The LOTA Glossary (2)

Continuing my discussion of terminology used during the Vietnam war cited in the glossary to Last of the Annamese:

Cyclo was French slang for the three-wheeled pedicabs that thronged the streets of Saigon. The Vietnamese borrowed the term, which they spelled xích lô. Whenever I had time, I travelled by cyclo and talked to the drivers, invariably older men, wizened by time and, most often, military experience.

Frequent Wind was the code name for the evacuation as Saigon fell in April 1975. Frequent Wind Phase Four was declared after the North Vietnamese shelled the airport at Tan Son Nhat and made fixed-wing evacuation impossible. Those of us still there at the end went out by helicopter.

Gunji or gunjy was one of the words used only to refer to Marines during my years in Vietnam. As an adjective, it meant “tough and ferocious.” As a noun, it meant any Marine, but especially one good in combat. Other terms for “Marine” included gyrene and jarhead. A splib is a black Marine; a snuff is a young Marine.

Montagnard was the term used to designate members of the various tribes of mountain people, ethnically distinct from the Vietnamese, who populated the highlands along the Laotian and Cambodian border.

Mufti, a word borrowed from Arabic, meant civilian clothes, or “civvies,” when worn by military personnel. The only people I ever heard use the term were Marines.

Nonlinear, an adjective used only by intelligence personnel, meant “irrational.”

More tomorrow.

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