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8 English Phrases That Can Only Be Decoded By Singaporeans Who Have Served NS

Army English explained


Disclaimer: Guys, you might hear your sergeant’s gruff voice as you read these phrases. 

And even if you’ve been watching from the sidelines, it’s time to pick up some NS jargon so you won’t be lost in translation when your enlisted friends use these terms at weekend dinners. 

Besides hokkien phrases, you’ll hear a different brand of English in NS. So, take heart there’ll be at least one takeaway from your two years in camp – the expansion of your vocabulary. 


1. “Stand by Universe” 


stand by universe army phrases

“Stand by Universe” might sound like the galactic call to arms from the “Guardians Of The Galaxy” to defend the universe but it’s actually one of the more common punishments in NS. 

When you see “stand by universe” in your platoon Whatsapp group, it’s a call for you to clear every single thing out of your bunk and bring all your belongings to the parade square. If even a toothpick is found inside your bunk and its surrounding area, you’ll be in big trouble.  

Be thankful that the gravity of the phrase has lessened over the years – in the good ol’ days, even the beds and cupboards had to be brought down. 


2. “You think, I thought, who confirm?”


Phil Hartman Tell Me More 

All budding lawyers should use “You think, I thought, who confirm” to confuse your opponents. Image credit: NewsRadio GIFs

When asked by higher-ups in the army, it’s natural to explain your actions starting with “I think…” but that’s when you leave yourself vulnerable and your superior will whip out the trump card in the debate – “You think, I thought, who confirm?” 

Till today, we’re unsure if it’s due to the complete absurdity of the phrase or the sharpness and acumen that leaves you at a loss for words.


3.  “Bobo King”


No, you’re not the champion of eating Bo Bo Cha Cha. Simply put, “Bobo King” is a title bestowed upon the best at missing everything at the rifle range. 

bobo king shooting range 

This title’s nothing to be proud about. Just pray that someone out there is better at missing everything. Image credit: Little Day Out

From a distance as far as 300m to something as close as 50m, be it shooting in the day or the night, the “Bobo King” just can’t seem to land any of his shots on target. No amount of adjusting the rifle configuration or swapping rifles with a marksman, will help him shoot any better. 


4. “Act blur, live longer”


Floating dog I have no idea what I'm doing  

Image credit: GIPHY

“Act blur, live longer” means exactly what it says – pretend you don’t know anything and you’ll survive, especially when you’re the resident newbie. 

How it works:

* Don’t be a know-it-all

* Don’t be gung ho and do everything yourself

This way, you wouldn’t invite unnecessary mistakes and dig a deeper grave for yourself. 


5. “Whole lot knock it down”   


Ah Boys To Man Knock It Down Punishment 

No breaking out dance moves here. Instead, this phrase will only have you breaking out in sweat. Image credit: Colourless Opinions

Hearing intense screams of “whole lot knock it down” is not a signal for you to hit the floor as if the beat dropped and bust out spectacular b-boy dance moves. The only appropriate thing you just did was to hit the floor. 

This is one of the most common punishments in the army: push-ups. Upon the command, everyone goes into push-up position, accompanied by rhetoric about why you’re facing the floor.


6. “Turnout, turnout”



The only drinks you’ll be getting at this party are shots of your sweat and tears. Image credit: GIPHY

Remember to RSVP because this is one party you have to attend. You’ll hear your sergeants hollering “turnout, turnout” over the blaring of an alarm, and you’ll have to gather downstairs as fast as possible. 

It’s not a PJ party so you’ll need to change into your uniform and bring down all your equipment. The organisers can be fickle about the dress code so once you arrive in your Long 4 and FBO you might have to change into the more comfortable PT kit within the next minute.


7. “Charlie Mike” 


army alphabet  

Image credit: Army Alphabet

When you hear this over the radio, it’s not a call for Charlie or Mike but rather the announcement that the mission has not ended. “Charlie Mike” stands for “Continue Mission”, because in the army language there are fixed words for the first letter of the actual words. 

In this case, we’d wish those who’ve received a “Charlie Mike”, Golf Lima (Good Luck).   


8. “Eye-power”


A special few have a dormant power that’s activated when faced with seemingly insurmountable tasks. It’s called “eye-power”. But it’ll not make completing tasks any easier – all it does is let you see them through completion, at the risk of annoying your hands-on platoon mates. 

cyclops eye beam x-men 

Eye-power not really having much of an effect. Image credit: Marvel Heros Forum

In other words, you do nothing at all. 


Army lingo you can still use outside of camp


These phrases borne from the confines of NS don’t have to stay within those four walls. They make up the expansion pack of the English dictionary that should be shared with the rest who did not get the opportunity to go through NS. 

With a good sense of humour, you can use these phrases when you’re out and about meeting your friends. You might need to “Charlie Mike” your outings and use book-out days strategically to share what you’ve learnt from the NS dictionary.    


Use eye-power and watch your bank digits go up 


Book-out days are precious and it’s always the best time to share your army stories with your friends and family. Cherish these moments over a meal or shared activity while saving money at the same time, because there’s POSB Save As You Serve (SAYS).

POSB Save As You Serve SAYS 

Image credit: POSB

POSB SAYS is a savings programme specially for NSFs, that comes with a few perks. In your POSB Save As You Earn (SAYE) account, you get a 2% per annum interest rate on your monthly savings. Spending with the participating debit cards will also give you a 2% cash rebate on contactless MasterCard®  transactions.


Image credit: Home Team

The debit cards – HomeTeamNS-PAssion-POSB Debit Card and SAFRA DBS Debit Card, will give you access to many facilities such as gyms, chalets and even LaserQuest, to make your book-out days more worthwhile. 

At the end of NS, collect the savings you’ve racked up and celebrate your return as a civilian in style! 

Exclusive: Sign up for POSB SAYS to enjoy a pair of Shaw Theatres IMAX® movie vouchers and up to S$30 cashback (For a limited time only, T&Cs apply).

Plus, look out for special monthly deals in celebration of POSB’s 140th anniversary and NS50 from now till November. 


Find out more about POSB SAYS here!

This post was brought to you by POSB.

*This article is not endorsed by the Ministry of Defence, Singapore.