Book Review: Grunt Slang in Vietnam: Words of the War


by Gordon L. Rottman

Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. xx, 220. Special front matter, appends., biblio. $34.95. ISBN: 1612008046

A Handbook of Vietnam Era Warrior Slang

In his latest work, Rottman, a former career soldier and Vietnam veteran with a string of books to his credit, gives us more than just “Grunt slang” from “The Nam”. Along with definitions and explanations of terms coined by the troops that are unique to the Southeast Asian war, such as “killing trees”, “FNG”, “Saigon tea”, “complimentary steaks”, and “humping in the boonies”, Rottman also gives us a lot of other terms.

There are the names, nicknames, and abbreviations for equipment, usually with some technical detail about their characteristics and uses. He also includes the names for many operations, with some comment on their intention and consequences, and slang terms from earlier wars that were still popular in the armed forces or even in general use, as well as new terms coined stateside, and so forth.

Alas, Rottman has no entry for cork the drug rumored to be used by LRRP and other SOPS types to prevent defecation, and in his explanation of “body bag”, he omits occasional use as a sleeping bag by troops in high altitudes, where nights can get surprisingly chilly.

In addition, Rottman is rather naïve in saying the use of certain ethnic pejoratives was not an issue (e.g., chief for men of Native American heritage, not to mention other terms for African Americans and Hispanics) -– white troops certainly objected to Honkey”.

While no work of this nature can cover every possible neologism or usage, Grunt Slang in Vietnam is a very useful reference for anyone with an interest in the armed forces during the Vietnam era.



Note: Grunt Slang in Vietnam is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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