Celebrating NS50: 'Stand by universe' and other NSmen lingo

Recruits at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) at Pulau Tekong cleaning their weapons in their barracks at night.
Recruits at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) at Pulau Tekong cleaning their weapons in their barracks at night. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - You can have an amazing time in national service (NS). Apart from learning to use weapons and learning how to do drills, you also learn many new words.

Welcome to ST's lexicon of NS lingo.

1. Stand by bed

In NS, there's this thing called "Stand by bed", which means you and your bunkmates have to clean up your bunk and make it spotless, usually to the extent of there not being any dust on your bedframes, fan blades or window sills, with your bedsheets and shoes all immaculately lined out.

Then, you have to stand at attention by your beds, as your sergeant or officer inspects your bunk. If the bunk is clean, you will escape punishment. Of course, this is a myth because your sergeant always manages to find dust.

It's as if dust-finding itself is a subject at Specialist Cadet School.


2. Stand by universe

A more fascinating variation of "Stand by bed", because the sergeant expects the entire universe to be clean, extending outside the bunk. Friends I've spoken to about this say they seldom make it beyond the main door.

3. Fall in

This refers to your platoon or squad having to assemble in neat, organised rows. Sometimes it is the sweetest sound, as in "Fall in, we are heading to the cookhouse for dinner".

Other times it might be the harbinger of doom, as in "One of you did something wrong, so fall in, we shall go do extra PT".


4. Knock it down

When your sergeant gives you this instruction, get into push-up position, and be ready to lose all feeling in your arms.

This instruction will end either with normal push-up sequences, or other variations such as going down and staying down, or the quick "Knock it down" and "Recover" which sees you basically going down and standing up like you're trying to pick something up but keep slipping in the process.

5. Kiss the ground

Another version of "Knock it down". What is it with army officers and these three-word phrases of doom?

6. Bobo shooter

This admittedly cute sounding term refers to NSmen who are bad at shooting with their weapons - rifles for soldiers, and revolvers for policemen.

7. Mangkuk

Recruits brush themselves after having their heads shorn on their first day at BMTC, on June 14, 2007. PHOTO: ST FILE

A Malay word which means "bowl", the term is used by sergeants and officers to address the new recruits who have their heads shaved upon enlistment.

The term may or may not be a term of endearment.

8. CAT 1

This is music to every NS man's ear. CAT is the category of weather condition, with CAT 3 being a clear, fair day, while CAT 1 means lightning and downpour.

When there's a CAT 1 alert, there can be no outdoor activity.

9. Change parade

A process which requires you to rush to and from your bunk, changing between your full uniform and your physical training (PT) attire, as many times as your sergeant of officer fancies.

It is typically used as a type of punishment, but I choose to believe it is to train me for when I become a superhero and have to change into my suit quickly.

10. Water parade

This is when you and your fellow NSmen fall in and fill your water bottles, before gulping down. This is to ensure that everyone stays hydrated.

11. Sign extra

To sign extra is to stay in camp over the weekend, to do guard duty or get confined as a form of punishment. The phrase was inspired by the act of signing the administrative book that keeps track of who's on duty.

12. Never mind

When your sergeant or officer says this, do not believe it. It means he or she minds. A lot. Upon hearing this phrase, just get ready to knock it down or do change parade.