Monday, May 18, 2009

Linguistics Update

While I was thinking and talking about our CHUs, I noticed another Army pronoun I do not remember from the 70s: Bitch. I do not mean the act of complaining or a derogatory reference to a woman, those uses are no different than the civilian usage. But when I cataloqued the use of Shit as a pronoun, I did not notice there is an upper size limit on the use of that word.

When a soldier refers to a truck, or a building, or other very large object, he will often say "This bitch is ready to paint" referring to a recently repaired truck or "This bitch has a busted air conditioner" referring to a CHU without the most important creature comfort. So there is a line somewhere between a duffel bag and a Deuce-and-a-half truck where the item referred to is no longer "that shit" but "this bitch."

Home Sweet (Trailer) Home

My youngest daughter Lisa is graduating from Lancaster Country Day School in two weeks. Her older sister Lauren graduated two years ago. A few years ago, the school underwent renovations so my daughters and all their fellow students had some classes in temporary classrooms next to the buildings (trailers). But the students were not allowed to say trailers. These metal-sided buildings were "learning cottages."

Since moving to Iraq, we have had a huge upgrade from 70 roommates in a tent in Kuwait to 2-man rooms for sergeants and junior officers, three-man rooms for enlisted men, and one-man rooms for the senior officers. Here's the basic building:

The Army needs an acronym for everything, so these 30-foot long, eight-foot wide housing units that can be transported on a truck are not trailers, they are Containerized Housing Units (CHU), pronounced "Choo." Most everyone calls them CHUs. When dozens of CHUs are surrounded by 12-foot-high blast walls with latrine CHUs and Shower CHUs in the middle, the result is called a Living Area (LA). There are ten LAs on Tallil. Members of our unit live in most of these living areas numbered from LA1 to LA10. A few of us make jokes about living in trailer parks and putting cars up on cement blocks in the yard, but most people use the acronyms.

Here is an LA on another base. Ours is similar.

I'll try to get some photos from here soon.

Inside a CHU we each get a bed, an end table, and a wall locker. Some soldiers are already finding refrigerators and TVs. As of Saturday night, I have temporarily have the not-available-at-any-price luxury of my own room for one month. My roommate got temporarily reassigned to another base. He will not be gone long enough to take all his gear or reassign his bed, so I am alone for 30 days or so. When he left he said, "Enjoy the library while I'm gone." You can just sit in here and listen to nothing. Which is not exactly true. Since he is so careful to put on headphones to listen to Gangsta Rap or watch movies, I seldom listened to anything in the room. But with the room to myself, I can listen to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" the BBC World Service, several New Yorker podcasts and Distillations from my work. But mostly, it's quiet in my trailer, I mean CHU.

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