Don’t serve sir sandwiches

Or, advice for non-military authors when writing military.

“Sir, statement, sir.” “Sir, question, sir?” “Sir, blah blah, sir.” “Sir, yadda yadda, sir.” …NO.

Once out of basic training, sir sandwiches are very rare. Instead, for proper tempo and cadence, think of using the singular sir like a southern waitress uses “honey” or “sweetie”, or an 80-year-old waitress in a crab roll shack in Maine uses “deah.”

I’m sure the military members and prior service out there can think of the few exemptions off the top of their head, but for regular dialogue, skip the sir sandwich.

Besides, you already know that any word that’s overused because trite and annoying to the reader. You no more want a river of “sir” running down your page than a river of “I” in an action sequence. (I punched/I kicked/I dodged / I parried / I made action boring.)

Caveat: the more off-balance and nervous a servicemember, the more frequently they use sir or ma’am. Yes, I have been ma’am-ed by a lieutenant three times in a sentence with two clauses.

On the other end of the spectrum, chatting with a chief warrant getting ready to retire out, after I not only got him what he needed but also went out of my way to explain what he’s looking for and seeing on the civilian side, he managed to make ma’am sound like the kind of pet name you don’t say in public.

(He got away with it, too. Warrants are their own breed, and old chiefs doubly so.)

15 comments

  1. Please quash also the “Lieutenant Colonel, is your battalion a go?” Addressing that same officer, the boss would use Colonel ( surname ) or Nth Battalion

    1. That must be an Army thing. I never heard an LTC referred to as “Colonel” before I started working for the Army.

      1. Navy does the same thing with Commander and Lt. Commander. In actual practice both my wife and I were address as “commander” in normal interactions. (She was the commander.)

    2. Depending on circumstances, the boss is quite likely to say something like, “Ted, are you (your men) (is Nth battalion) ready to go?” The proper reply will, of course, be, “Yes, sir.” First names are for equals and subordinates.

    1. Not when I went through MCRD. That was grounds for extra mountain climbers and burpees.

      1. the Army way, in 1989, was to make drill sergeant sandwiches, and sir sandwiches, and whatever-other-rank sandwiches.

  2. That goes when addressing a lord, too.

    Got a scene where youngsters referring to Master Marcus is a plot point.

  3. But don’t forget Sircasm. Of course the troops love falling out for your morale briefings…Sir.

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