For It's Hi-Hi-Hee

The Field Artillery Song seems to have dropped off the charts, and you don't hear kids whistling it much these days, but it sticks in the memory like the Pepsi-Cola jingle. One line that seemed to be accepted without demur was "For it's hi-hi-hee in the field artillery," and no one asked what hi-hi-hee was, but I found very little of it, whatever it was, in the Artillery. Maybe it was something they do off-duty or to each other.

I think the line was originally: "For it's haw and gee in the Field Artillery," which makes a lot more sense. "Haw" and "gee" (jee) are commands to horses. "Haw" means "turn left" while "gee" means "turn right." "Gee-up" means to start, or go faster, and is the origin of "giddy-up" or whatever that you heard in Westerns. People who ride now probably don't use any of these vocalizations, but they were useful for milk routes when the horse responded to purely acoustical commands. And, of course, in the Field Artillery.

Right and left weren't called that. Left was the "nearside" and right the "offside." These terms have vanished in America, but are still frequently heard in Britain even with respect to cars. Aboardship, left is "port" and right is "starboard." Newsreaders can mix these up. Just remember that "port" is the red light, and "starboard" the green light. Remarkably, helm orders are the exact opposite: "port helm" sends the ship to starboard. Oh, yes: the "bows" of a ship is the leading part, now called "bow" for some reason. Inside are the "heads," now singularly called the "head" in the Navy, convenient because a hole in them was over the sea.

Just remember: "gee right off starboard green" and "haw left near port red" and you will be OK.

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Composed by J. B. Calvert
Created 6 January 2001
Last revised