in the aviation and submarine community.

Bravo Zulu - a Navy "well done."

Term for the first year of Electrical Engineering course taken by EE majors.  All Mids take at least one year of EE.  EE majors take a more difficult 1st year course than other Mids who take "Wires" (see below).  Cables are much more substantial than wires...

Camp Tecumseh
Summer at the USNA.

Carry on
In the general military context, this is a phrase often said by a senior officer to his subordinates that basically means, "Don't mind me - continue what you were doing." For instance, if a senior officer walks into a room he/she might say, "Carry on," which would mean that nobody would have to stand up and greet him/her or afford the usual honors. It is often said as an officer exits the room as well. At the Naval Academy, it has an additional meaning that specifically applies to Plebes. If a Plebe is granted "carry on" privileges, that means that he/she is usually relieved of most of the annoying responsibilities of being a Plebe. For instance, at the table, he/she would not have to sit erect with his eyes-in-the-boat and only sitting on the edge of his chair. 

Challenge Coin
In the services, high ranking officials give these to lower ranking individuals they meet as their "challenge" for them to do something good.  Also for getting them to buy you a drink later :-).  Military folks love to collect these.

Charlie Foxtrot
My Mid used this expression to tell me about something he predicted was going to be a total fail. I will leave it to the reader's imagination and the initials of the two words to figure this one out.

Taking the corners off a turn.

Midshipmen use this word often. Just think of it as a "permission slip." A Midshipman needs approval, or a "chit," to do something that he/she would normally not be able to do. 

This word is mostly used with respect to Plebes. Plebes are often required to "chop" everywhere they go within Bancroft Hall. That means they have to run. It's not a sprint - more like a light jog. It's just one of the little annoyances that Plebes have to endure - because they are Plebes. Sometimes "chopping" is suspended because it is hot or the Plebes are getting some kind of reward. Chopping is never permitted (or allowed) on the Yard - only within Bancroft Hall.

A uniquely Plebe requirement where a Plebe (or several Plebes) station themselves in designated areas of the passageway and, at a precise moment, launch into a very loud, memorized script of information that includes all kinds of information regarding daily operations, the feature being the menu for the upcoming meal. Upperclassmen use the Plebes' chowcall as a reminder to get ready for formation, or as an alarm clock. There are a lot of funny chowcall YouTube videos.

An acronym for Company Mate of the Deck. It is a watch assignment that is almost exclusively stood by Plebes & Youngsters. Rarely, if ever, does a 2/C or 1/C stand this watch. Each company area within Bancroft Hall has a CMOD who is responsible for the security of the deck. One (of many) of the CMOD's responsibilities is to challenge unauthorized personnel and to assist officers who visit the company area.

Coffee Mess
The approved place (or places) in the work spaces at shore commands that have a coffee pot and accessories set up.

A session where a Plebe (or Plebes) have to "come-around" to an upperclassman's room and be grilled on their rate knowledge. Plebes hate this! It is sometimes a very punitive experience depending on the reason the Plebe is asked to "come-around". An upperclassman might say, "Mr. Smith, come-around!" This would be an order for that Plebe to report to that upperclassman's room (usually just prior to a meal formation). However, I have heard that one-on-one come-arounds are no longer authorized. In older times, there was nothing dreaded more than the one-on-one come-around. 

Company Commander
Parents often get confused when Midshipmen start using terminology like "Company Commander" and "Company Officer." These are not the same people - far from it. The Company Commander is a first class Midshipman (i.e. senior) who is the highest ranking member of the company (at least for that semester). He/she has 3 stripes on their shoulder. He/she is responsible for setting company policy. He/she is the one with the sword who stands out in front of the company during the parades.

Company Officer
This is a commissioned officer. Usually a Navy Lieutenant or Marine Corps Captain. Most of them have graduated from the Naval Academy themselves. They oversee the operation of the company and also get involved in evaluating the Midshipmen. For the most part, the Company Officer is pretty much hands-off, allowing the Midshipmen leadership to run the company. He/she will interject them-self when things get off-track. He/she also, usually, has final approval on most requests. Some are more proactive than others.

The military version of Costco.

Military personnel usually don't use the word "hat." When a Midshipman asks, "Where did I put my cover?" he is asking where he put his hat.

Short for Commandant - as in the Commandant of Midshipmen. Usually a Navy Captain (sometimes a Marine Corps Colonel, but rarely so.) whose prime responsibility is for the military discipline and training of the Brigade. He/she is much more hands-on than the Superintendent or Dean. At a regular (i.e. civilian) university - he would probably be called the Dean of Students.


Dining In
A semi formal structured dinner where the members of the wardroom wear their mess dress, have a formal multi-course dinner with wine and port following a specific set of rules.  There is a President of the Mess (CO) and a Vice.  There may or may not be a guest speaker.  There are always a number of toasts, starting with the United States and the President and progressing to silly toasts.  To leave the Dining In, an individual must request the permission of the President of the Mess.  Punishment, in the form of silly songs, noxious punch, etc are given by the President of the Mess for any infractions of the Dining In Rules for instance bringing in a drink from the cocktail hour or starting to eat before the President of the Mess.  It is usually an evening of lighthearted foolishness.  Most Mids participate in at least one Dining In with their company.

Dining Out
A semi formal structured dinner where dates and spouses are invited.  It is usually more sedate than Dining In.

Drop on Request. This term is not commonly used at the Naval Academy. If a Midshipman quits, most people will say that "He/She quit" - simply that. DOR is more commonly used in other programs like Flight School, OCS, Nuclear Power School, etc.

Midshipmen lingo for any individual they have to "drag" around the Yard. In the old days, this was a term reserved for girlfriends or dates. It has morphed into a more general term that is gender independent and does not necessarily involve any kind of intimate relationship. It is a noun. If you are a Midshipman's drag, then you are his responsibility while on the Yard.

Downtown Annapolis

Eyes in the boat
A term used to describe how one is to continually look forward in certain situations - like when marching. An upperclassman might yell at a Plebe and say, "Mr. Smith - keep your eyes in the boat!" Plebes are generally required to keep their eyes in the boat while eating and when walking (or chopping) through Bancroft Hall.

Fair winds and following seas
A Navy "good wishes" farewell.

A colloquial term for a First Class Midshipman, or senior. The terms freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior are seldom used by Midshipmen unless they are addressing a civilian who has no knowledge of the Naval Academy.

First Salute Coin
One of the really neat customs in the service is that when a newly commissioned officer receives his/her first salute, they present the person giving the salute with a first salute coin, typically a silver dollar with some sort of relative meaning (birth year, commissioning year, etc.).  For our Mids, upon commissioning, it is not unusual for them to have arranged for a special friend to be the person delivering that first salute such as a well-respected gunnery sergeant or someone similar.

Abbreviation for Forward Leaning Rest, a tongue in cheek way of saying that you are resting in the push up position. Mostly just a Plebe Summer thing.

To be assigned (or assign) demerits for a conduct offense. "I got fried" means "I got assigned demerits." "The Company Commander fried him" means "The Company Commander assigned him demerits." "You can get fried for that," means, "You can get demerits for that." In the old days, you "fried" somebody by filling out the infamous Form 2. Nowadays they eFry using their computers.

Junk food (term no longer used much at USNA, however:  it is used in the fleet and Midshipmen will learn it quickly. ;-)

The junior most officer in the wardroom, usually responsible for organizing the command parties. 

Navy term for the real scoop.

A block of time during Plebe Summer when a company or platoon has no training activity scheduled, so the detailers plan whatever they wish. These are the times when rack races, uniform races, and various other challenges are presented to the Plebes. On the spreadsheet that is the schedule for the summer, various kinds of activities are in specific colors; if a company or platoon has "gray space" on the schedule, the detailers have free reign. This is generally not fun for the Plebes. On days where bad weather precludes outdoor training, the unexpected gray space means the detailers need to fill time, and sometimes the Plebes are kept idle reading Reef Points. Less stressful, but still not fun.

Door. This is used exclusively for ships, however. Although Midshipmen use nautical terms for just about everything in Bancroft Hall and the other buildings, for some inexplicable reason they do not use the word "hatch" to describe a door. They just call it a "door." If they were on a YP, they would use the term "hatch."

Restroom (another shipboard term). On sailing ships, it was at the front, or "head" of the ship due to the direction of the wind.

Captain of a ferry that capsized in the Caribbean in the 19th Century who went down with his ship, a monument to him is near the gazebo and Chapel at USNA. A "right of passage" at the end of Plebe year is for the Plebes to climb to the top of Herndon (usually greased and getting sprayed by a fire hose) to be considered "Plebes no more." Usually takes 90 minutes or so to accomplish the feat.

Irish Pennant
A stray piece of thread sticking out from the uniform where it does not belong.  From the age of fighting sail when it was a stray loose untidy rope end in the rigging that prevented it from looking trim and shipshape.

Usually used derisively by Midshipmen to describe another Midshipman who is excessively straight-laced, adheres to every regulation, always has shiny shoes, and is insistent that others do the same. A Midshipman might say, "That guy is a real Joe." Even a female Midshipman would be referred to as a "Joe."

King's Court
The cafeteria style area on the side of King Hall for use during weekends when not so many Mids are there.

