In 1987, a booklet of cadet slang entitled ‘LEGOLINGO‘ was released. Compiled by Bill Cowham, the booklet ‘put down on paper the peculiar slang used by cadets at the Australian Defence Force Academy’ (ADFA) in its first two years of operation from 1986-87.
In 1993, my old English lecturer Bruce Moore published a book entitled A Lexicon of Cadet Language: Royal Military College, Duntroon which constituted a comprehensive listing of language used at the neighbouring Army officer school. Much of the language used at RMC had been adopted next door at ADFA in its foundation years.
Both works contain extremely racist, sexist, misogynistic and derogatory terms that are indicative of the prevailing culture at both military institutions at the time. As works of lexicography, they make ‘no apology…for profanity, for bias, or for sexist definitions; these are the words used by cadets, to sensor them would be to destroy the unique language’.
The works, both of which have been preserved in perpetuity in the National Library of Australia collection, have been an important reference point for subsequent investigations into sexual abuse at our military institutions. In 2012, the DLA Piper investigation into sexual abuse, and the media, reported that the LEGOLINGO guide was still freely available on the Australian Defence Force Academy Graduates’ Association (AGA) website.
As the webmaster of the AGA at the time, I was the one, regrettably, who put it there. Although the LEGOLINGO page on the website contained a statement that the AGA did not condone the use of sexist and racist language, and that the document was provided purely for historical purposes, in hindsight I shouldn’t have published it on the site.
Like the authors of the two works, I justified publishing the document by arguing its value as a lexicographical record, but that view didn’t take into account the many people who were on the ‘receiving end’ of the terms contained therein.
Looking back now, almost 25 years after I started at ADFA, there is some horrible language in both lexicons, and the culture that I was a part of back then has quite rightly come under close scrutiny. As a naive 17-year old who had just left home, I was indoctrinated into that culture and it became the norm. As a more worldly 42-year old with the benefit of hindsight, it’s not hard to see that it was deeply flawed in a lot of ways.
That doesn’t extinguish the fact that ADFA and RMC were (and still are) home to a peculiar lingo, and not all of that lingo was sexist or racist. I’ve published some of the terms, acronyms and abbreviations that were commonly used during my time at the Academy in 1992 – 1994 below, with some quick definitions and examples of usage.
Please help me add to and refine the listing below by providing any I have missed in the comments below (non-sexist and non-racist terms only). Please note that some of the terms, whilst not racist or sexist, may still offend.
List of Cadet Slang
ACC – Academy Cadet Captain, the head cadet of the Corps of Officer Cadets
Accas – abbreviation for academic study and anything to do with the academic side of ADFA; ‘I’m off to accas’; ‘I’ve got some accas to do this weekend’
Ack – From Army radio telephone procedure, this is an abbreviation of ‘acknowledged’ and is used to reply in the affirmative
Adj – abbreviation for the Adjutant, an officer of Captain-equivalent rank responsible for cadet discipline
AIU Clerk – a second year cadet responsible for managing the divisional inventory – the ‘articles in use’ – such as the serviceability of the bathrooms, electrical applicances, etc.
All-nighter – Studying through the night to get an essay completed or to study for an exam the next day
Artist – a Bachelor of Arts student – as LEGOLINGO notes, ‘somebody who ticked the right box at enrolment’
ASAP – abbreviation for ‘as soon as possible’
AWOL – abbreviation for absent without leave. A chargeable offence.
Bacon – to faint on parade
Bacon dance – the involuntary, convulsive movements of a cadet who was about to faint on parade.
Bash – a verb/noun used to explain the artificial shaping of an Army peak cap so that it looks more professional. The standard issue peak caps, known as wokkas, could not be shaped in this way and first-year Army cadets were required to purchase their own bashable peak cap (from Chorley’s in Sydney) once they had attained the appropriate privileges.
Bato’s – an abbreviation for Bateman’s Bay, which was included in the local leave area for ADFA cadets. The local leave area extended 100km from the centre of Canberra, but Bato’s was included as an exception to this rule.
Beam – a particular type of bish where a cadet’s room would disappear and reappear in a completely different location, often outside in a public place.
