Why an Army-Man is called a PONGO


Dear Reader:

In my “Humor in Uniform” stories – I sometimes humorously use the term “Pongo” to describe an Armyman.

The nickname “Pongo” is a term of endearment – and I trust my fellow “Faujis” in Olive Green (OG) take it in the right spirit.

Let me tell you why Armymen are called “Pongos”.

Yes “Pongo” is Navy slang for an Army Soldier.

Why is an Armyman called a “Pongo”…?

Well there are many apocryphal stories on the origins of the term “Pongo”.

Here is one such yarn that I heard long back from an old “Sea Dog”.

He told me that the term “Pongo” originated in the Royal Navy to denote an “Infantryman”.

As per a myth the “Pongo” was a unique Ape (a monkey without a tail).

Yes – the “Pongo” was a unique Ape – a monkey without a tail.

When this unique Ape called “Pongo” sensed danger or felt scared – the “Pongo” did not climb trees – like most Apes or Monkeys normally do.

In contrast – the “Pongo” would dig holes in the earth and hide himself in the ground – in the same way as “infantrymen” dug in and entrenched themselves in the ground – when they were under attack in battle.

Another similar yarn says – that the term “Pongo” is derived from the archaic name for the Orangutan.

Yes – some say that a “Pongo” is a type of Orangutan – and – the “Pongo” had the habit of digging holes in the ground for no apparent reason – and then – filling the holes back.

The Sailors probably observed Army Soldiers digging away hence the nickname “Pongo” for Army Soldiers.

So now – Dear Reader – when you see the term “Pongo” – you know what it means.

By the way – I came across a few “Pongos” in the Navy too – yes – “Pongos” in White Navy Uniform.

I will tell you about one such “Pongo” in Whites – in my next blog post.

Do read the story of “Pongo” and “Pani Puri”.

Till then – have a great day…


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  1. This story is a fictional spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
  2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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Extract from to my Blog Posts: https://www.quora.com/profile/Vikram-Karve/Writing-by-VIKRAM-KARVE/Why-Army-Men-are-called-%E2%80%9CPONGOS%E2%80%9D and http://karvediat.blogspot.in/2017/03/does-your-heart-murmur.html


  1. 1

    Greetings from a Tankman. In the Army, Pongo does mean an Infantryman.


  2. 3

    British slang dating from the mid to late nineteenth century, meaning soldiers. Soldiers were not popular at this time as Kipling’s poem Tommy shows (Barrack Room Ballads 1892). The word itself stems from expressions used by comedians in theatres and music halls to get a cheap laugh. The two that are most commonly quoted are “where the army goes the pong goes”, or “when the wind blows the pong goes”, pong meaning smell. This quickly became pongoes meaning soldiers plural and pongo meaning an individual. Another possible explanation is that the soldiers were being likened to a large, hairy, smelly ape called a pongo. The expression is still in use today although not common, confined mainly to those who saw service in World War II or Korea (very few now) or who did National Service in Britain while this was still compulsory.

    A soldier (used especially by members of the Royal Navy or RAF). ‘Sailors noted the similarity of the sand-apes’ colour to the rough brown uniform of the British Army, thus soldiers are known as Pongos.’

    The term Pongo comes from the days when soldiers were stationed on board ships to protect the Navy when sailing abroad. Usually the first to be sent ashore when the ship docked, soldiers would carry out all sorts of different tasks.
    One important (the most important… surely) task being the setting up of a brewery. The main part of the still being called a pongo. Hence the nick-name giving to the soldiers who would be sent to do the job “send the pongos ashore”. The name seems to have filtered down through the years and is used today by the Navy towards members of the Army.

    Army soldier. “Everywhere the army goes, the pong (stink) goes.”; derived from the supposed inferior washing facilities in the field compared to those on a navy vessel.


  3. 8
    Veteran Air Commodore Dr HSR ARORA Says:

    It’s truthful explanation. I went thru this in 1971, I was hurt in thighs I am a Dr that time part of mission.We were in enemy territory. My pongo’s told me pongo hide in ditch.Once feel OK walk to own country. We are moving out.


  4. 10
    VENKATESH Mahadevan Says:

    Dear Karve, Though I have been hearing this slang since 1976, I never really researched it myself. Being a unadulterated and hardcore pongo, (Gorkha Regiment), I think this article and the replies have greatly educated me.
    Kind Regards,


  5. 12
    Rajni Says:

    Good to read your blog.. Please keep on writing the good work.. Are you working in defese.


  6. […] seemed that the Pongo Dean was favouring the Army over the Navy – his Olive Green (OG) Loyalty prevailing over […]


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