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GI Lingo

Vietnamese is a very difficult language for a foreigner to learn. Hardly any Vietnamese spoke English and only very educated Vietnamese spoke French, which, in turn, few Americans remembered from High School. Except through interpreters, communication was limited to a kind of pidgin, made up of English, Vietnamese and French words.   


Boxey = Bac-si = Doctor

Boo-koo = French "beaucoups" - a lot, many, big.

Boom-boom = er.....the sexual act.

Chew Hoy = Chieu Hoi = I surrender.

Crocodile = Ca ca dau = Kill. 

Dee-dee = di di = "to go" Di di mau means "to go quickly".

Dinky-dau (dien kai dau) = Crazy or "screwed up".

Dung Lai! = Halt!

Fini = French “fini” = It’s over, the end.

GI = “GI” = Americans

Lai Dai = Come here. (This was often accompanied by a gesture, where the hand was extended flat,

    palm down, toward the other person, and then the fingers repeatedly closed and extended toward your

    palm in a beckoning gesture.

No bic = No biet =I don't understand. GI’s used the word “bic” to mean the opposite, but the Vietnamese

    didn’t. “You “bic” me all right, don’t you Papa-san?”

Numbba One = The Best

Numbba Ten = The Worst

Same-same = ”the same as”, equal to.

Sin Loy = Xin Loi = "I'm Sorry"

Souvenir = to give for free, as "You souvenir me this Coke"

Tee-tee = a little, small, a few


All Vietnamese were either:


Mama-san = a older lady or a married woman

Papa-san = a older male.

Baby-san = a baby or a young woman

VC = the enemy


(Vietnam seemed to be peopled entirely by these four groups.)


Vietnamese who regularly dealt with Americans, like hooch maids, child beggars, touts and prostitutes knew US words and expressions like "okay", "no sweat" etc. Peasants, on the other hand, might not know any of the pidgin.


Numbers were indicated by holding up the appropriate number of fingers. In bargaining,  “hundred” would be added to currency amounts. One Vietnamese piaster (“P”) = 1 US cent, “MPC” (= Military Payment Certificates, the currency soldiers were paid in. US “green” dollars were illegal in-country).


If you will notice, there were no pidgin terms for many basic concepts, like “Yes” or “No”. These were unnecessary. The Vietnamese used either “Okay” for agreement, or “No bic” for non-agreement. There were also no pidgin terms for many basic expressions like “Please” and “Thank you”.  Or even “Hello”, “Goodbye” or “Have a Nice Day.”  There was usually little point in niceties in conversation. Both parties

were either in an adversarial situation, or were there to do business, and it was better to get right to it. In any case:


"Please" or "I am very grateful" was indicated by a gesture of Namasti. You placed your palms together in a prayer position, at the point of your chin, and bowed your head.


“Hello, Good Morning, Good Day” depended on who you were speaking to.


Zow ong (chao ong) to a male.


Zow ba (chao ba) to a female.


The above information is courtesy of our TOD Advisor Lee Russell