Bloggins & Oscars – everyone’s wingers

Mark Nelson

Mark Nelson, 

Bloggins is a generically used sailor name, sometimes featured in training materials, and may appear in everyday shipboard life, i.e., ‘Who ate the last piece of duff?’ The answer may well be ‘Bloggins’. Of course, this does not refer to an individual sailor named Bloggins, but ‘Bloggins’ represents every sailor, and ‘Bloggins’ is everyone’s winger.

A winger is a good friend, a nickname stolen from the air element in how the zoomies refer to a fellow flyer as a wingman. Wings is a shorter way to say someone is a buddy, as in, ‘Bloggins is my wings’. The Air Force may have invented the term, but the Navy uses it better.

A perfect activity for wingers is to go on a run ashore. After spending many days at sea, when a ship arrives in a port, its sailors will invariably choose to depart the ship and enjoy the local amenities, such as museums, libraries, historical sites, and other culturally significant establishments. Only rarely is running actually involved.

Sometimes the run would be a rig run, meaning the participants would wear their dress uniform ashore, all in an attempt to impress the local populace with their tiddley look and demeanour. Back in the day, when sailors wore square-rig, they wore a uniform referred to as a tiddley suit, which was tailored to be less baggy to make them look more appealing. Today’s sailors rely on natural charm.

A uniform would also be called pusser, which carries more than one meaning. Pusser can indicate a service issue, i.e., ‘Bloggins wore his pusser boots to go clamming.’ Sometimes it can describe someone wholly dedicated to the Navy or something extremely Navy-like, i.e., ‘Bloggins is as pusser as a box lunch.’ Indeed, there is nothing more military-like than a box lunch.

A pusser shower conserves fresh water by showering with as little of the precious resource as possible. According to a winger of mine, the tried and true methodology is to turn on the shower for a few seconds to wet yourself down. With the water off, lather and wash your entire body, and then turn the shower on and rinse until you are soap-free. Save the real shower for homeward bounders.

When two wingers lose their friendship, it is sometimes referred to as a parting of brass rags. Derived from the day when shipmates would share cleaning supplies, a breakup would mean the cleaning rags had to be divided. It’s always a sad day when two former buddies must be separated to polish the ship’s bell.

The only other generically named sailor in every HMC ship would be Oscar, the name given to the standard-issue dummy supplied to every ship, used to practice man-overboard drills. Oscar hangs out in an inconspicuous area of the ship until he is tossed over the side in the initiation of the drill. No sailor has seen the stern of a warship more than Oscar. Oscar is the standard NATO phonetic spelling for the letter ‘O’, which is also represented by a red and yellow signal flag. When flag Oscar is flown, it means ‘man overboard’.

Lastly, Oscar often appears when sailors use the phonetic alphabet as a stand-in for certain acronyms, i.e., CO becomes Charlie Oscar, and XO becomes X-ray Oscar. We won’t say the meaning of Foxtrot Oscar, except to point out it involves heading in another direction.

Do you want to learn more? You will find over 4,000 examples of Jackspeak in my book Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy (2nd ed.).

The author of Jackspeak of the Royal Canadian Navy and Whiskey 601, Mark Nelson developed a love of the Navy’s language and lifestyle over his 26-year career in the service. After retiring as a Chief Petty Officer Second Class, he now works as a library systems specialist at Red River College Polytechnic in Winnipeg, Man.

Follow Mark on Twitter @4marknelson

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