Beewah – a beer
Bin – a well-known Canberra nightclub, the Private Bin, frequented by cadets on the weekend
Bin dog – a hot dog purchased from the mobile vendor stationed outside of the Private Bin nightclub. Generally purchased after a long night of drinking.
Bin music – the genre of music played at the Private Bin, typically 1970s-80s classics from the likes of Daddy Cool (‘Eagle Rock’), JJ Geils Band (‘Angel is a Centerfold’), Dexy’s Midnight Runners (‘C’mon Eileen’) and The Knack (‘My Sharona’)
Bish – literally, to ‘rubbish’ something; to mess it up or to destroy something. ‘He got into Bill’s room and bished it’. Used particularly on Trafalgar Day when junior navy midshipmen would attempt to effect the most creative ‘bish’ on their seniors’ rooms (one of the most impressive was turning a third year’s room into a barnyard, complete with grass and a grazing sheep).
Bish bin – a rubbish bin
Blockrat – a person who stays in the accommodation lines and rarely heads out on leave on weekends
Bobby’s – abbreviation for nightclub Bobby McGee’s, which was located at the Lakeside Hotel and was known for its Monday Hospitality Night. It was a little classier than some of the establishments in Civic.
Bog – to clean, polish or to undertake domestic duties. ‘I need to bog the bathroom before parade’
Bogged on – a cadet that had high standards, or is immaculately presented. ‘He’s bogged on when it comes to accas’
Bogger – an enthusiastic cadet. ‘She’s such a little bogger’
Bot – to borrow. ‘Can I bot a durry?’
Brew – generally a hot drink, but could also be suggestive of an alcoholic beverage
Brew gear – the gear required to make hot drinks
Brew mug – a hot drink mug. Many cadets had their favoured oversized mug for consuming hot drinks.
Brewski – a beer
Bumph – to castigate, tell off, reprimand. ‘He got bumphed for not wearing the correct uniform’
Captain Casio – an Army term for explaining the practice of sleeping through a night-time sentry duty in the field (known as a ‘picquet’), and relying on a wristwatch alarm to wake the sleeper at the end of the shift. ‘Who was on picquet?’ ‘Captain Casio had it covered’.
Cardy – as in “to card someone’s room”, to gain access to a cadet’s room by wedging a sliver of plastic card, typically cut out from a used spray starch bottle, between the latch and strike plate.
Charge – a formal sanction for a military offence (eg. going absent without leave) under the Defence Force Disciplinary Act.
Checkie – a check parade; a punishment whereby a cadet would be required to parade for a dress inspection
Chicken Gourmet – a popular late night food outlet in Civic, often visited after a long night of drinking
Chief – the term used to address a navy chief petty officer
Cinderella leave – leave privileges until midnight. First year cadets were only granted leave until midnight on certain nights
Civic – the town centre of Canberra, which was approximately 5km from ADFA and the standard weekend destination for cadets
Comm – short for the Commandant, the highest ranking officer in charge of ADFA
Cordie – a member of the Corps of Officer Cadets
CPA – acronym for Commandant’s Personal Assistant; one cadet from each of the three services was designated as a CPA
Darb – a cigarette
Dargan – another word for ‘sergeant’, which refers to their penchant for side-of-the-mouth enunciation
Dart – a cigarette
DCC – Divisional Cadet Captain, responsible for a division of up to 48 cadets
Dick around – to mess someone around, a pointless activity, a time-wasting task. ‘That work party was such a dick around’
Divord – abbreviation for divisional orderly, a rostered-on first year cadet who was responsible for divisional administrative tasks
Dog House – a popular late night food van in Braddon that was frequented by cadets doing all nighters and after a night of drinking
Drillie – a drill sergeant
DS – acronym for Directing Staff; a staff member responsible for assessing individual and group performance in military activities and exercises.
Durry – a cigarette
Eagle Rock – a song by Daddy Cool. When played in a nightclub, cadets would routinely drop their trousers whilst dancing and singing the lyrics.
Echo Beach – a wide lawned area in Echo Squadron where the ACC would deliver messages to the Corps at a morning parade
ED – an extra drill; a punishment whereby a cadet would be required to undertake drill on the parade ground
Extras – a general term for a punishment, whether that be a Show Parade, Check Parade or Extra Drill
Fang – food. ‘I’m heading to the mess for some fang’.