Stairway. Midshipmen are taught, from day 1, to treat Bancroft Hall like a ship. Consequently, everything is referred to in the terms of shipboard lingo. Nobody says "steps" or "stairs". It's the ladder! Some of the ladders have specific names, like Youngster Ladder - which basically means that everybody except Plebes, can use it. 

Permission to be away from USNA and military obligations, usually for an extended period of time, as opposed to liberty which is a short duration time away. Having liberty generally means they have to return to the academy by a certain time in the evening.

Leave and Earning statement, the Navy version of a pay stub.  It comes from Disbursing and they make any corrections that are necessary.  It shows how much leave is earned (2.5 days per month), taxes withheld, pay, allowances paid (such as BAS and BAQ) and deductions.  Mids need to know how to read their LES. 

A short time away from military duty, usually just a few hours.  Does not usually include an overnight.

LMO or Last Military Obligation
What Midshipmen refer to as the last thing they are required to do before going on leave.  For example, when heading out to Christmas leave, a Midshipman may have his/her last final as their LMO, or they may have to stand a watch as their LMO.  After that is over, they can then go on leave.

The Log magazine. A Midshipman produced humor magazine that features irreverent humor about the Brigade, administration, and officers. There have been periods of times when The Log was shutdown for crossing the line, in the opinion of the higher-ups. It is very difficult for a non-Midshipman or non-grad to read The Log and understand it. Anybody can subscribe to The Log, however.  Log also refers to the bound official record maintained by the Mid on watch at Main O.  It has the Supe and Dant's standing orders and any incidents that occur on watch such as fires (and fire drills), injuries and accidents.  I do not know if the company watch desk maintains a log.

Lucky Bag

The cafeteria where meals are served.

The way we parents abbreviate Midshipman. Also, Midkid.

The way the Mids abbreviate Midshipmen. 

MO, or Movement Order
This is what the Midshipmen need to go anywhere other than being on leave or liberty.

You'll sometimes see this as a band around the arm of one of the Midshipman watchstanders. It's a gold band. It stands for Midshipman Officer Of the Watch. Any midshipman wearing this is on duty. The MOOW is a higher level than the BOOW.

Morning/Noon/Evening meal
Midshipmen never say breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Mother B
A slang way to refer to Bancroft Hall, the dormitory where all the Midshipmen live. By the way, Bancroft Hall is the largest, single dormitory in the world. There are passageways that connect ALL wings.

Naval Academy Preparatory School, located in Newport, Rhode Island. 

No Later Than.

(Naval Aviation) The chaos that comes from an unplanned maneuver.


When Midshipmen are allowed to spend the night somewhere OTHER than the Naval Academy. Oftentimes, after an Army/Navy game (especially a victory), the Commandant will award the Brigade an "overnight." Customarily, dignitaries who visit the Naval Academy (President, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, Senators, etc.), are empowered to award the Midshipmen an "overnight."


Permanent Change of Station, refers to the set of orders sending one to the ultimate duty station.  There may be  delays enroute such as schools and leave.  When the Mids graduate and service select, they will get PCS orders sending the them either to the school's command or their ship.

Piss Cutter
The soft envelope shaped cover worn with the khaki uniform, also known as a garrison cap or a fore and aft cap.

An isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a difficult position for extended periods of time.

Midshipman fourth class (4/C). However, during Plebe summer, they aren't yet considered 4/C, and after Herndon while still 4/C, they are no longer Plebes.

Plebe Your Cover
Spreading the fingers of your hand so that it holds your cover from the inside. Plebes are generally required to hold their cover in this manner.

Princess Leia
A rather fun activity at USNA. During a meal, a Mid will take two halves of a bagel, put something sticky on it like peanut butter, and slap the two halves on the sides of an upperclassman's head (thus, those side buns like Carrie Fisher in Star Wars). If the Mid can reach their room before being caught by the upperclassman, they are free from retaliation.

Short for PROfessional TRAining for MIDshipmen. Month-long training held in the summer between 3/C and 2/C years. Mids spend roughly equal times on a surface ship, with the Marines, with Subs, and with an aviation unit.

Physcial Readiness Test. Required of all Midshipmen, once per semester. It involves running 1.5 miles, and timed push-ups and sit-ups or planks. Passing the PRT is required for graduation.

A bed. A Midshipman would say, "I slept in my rack."  Mids usually don't sleep in their perfectly made racks, but on them, in blankets and sleeping bags.

Rack Burn
Pressure marks left on a Mid's face by their bedspread from sleeping on top of their rack.  You can always tell if a Mid had taken a day-time nap because they would get up and have a "rack burn" on their cheek.

