War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele


the field again. this time with the Battalion within the Brigade, then the Battle Group. first on Ex, then the dress rehearsal at Wainwright. slowly, slowly I begin to piece together the concept of platoon, rifle Coy., Battalion, Brigade, Battle Group (what have I missed?). slowly, slowly. I read, ask questions, and still, after almost a year, I don’t quite get it (though I understand chain of command now).

and as the weeks roll closer, I’m thinking I should be lifting weights. strengthening my abs. I remember how long it took for my sore back to feel better after the last time I was crammed inside a LAV for days with flack vest and helmet, seven young soldiers, rifles, gear. being the smallest, and the one to stay behind when the guys went out on patrol, I was always wedged into the back of the LAV, somewhere between the rations and the rucks… I remember “helmet neck” – the guys laughing when I told them how tired my neck muscles were. sometimes all I wanted was to take the helmet off for a minute or two, but couldn’t. lately, I’ve learned that I should have elbow pads too. I’ve also been taught how a woman copes with life in a sealed LAV. that should be interesting. should it come to that. no ramp down.

one of the challenges I face as a writer (among the many) is how to capture the humour of soldiers. how to record humour, one of their major fuels. and their language. readers notice my liberal use of that great Anglo-Saxon f-word. I learned to swear when I was 19 and working as a First-Aid attendant on the docks of Prince Rupert as a card-carrying Longshoreman (do they exist anymore?). the way it was in those days, was that until you peppered your sentences liberally with variations on the F-theme, and until you lost a day’s wages at poker with the guys, you weren’t really one of them.

I believe it impossible to write about soldiers without using the word fuck. I’m probably wrong. I know that one of my editors told me that I am wrong…but somehow I haven’t figured out how NOT to use it… I’ll never forget watching/listening to a rifle company on Ex. receive their instructions and orders from Lt. (now Captain) who was taking the soldiers through a LAV range (night fire etc.). every second word was a variation of “fuck”… I tried to write it down but couldn’t write that quickly. next time I’m around him, I’ll record him and transcribe the recording. that night on the LAV range, the Lt. was so funny and so beautifully inventive. his language was elegant in its own way.

2 Comments (Closed)

Tim Kendall

A very interesting post! David Jones talks about the same problem of linguistic etiquettes in his introduction to In Parenthesis: ‘I have been hampered by the convention of not using impious and impolite words, because the whole shape of our discourse was conditioned by the use of such words. The very repetition of them made them seem liturgical, certainly deprived them of malice, and occasionally, when skilfully disposed, and used according to established but flexible tradition, gave a kind of significance, and even at moments a dignity, to our speech.’

Mar 27 2009 · 14:49

Douglas Hill

My experience working with close-knit groups of men is that part of the comfortable code is guttural language; and while variations on swearing are like currency, they can by agreement by severed. One evening at supper, one of the drill runners whom everyone respected asked us not to use that language, and ofr the rest of the summer, we didn’t. I note that in Battlestar Galactica, the script writers invented “frack” as a substitute for “fuck”. I think the necessity to employ that strategy is the interesting aspect of the decision. I have always been wrenched out of disbelief by “f—k” and such conventions; they are just as disturbing as starting every cinematic phone number with “555-”. I submit that if you are going to be real, you have to use the language. The precedent is available in rap.

Apr 03 2009 · 10:50

About This Page

The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled soon.... It was posted here on March 26, 2009.


Complete diary archive