Farter – a cadet’s bed, or to sleep. ‘I’m off to the farter’; ‘I’m going to get some farter’.
Fart sack – a sleeping bag
Fester – to hang out. ‘John’s festering in the rec room’.
Fid – abbreviation for ‘field’. ‘We’re going out fid this week’
Fifty percent syndrome – a ‘syndrome’ that befell many Army Arts students whereby they would only seek to pass by the barest of margins, because attaining a 51% score was deemed one-percent wasted effort.
Fives – a punishment that required cadets to arrive at a designated location five minutes before the required time. If you were required to parade at 1400hrs and you were on fives, you had to be at the location at 1355hrs.
Fourthie – a first year cadet; a carry-over from the Royal Military College Duntroon, where newly-arrived cadets are in ‘fourth class’ and are known as ‘fourthies’.
Free Snake – to ‘go commando’; to wear no underwear
Fry – to be charged
Furph(y) – a rumour or tall story; normally untrue. This term is used widely in the military and is derived from the Furphy water carts that traversed the battlefields in World War I
Gary – to flirt with the opposite sex; short for ‘Gary Groundwork’, ie. to lay the ‘groundwork’ for more intimate relations
Gibbers – this word had numerous uses, but usually described something small – for example, a commendation entitled the recipient to place a small ‘gibber’ (a badge) on their nametag.
Gila Monster – a warrant officer, a senior non-commissioned officer responsible for discipline; so named because of their venomous bite and reptilian traits of hissing, spitting and scaring the living daylights out of unsuspecting cadets who stumble upon them.
Goffer – a soft drink.
Gonk – to sleep. ‘He’s gonked out in his farter’
Grad – the annual graduation parade
Grey man – an introvert; a person who is inclined to stay in his/her room without socialising.
Gumpy – a snack food, a chocolate bar. ‘I’m just going to get a couple of gumpy bars’
Head Board – to gain access to a cadet’s room by removing the head board above the door.
Hoots – kudos. ‘Hoots to you buddy for that awesome stunt’
Hose – to curry favour with military staff; to suck up, to brown nose
Hoser – a person who seeks to curry favour for himself/herself in the eyes of staff members
Hospital corners – a method of tucking in the corners of a bed counterpane; 45 degree hospital corners were required for all room inspections
Jack – to act in a way that impacts negatively on a fellow cadet or runs counter to the welfare of the group, to be a turncoat, to side with authority rather than fellow cadets. ‘Don’t be jack, help me out here’.
Jack man / jack bastard – a person who ‘jacks’ on his mates
Jolly Jugs – Cheap jugs of beer and spirits at the Pandora’s bar in Civic on Thursday night; a regular destination for second and third year cadets
Kingo – the Kingston Hotel, one of Canberra’s few traditional pubs, a favourite haunt of cadets and renowned for its cook-your-own-steaks
Kit muster – a very onerous punishment that would require a cadet to lay out for inspection every piece of issued equipment in a pristine condition.
Leader – the term used to address a navy leading seaman
Ledgie – the practice of scaling the outside window ledges to gain access to a cadet’s room, often as a result of locking one’s key in.
Legoland – a term given to the accommodation lines at ADFA because they look like they are made of Lego.
Lobster – a name given to Physical Training Instructors, because they had great bodies but heads full of shit
Lush – a positive exclamation that equates to ‘cool’, ‘excellent’. ‘That movie is lush’
Master key – a key held by the duty officer that opens all rooms in a divisional block. If a cadet themselves out of their room, they’d have to visit the duty officer (or do a ledgie)
Med lim – a medical limitation. Apparently ‘med rest’ (see below) suggested that those on medical restrictions were just ‘resting’, and so the term med lim was adopted instead.
Med rest – a medical restriction. At PT, those on medical restrictions were required to announce their restriction at the PT roll call: ‘Med rest, Leader’
Mess Nazi – a catering staff member employed in the cadet’s mess, so named because of their strict policing of mess rules and etiquette.
Mexi – a dice game often played at the Mooseheads pub with the objective of rolling a two and one. A successful roll resulted in all players shouting “Mexi!”.