This word is often used by Midshipmen. It can be used as either a noun or verb. When used as a noun, it generally refers to required knowledge by Plebes. A Plebe who does not know his rates can get into big trouble with the upperclassmen. When used as a verb, it refers to what a Midshipman is ALLOWED (per regulations or custom) to do. For instance: Youngsters do not rate driving cars. Second class Midshipmen do not rate wearing their ring until after the Ring Dance. If a Midshipman says, "I don't rate that," he/she means that they are not allowed to do that.

Drinking fountain where the gossip is shared or the correct gossip/information as in, "What's the scuttlebutt?"  or "I am going to the scuttlebutt."  Again, a term from the age of fighting sail where a bucket of water was kept on deck (the "scuttlebutt") and sailors might gather and gossip while getting a drink of water.

Sea Trials
A period of 14 continuous hours of rigorous physical and mental challenges put before the Plebe class as a culmination of their training. It occurs in May, after final exams are completed. 2nd and 3rd class Midshipmen assist in administering the event. Go to YouTube and search for "Sea Trials Naval Academy" and you will get a better idea of what is involved. 

Semper Gumby
A made-up expression that evolved from the Parent's List-serve. It is a play on words, referencing the Marine Corps motto "Semper Fidelis," which is Latin for "Always Faithful." Semper Gumby, therefore, means "Always Flexible" (remember how flexible Gumby was?). The phrase is used to remind parents that they have to always be prepared for last minute changes, which are so common in Midshipmen's lives. For instance, you make airline reservations for them to fly home on December 20th, the date of their last final. Then you find out that one of their finals was changed to the morning of the 21st or they have to stand watch after their last final. Semper Gumby! By the way, Midshipmen never use this phrase and most don't even know what it means. It's a parent thing.

What you are referred to if you have crossed the equator at sea. An honorary title bestowed on those who have crossed the equator on a ship. Elaborate ceremonies involving humiliation (and in the past, hazing) generally accompany the award of the title, and some ships present elaborate certificates signed by Neptune, Davy Jones, and such figures. See Bluenose.

Sick In Quarters. When a Midshipman is SIQ, it means that Brigade Medical has given them a chit (permission) to remain in their room and miss classes and other evolutions.

Saturday Morning Training. Each company has a Training Sergeant who comes up with various evolutions on Saturday morning - usually for Plebes ... sometimes for Youngsters ... rarely for any upperclassmen.

A place within Bancroft Hall (only for Midshipmen) where they can get snacks, ice cream, sandwiches, pizzas, etc. It's much like Drydock (in Dahlgren Hall), but it is located within Bancroft Hall and is not accessible to the general public.

First year of Thermodynamics, generally taken during the Youngster year.

Superintendant of the Naval Academy, the senior officer in command of USNA.

Temporary Additional Duty comparable to the Army TDY.  Travel may or may not be involved.  Someone can be TAD to a school where their ship is homeported, hence no travel, or they can go to a different locale.  There is also no cost TAD, where there is no reimbursement for travel expenses or per diem.  TAD is always on a set of orders.

In Bancroft Hall, the company lounge area with comfortable chairs/couches, big screen TV, microwave and refrigerator.  On board ship, it is the area where the officers can lounge and/or take their meals (depending on the size of ship).  There are usually comfortable chairs and a TV in the space.  It is also used to refer to all the officers assigned to a command, they are the wardroom.

Leave for a whole weekend, for Plebes a rare pleasure, but much more common after the first year.

Cadet from West Point.  The origin of this term comes from the Wicked Witch of the West's flying monkeys who made the sound, "Whoop, whoop" as they flew out of her castle.  The uniforms of the monkeys look very much like West Point cadets' uniforms.

See Princess Leia above, same idea, but this time an obnoxious concoction is poured over the head of an upperclassman.

Term for the first year of Electrical Engineering.  All Mids have to take at least one year of EE, and the standard course for non-EE majors is generally called "wires."

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over and Whiskey Tango Hotel Over, used when expressing confusion. Civilian translation is What the F***, over and What the Hell, over.

This is the proper word used for the Naval Academy campus. Nobody ever uses the word "campus." 

This term has two meanings. The most common usage is to describe a 3/C Midshipman (sophomore) at the Naval Academy. The other usage is exclusively by Midshipmen to describe a free period during the academic day. "I have a youngster every 4th period," would mean, "I have no class scheduled for 4th period."

Short for Yard Patrol craft. These are the gray "mini ships" that the Naval Academy owns and uses to train the Midshipmen in seamanship, navigation, and shipboard protocol. They are used for both "classroom" and summer training.

Cadet from the US Air Force Academy.

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