USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘military proverb’
Folk speech

Don’t Ever Stuff a Gun in Your Pants

“Don’t ever stuff a gun in your pants”


The informant learned of this proverb from military officers and his peers during basic training for the Coast Guard when he was about 19 years old. He learned that this saying came about when safeties were common in guns (when you pull back a hammer before shooting). Now double-safeties are commonly built into guns that force disable you from pulling back a hammer without pulling the trigger so if it’s dropped of stuffed somewhere, it won’t go off.

While in training, the informant said he was trained with 9mm, which officers told him, was to help him and his peers get a fell for how to use a gun. When you graduate to become a full member of the military, they will issue a different gun with a double-safety to protect from accidental discharges (and because they are more accurate and efficient). He mentioned that the Harry Potter saying: never put your wand in your pocket is a direct reference to this proverb

Humor in this instance is a good tool to help people remember safety information. Personally, I’m unaware of the workings of guns, but this proverb is helpful in reminding listeners of the mechanics of certain types of firearms.

Folk speech

“Pop It Up, Take Big Bites, Make Sandwiches”

The informant is a former Army Ranger who attended West Point Military Academy from 1975-1979. During his time, he was taught many traditions and secrets that were exclusive to the army.

The phrase “Pop it up, take big bites, make sandwiches” was one of such phrases heard at West Point. A “plebe” is a first year student at the academy. If you heard this from a superior officer while you were a plebe, it was a very good thing. It meant that whatever good deed you had done had earned you certain privildges. “Pop it up” was referring to one’s chest. They should stand tall and proud with their chest out for what they had done. The next two phrases have to do with the rules that were enforced on plebes while eating. Like many aspects of being a plebe, these rules were strict and often absurd, but intended to teach discipline. While eating, plebes had to cut up all of their food into small pieces, even things as small as Cheerios. Thus, the instruction to “take big bites” meant that they no longer had to abide by this rule. When sandwhich fixings were available, they were not allowed to make them, instead eating the meat, bread, and cheese individually. Hearing this phrase, however, voided this rule. The informant notes, though, that there were still other required rituals which had to be observed.

The informant remembers this phrase because it was always his goal to hear it. Now, he uses it himself in situations other than eating. Thus, phrase has transcended its original purpose and now is taken as simply a compliment or substitute for saying “good job” no matter the context. Although the rules may have been harsh, the informant cites traditions like this phrase as reasons that West Point helped him succeed.