Military cripple – a cadet who is extremely zealous in their love of the military; some military cripples were known to wear military clothes on weekends and sleep with their rifles
Moose – the Mooseheads pub in Civic, a regular hangout for cadets
Nard – a poo
NUTS – acronym for ‘not up to standard’; often used on check parade slips: ‘Punctuality NUTS’
OCO – acronym for Officer Cadet Orderly, a rostered duty position for a first year cadet.
Oil – acronym for ‘Orders in Lines’. A first year cadet would be tasked with delivering an oil by shouting at the top of their lungs in the divisional stairwells. An oil began with: ‘Excuse me please ladies and gentlemen’ and concluded with ‘please!’. If done incorrectly, the cadet would be required to repeat the message.
On the bus, off the bus – A term to describe the often pointless herding of cadets to various places and being dicked around
OQs – acronym for ‘Officer Qualities’; a cadet could receive a warning for poor OQs
Pineapple – an unwanted, often laborious task, so named because of its uncomfortable shape should it be inserted (!)
Port Party – a clandestine late night gathering to drink port in a cadet’s room. Alcohol was prohibited in the accommodation lines.
Prejudicial behaviour – a common charge for misdemeanours that didn’t align closely with more specific sections of the Defence Force Discipline Act. Any errant behaviour could be justified as being ‘prejudicial’ to the Australian Defence Force
Puku – a rotund stomach. ‘I’ve got a bit of a puku after eating all those desserts’
Pusser – a name for a Navy person
Putsch – derived from the Munich Beer Hall putsch which sought to overthrow Hitler, this term was applied to the collective military staff at ADFA, as well as to any senior cadets who sided with the military staff. Often used in concert with ‘jack’ – ie. ‘jack putsch’
RAAFie – an Air Force person
Rack – a bed, to sleep. ‘I’m headed to the rack after first period’
Rack drool – the saliva that escapes from the corner of a cadet’s mouth when sleeping face down on a desk during a lecture
Rack monster – being overtaken by the onset of sleep, characterised by yawning, droopy eyelids and uncontrollable nodding of the head
Rack scar – The seemingly-indelible lines and creases on one’s face that appear after sleeping face down on a desk during a lecture
Rack stack – the resultant cacophony when a cadet fell asleep during class whilst in a lecture theatre equipped with swivel desks. Upon falling asleep, the desk would swivel suddenly causing the cadet’s books to come crashing down, instantly drawing the attention of the entire theatre.
Rack wave – the bobbing wave of sleep-deprived heads visible from the back of a lecture theatre.
Rec room – the communal recreation room in each of the divisional buildings, containing furniture and a TV
Resign! – a common call used to give a subtle hint to unwanted cadets that they should leave ADFA
Reveille – traditionally a bugle call at sunrise that serves to wake up military people. At ADFA, there was no bugle, but first year cadets were required to shout out ‘reveille, reveille, reveille’ in unison, with their bedding slung over their shoulders, at 6am each morning during the first six weeks.
Reverse nard – the practice of sitting on the toilet backwards and defecating against the front face of the toilet bowl, creating a mess that would have to be cleaned up by the first year cadets.
Rockshow – a mess, a disaster, a poorly-executed activity, a slovenly person. ‘That was a complete rockshow, people’. Also, see Shitfight below.
Roger – an affirmative response; from Army radio telephone procedure.
RPs – acronym for Restriction of Privileges, a punishment from a charge that confined the cadet to barracks with a host of menial tasks and parade requirements.
Running Man – a practice whereby a birthday celebrant would be captured, stripped naked, placed in the boot of a car, driven to the top of nearby Mount Ainslie and dumped, from where he/she would be required to get back to ADFA
RV – an abbreviation for a rendezvous point. ‘Let’s RV at the Bin’
Say again – from Army radio telephone procedure; a request to repeat something (the word ‘repeat’ is not generally used in radio telephone procedure as it is used exclusively for Artillery barrages)
Scientist – a Bachelor of Science student
SCC – Squadron Cadet Captain, one of six SCCs (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot) responsible generally for three divisions of cadets (approximately 150 cadets)
SCL – Squadron Cadet Lieutenant, second-in-command to the SCC
Scorched earth – the practice, typically by Arts students, of eating all the morning teaaand destroying any left-overs, before the engineering students arrive at the Mess.
