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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

December 7, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Did you see the lead front page article in yesterday’s (Sunday’s) NYT on the Obama administration’s process for developing an Afghanistan war plan? If so, you might not have read far enough to catch a passage worthy of note, given how long the article was and how late the passage appears. I should add immediately that it’s worthy for what it says about language usage and the NYT, not the administration’s planning. And I thank Mark Liberman at Language Log for bringing it to my attention.

The leak of Ambassador Eikenberry’s Nov. 6 cable stirred another storm within the administration because the cable had been requested by the White House. The National Security Council had told the ambassador to put his views in writing. But someone else then passed word of the cable to reporters in what some in the process took to be a calculated attempt to head off a big troop buildup.

The cable stunned some in the military. The reaction at the Pentagon, said one official, was “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” — military slang for an expression of shock. Among the officers caught off guard were General McChrystal and his staff, for whom the cable was “a complete surprise,” said another official, even though the commander and the ambassador meet three times a week.

Military slang? And Bravo Tango Whiskey is military slang also? Or Bravo Yankee Oscar Bravo? WTF?

Categories: Language, Newspapers
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