Skip to comments.To Oorah or Not to Oorah? (repost)
Posted on 11/25/2001 9:39:17 AM PST by real saxophonist
To Oorah or Not to Oorah?
Story by Ed Vasgerdsian
I was a Marine before they got rid of the M1 rifle, .45-caliber pistol and C-rations and, these things not withstanding, there have been other changes in the Corps as well. As a former Marine, try as I may to keep up with change, it is neither easy nor possible. Reunions aren't any help since they reinforce what I already know or remind me of what I've forgotten. Most former Marines can find old duty stations and a few friends and that's about it.
For the most part we're condemned to whimsical attempts of sounding like we know what we're talking about when we are confronted by our modern Marine Corps. Based upon a recent experience, I've now decided to face reality and admit the truth: I don't know what "oorah" means.
I overheard a couple of young Marines talking, and as they parted company one said to the other, "Oorah!" What a strange word! I guessed it was a food, a drink, a new weapon or a foreign word that had a universal meaning. You know, "Hey, don't forget to bring the oorah." "Why don't we barbecue an oorah?" "I broke my oorah." "The gunny wants to see the oorah." "Oorah for the Red, White and Blue." (Maybe the latter was Hooray--for the Red, White and Blue.) I recalled words from my own Marine Corps experience, like slopchute, pogey bait, shelter half and Mickey Mouse boots but never oorah--or is it oorah?
Later, a Marine at Quantico used the word with me during a telephone conversation. "Oorah, sir," he said, as he hung up. I couldn't respond by saying, "Eh, what was that you said?" Out of desperation I almost said, "Haroo," hoping it meant something like, "The same to you, buddy," or "See you later." Over a period of two months I heard oorah used several times. If there was an appropriate response, what was it? Had the Marine Corps been modernized to the point of using an east Indian mantra?
I live in a large metropolitan city where there are several colleges and universities; surely someone could explain oorah. My plan was to simply say, "Oorah" and wait for a reaction.
Winkie's Wine and Spirits Shop told me they were out of oorah but Ouzo, the Greek stuff, was just as good. I asked for an oorah at a coffee shop, and I was told if it wasn't on the menu, then they didn't have it. At a clothing store I was told lambswool held up better than oorah, and an anthropologist said oorahs have been extinct for thousands of years. At home my wife suggested the grass needed cutting, and the kids shrugged their shoulders implying my early senility. I researched volumes of word books and dictionaries, including military, and found nothing.
As the clouds of darkness gave way to a brighter light, I realized oorah must be strictly military. But where did it come from? There had to be an explanation. I was prepared to accept anything because there are other sayings the Marine Corps has accepted without question.
"Semper Fi," short for Semper Fidelis, is Latin and it means "always faithful." To my knowledge there were no Marines attached to the Roman Legion, yet we use it. "Gung ho" is a Chinese expression that translates into "working together." It became popular when movie actor Randolph Scott portrayed Marine Raider Lieutenant Colonel Evans F. Carlson in the movie by the same name.
"Saddle up" is a cavalry term that John Wayne overused in a portrayal of a Marine gunnery sergeant in the award-winning movie, "The Sands of Iwo Jima."
Historically, there were Marines on horseback but not on Tarawa or Iwo Jima. These were expressions used as part of the Marine Corps I knew, and I never challenged their origins because they were real words, be they Latin, Chinese or U.S. Cavalry.
Ultimately, I gave up pursuing the origin of oorah. After all, there are other things about life and the Marine Corps I didn't understand, so I need not get hung up on this word. I never knew why I didn't make general, and I don't understand how I never shot expert on the rifle range. Oorah would be another unknown factor in my life.
Meanwhile, I promise never to use oorah before shaving, after driving, while watching TV or after Thanksgiving dinner. Further, I will never speak of oorahs in mixed company, be they men, women, republicans or democrats.
Should I encounter an oorah I will not challenge its authority, intimidate it or imitate its behavior. This I promise, so help me, Chesty Puller.
Editor's note: Ed Vasgerdsian, a retired law enforcement officer who served in the Marine Corps from 1953 to 1959, is a free-lance writer.
Now, 'Saddle Up!' is one I recall pretty fondly. I still use that one occasionally and I've been out for ten years already.
Yeah, if it's pronounced phonetically it does sound abit odd. However, when forced from the back of the throat as a 'grunt', I like the sound. I've been retired five years, and it still jumps out spontaneously at particularly motivating moments.
It is a direct result of lack of a$$-kickin' beginning in bootcamp, and the general dumbing down and feminization of the military!!--and subscribed to by only those boots of that persuasion!!!
Want a second opinion?
OK, they're ugly MFs too!
"How lame," I thought. I guess a good "Ooh-rah!" is beyond them. Too bad.
A good "Ooh-rah!" comes from the gut. You really can't even do it right the first time. It takes a lot of practice. It's liike calling cadence; you start out, "left, right, left, right, left, right, left." And over time, you develop your own thing: "Da-low-righty-low-righty-lefta-righty-laoh."
One's "Ooh-rah!" develops over time.
My personal definition of an "Ooh-rah!" is: "The short, barking laugh of a United States Marine."
I read a book about the battle of Antietam. It might have been "Landscape Turned Red", by Stephen Ambrose. He mentions the Rebel yell, of course, but he also mentions (If I have the right book), the "Manly hoo-rahs!" of the Union Troops. So I would have assumed that today's "Ooh-rah!" stems from that tradition. It's interesting to hear older Marines say they are not familiar.
I just know when a really good feeling wells up inside me, an "OOH-RAH!" usually wants to burst loose right behind it.
I once thought , myself, that it may have come from Jack Webb's old flik, The DI, where the DI says something like, "Let me hear you roar, tigers!" --that was in 56/57, and the BS oohrah was tobegin a few years after that.
In my opinion, repeat: my opinion! Semper Fidelis, and Gung Ho! are the standby battle-cries of the Corps--and in the explanation that Evans Carlson gave to Robert Sherrod, aboard ship, on the eve of Tarawa, it seems to me that Carlson explained Gung Ho as an extension and/or explanation of Semper Fidelis--that, together w/General Puller's comments on Semper Fidelis, at the 1956 court-martial of S/Sgt Matt McKeon, tells the story!
Semper Fidelis, Marines!
Dick Gaines D
BTW, all that oohrahing you hear on the bases are just "practice", gotta get that sound just right ;o) Just a woman's point of view.
I went through bootcamp (MCRD)in the summer of 63 and wasn't discharged until 67 and never once heard it. It must have been started sometime after that.
The first I heard it, ever, was in watching the movie "Scent of a woman" in which the blind "Army" vet officer, used it often. I figured then, that is was some kind of Army thing.
I'm a traditionalist and don't like it either and don't have a clue as to how it became attributed to the Corps.
Thanks Surferdoc. That would explain the "Army" officers use of it in "Scent of a woman". I believe Al Pacino played the Army vet who had been blinded in Nam. He may well have been a Ranger, but It's been about ten years since I saw the movie and all I remember for sure is his Army uniform.
LOL, yep, have been all my life.
A good story about one of the most Horrible Marines ever!! A gift to the Marines among us from an old Army Sgt.
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