Slang of the Week: go commando (verb phrase)
to not wear underwear
When the 2008 presidential hopefuls were asked whether they wore boxers or briefs, Senator Wrigley shocked reporters by revealing that he went commando.
“That my father is going commando is not something I want to know.”
-Actor Jake Gyllenhaal on Late Night with David Letterman
While looking through the Slang City archives, I noticed that I write a newsletter related to underwear about once a year, most recently whale tail (2006) and wife beater (2005) so here’s my entry for 2007.
The etymology of go commando is sketchy, though most sources assume it has something to do with actual commandos not wearing underwear. The question is largely whether that’s for comfort, health or expediency in getting dressed when you’re rushing off to some exciting raid on a village.
Though it appears in few slang dictionaries, it is not brand new. In 1994, Joey on the television comedy Friends explains that to wear a rented tux, he will have to put on some underwear because, “I'm not gonna go commando in another man's fatigues.” However, the phrase may not be used by the commandos who inspired it; it doesn’t appear in William Priest’s 2000 reference to military slang, Swear Like a Trooper.
Take a look in our bookstore for books and DVDs on all kinds of slang! This week’s pick: Swear Like a Trooper: A Dictionary of Military Terms & Phrases. Check out this specialized dictionary and find out what actual commandos say and said in the past! Includes fun terms from history like “barbed wire gaiters,” “walk the chalk” and “jankers king.” Curious? Check it out!