Screaming jack man – a particularly bad ‘jack man’; one who has form and is recognised for repeat jackness
Scunge – term for casual clothing that was worn around the accommodation lines, particularly during cleaning duties
Seen – a term used to confirm a sighting of something, taken from Army field training. ‘See that bin over there?’ ‘Seen!’
Sergeant Seiko – see Captain Casio above
Shaft – an unwanted, often laborious task. ‘He got shafted for a work party’
Shitfight – a mess, a disaster, a poorly-executed activity, a slovenly person. ‘You are a shitfight, Officer Cadet Smith’.
Show cause – an administrative sanction that requires the cadet to ‘show cause’ as to why his/her appointment as an officer cadet should not be terminated. ‘Show causes’ went to those who had poor academic performance or a lack of officer qualities.
Show parade – a punishment that required the miscreant to ‘show’ an item for inspection (eg. polished shoes), generally because it was not up to standard
Sluggies – remedial PT training that took place each morning at 6am for those who had failed to pass their PT test
Snake – another word for a senior non-commissioned officer
SNARD – abbreviation for a Standard NATO Arm Retention Device, typically a book or folder that was carried in the left hand when marching around the campus, precluding the cadet from having to swing their left arm.
Split – a quick change of uniforms in the ten minute changeover between periods. An accas-to-PT split would require the cadet to get back to their accommodation lines, change from their dress-of-the-day polyester uniform into PT kit, and get to the gym – all within the space of ten minutes.
Squeezer – a soft person, a person with a weak character, a hypochondriac
Standard NATO – a term that describes the standard equipment used by NATO forces (eg. standard NATO 7.62mm rounds) but more generally applied in everyday circumstances to designate the most common configuration of something. For example, a ‘standard NATO coffee’ was white with two sugars.
Steppers – clothes/shoes used for heading into town, stepping out attire.
Switch on – an exhortation to pick up one’s performance. ‘Switch on, people. It’s not hard’
Sydnos – abbreviation for Sydney, a desirable weekend leave destination
Take two – term used to mete out check parades, normally dispensed two at a time. ‘You have a mark on the front of your trousers. Take two’.
Tap dance – an attempt to avoid blame or recrimination. ‘He was able to tap dance his way out of it’
Tattoo – written nightly messages and orders that were posted in the rec room. It was obligatory to read these messages before 2300hrs each night.
Taxi! – a common call when somebody spills a drink or breaks a glass, suggesting that they need to be conveyed home immediately
Termo – the Terminus bar in Civic, an underground bar
Thousand days to go – A tradition that was brought over from the Royal Military College. Second year cadets celebrate 1000 days to go until ADFA graduation with a night out on the town, paid for by first year cadets.
TOC – acronym for ‘tea or coffee’; TOC (morning tea) was served at the Cadet’s Mess each week day; the term TOC was also used to describe an informal gathering of a section for a late night junk food gathering.
TOC rocks – the biscuits and other items served at TOC
Toccy – derived from TOC (see above), a toccy is any journey to obtain food or drink. ‘I’m heading into Civic on a Macca’s toccy’
Toss the Boss – a Sunday session activity at the Mooseheads pub, where drinkers were invited to ‘toss the boss’ upon buying a beer. A correct call of heads or tails would result in a free beer.
Tram tracks – errant double lines ironed into a cadet’s shirt sleeve or trouser crease, often resulting in check parades.
Vort – an engineer; a term used by Arts students in particular towards their more studious brethren
Wait out – taken from Army radio telephone procedure, ‘wait out’ effectively means ‘give me some time and I will get back to you with my answer’.
Walk of Shame – the act of walking from Civic to ADFA (approximately 5km) after a night in town, generally as a result of not having sufficient money to pay for a taxi.
Warning – a formal warning issued to cadets for unsatisfactory academic performance or poor officer qualities
Warrie – a ‘war story’ that doesn’t generally relate to war at all; a tall story; ‘I’ve got a few warries to tell about my trip to the Gold Coast’
Wokka – name given to the standard issue and very unattractive Army peak cap. So named, according to LEGOLINGO, because of the noise of a helicopter’s rotor blade as it comes in to land on the top of the hat, having mistaken the wide flat expanse as the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Workies – the Canberra Workingman’s Club (no longer in existence); it was good for a steak and a beer