As military children, we learned the vocabulary of our lives. Base. PMQs. CO. For many of us, these words, often acronyms only but nouns to us, were normal ways to express normal life things, like community, houses, boss. It wasn’t until we left our brat childhoods that we became more multilingual and learned when to use our first language for such things, and when not to, as in when talking to civvies. Even the word brat means something different in our heads. I definitely had to explain the title of my first book, “Camp Follower One Army Brat’s Story” by Michele Sabad, more than I thought I’d need to; many people assumed it was a derogatory term, and thought the book was a trashing of my military upbringing, which of course, it is not.
Most of you know I’m a writer. It’s been a thrilling retirement hobby and very rewarding, (emotionally, not financially, as I must remind my family all the time, especially when shelling out for the costs of being a self-published author.) Speaking of the costs of book production, I’ve used a professional editor for both of my previous memoirs, (second one is called “First We Eat. Food, Life, and More Stories”) and both times I used the same, civilian editor. I now am preparing to release a third book, like the second one, somewhat a memoir with stories of my military life as army brat and Air Force wife and mother, but this time I had to use a new editor. She’s recently sent back my manuscript with the first edits, and boy, did I forget how much I forgot to translate for a new book and new editor! I won’t bore you with all the details, but here’s some examples of my “problems” that I attribute to being an army brat:
- Acronyms need spelling out. PMQ (I won’t go down that rabbit hole again here!) PTI. Even CFB, if you can believe it.
- I am accused of “capitalitis”, as in, I always want to capitalize ranks, like “my Sergeant dad” is supposed to be “my sergeant dad”. I find this really tough to write like that, but editors insist on this if I want my books to be read by the real world out there. Ok, but “the major” instead of “the Major” doesn’t sound correct to this army kid!
- I picked up words in different parts of the world, in different contexts, (heck, in different generations!) So my “leotards”, for example, that covered my legs need explanation that they covered my legs, and were not the top with crotch and no leggings that my editor said they were. I had the same issue with “egg flipper”, which my editor thought should be “spatula”. All these different interpretations needed fleshing out to avoid confusing the reader. I understand.
- Ok, do you spell the Junior Ranks mess with any capitals? My editor didn’t want me to, but I did.
Here’s a fun one : what are “no-hooks and one-hooks”? I drew the line at explaining this, because in the context of the story, I’d already referred to the MPs (spelled out, to please my editor, Military Police) as “privates” and I’m sorry, even civilians should know a teensy bit about military ranks, at least enough to know that a private is lowly. Hmm. And I notice I didn’t capitalize that rank. I learn something new about my own military life experience every day.