Tag Archives: military proverb

Army Proverb; Play Stupid Games. . .

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (GK).

GK: “A really common saying was ‘Play stupid games and you’ll win stupid prizes’”

CB: “And who would say that to you?”

GK: “the person getting you in trouble [laughs]”

CB: “So, like you’re superior?”

GK: “Yes”

CB: “Okay. And what did it mean to you?”

GK: “What does it mean to me? It means someone else fucked up and I’m getting punished for it [laughs]. No but, like thats actually what it means to me, but I guess you could say that it means that people try to act stupid all the time. They’ll be like ‘oh I didn’t know I had to do this’ or ‘you didn’t say I had to do that so I just blah blah blah blah’ when really common sense dictates, like in the real world you might be able to get away with that stuff because it wasn’t explicitly stated, but in the army they don’t care about that shit, you’re gonna get fucked up” 

CB: “Why do you think they say it?”

GK: “Its definetly like an esay way to remind people whenever they’re thinking of doing something dumb. Like ‘play stupid games I’m gonna win stupid prizes’ like you know, so you have to weigh the decision the next time you think about doing something stupid”


My informant just graduated from basic training, and is now at a military base waiting to start further training and specialization. He grew up with an older brother in the army and has learned a lot about army culture from him, and then from his superiors at basic training. As a newer member of the military, he has no rank and is often scolded and bossed around by all of those around him.


I called my informant to interview him over the phone, and recorded the interview on my laptop. I had often asked him about his experiences since enlisting, and so my questions were fairly normal for him. It was a casual comfortable conversation with the occasional input from his roommate.


Once deployed, a mistake by a soldier can be fatal for himself or others. The military places a huge emphasis on the importance of following orders and trusting your superiors. This proverb serves as a warning against questioning or disobeying those orders. By using it when someone has made a mistake, it forces the listeners to associate that phrase with the punishment. When repeated, the proverb then acts as a perfect reminder of the punishment they might get should they make a mistake.

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.

“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.