That Sweet That Nasty That Gushy Stuff

Anyone who deals with the Defense Department has to master a disorienting and insular patois of acronyms — some pronounced like words, some not, without rhyme or reason — designed to separate the insiders from the outsiders. Sometimes the acronyms will become verbs ("just MIRV your warheads" was a favorite of Cold War-era balance-of-terror counters; you figure out what it means) just to make things obnoxiously inscrutible. Sometimes you’ll catch yourself lapsing into the jargon in casual conversation — "Yeah, in Iraq, I was with this one guy who was joking about VBIEDs, it was crazy" —   and you’ll realize you need to take a good, hard look at your life. (It’s pronounced "VEE-bid" and it means "car bomb." Vehiculare Borne Improvised Explosive Device, to be precise.)

But it turns out there’s something worse than acronymese. I was reading through a Noah Shachtman item about an ISR platform — uh, I mean a surveillance thingmabob — called "Gorgon Stare" (get it? Like the Greek-myth monster? When you look at it, you turn to stone?) and wonder: what threat is it designed to address? And then I see, from an Air Force Times write-up:

Reapers and MQ-1 Predators are often called on to track vehicles and hover over buildings to watch for “squirters,” or insurgents running out of buildings during U.S. operations. Airmen controlling the sensors sometimes lose track of those vehicles or squirters if they drive or run out of view too fast.

After giggling for like five minutes, I’ve decided to take the official position that "squirter" is inappropriate and juvenile. And I pray that no one reading this decides to Google that phrase. It must be quite the laugh in the TOC when discussing squirters. Damn it, I mean ‘command center.’

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman