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  #1  
Old 10-17-2001, 05:47 PM
Daowajan Daowajan is offline
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My dad yells this when running red lights. He swears it's an old sailor expression. Does anyone have any clue how it originated, what it means, or how it was used?
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  #2  
Old 10-17-2001, 06:32 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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I've (vicariously) heard the term used by U.S. Marines during target practice.

A spotter holds up a red circle to signify that the shooter has missed the target. This is called "Maggie's Drawers."
Maybe a joke about using panties as a signal-flag?
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  #3  
Old 10-17-2001, 06:38 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Two important additions:

1) I know that this term goes back at least to the early sixties.
2) Underpants. Just for jarbabyj, should she peek.
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  #4  
Old 10-17-2001, 06:43 PM
TV time TV time is offline
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Not exclusively navy but an old military gunnery expression in general. When a shooter missed the entire target completely, a large white flag was waved by the monitor at (or in the case of navy gunnery, near) the target site. The flag had to be big so it could be seen by the people on the firing line a good distance away. The large white flag was reputed to be as big and white as "Maggie's Drawers (underwear)," a probably fictional individual of large size and an intimate of some legendary gunnery chief's (or sergeant's) acquaintance. The term evolved to just referring to the flag as "Maggie's Drawers".

Among old time military types, it means to miss something completely.

May you never shoot Maggie's Drawers.

TV
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  #5  
Old 10-17-2001, 06:56 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Hmmm. TV, a white flag certainly makes more sense as "Maggie's Drawers," but I'm sure the signal was a red circle. (Which seems to me to be the association with the red light, unless Daowajan's dad means that he "missed the red light completely." Now I'd like to know what is the conventional signal -- Pure white flag or red circle on white or something else entirely? Does it vary in different branches of the service?
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  #6  
Old 10-17-2001, 07:35 PM
TV time TV time is offline
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Larry Mudd The red circle is a relatively recent innovation and I believe tends to be used for small arms' fire. I believe the red circle is that spot used to highlight the points scored by putting the circle in back of black target between it and the white background.

When the target is missed, I believe the circle is moved in front of the target. But Maggie's Drawers date back to at least World War I.

I also know it was prevalant in World War II. For a film reference, I vaguely remember that it is illustrated in the film "The Cain Mutiny".

Trust me on this, it was a white flag. It might mean something different now, but it originally started out as a white flag. My father, a career military man during World War II, would use the same reference when someone completely missed the mark.

TV
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  #7  
Old 10-17-2001, 08:06 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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I agree white makes more sense, but I'm sure I've heard "Red Circle" more often. (Not that it comes up very much.) A cursory peek at the web turns up this vietnam era poem that seems to indicate a solid red flag:
Quote:
How can I tell her
about the helicopter that was coming in
when on board we heard the sound
it sounded like a firing range
at the wrong end
like a long time ago back at camp when we kept the scores
and it was great fun to signal "maggie's drawers"
with the red flag when they missed
only this time it wasn't maggie's drawers.
And here's a WWII-era reference that indicates a solid red flag, as well.
Quote:
When the men in the pit pulled my target down there were only eight
holes, all direct hits; but since they were looking for sixteen holes,
that indicated eight total misses. A red flag on a large pole, called
"Maggie's drawers," was waved once for each complete miss. For a close
miss, a black circular disc was held over the hole to show where the
miss went. But if one missed the entire square yard target, Maggie's
drawers were waved. Woe unto the man whose misses were thus advertised,
for he would be the butt of jokes for weeks.
And another:
Quote:
That was in the early 1940's
where violence in film was in its infancy, so from my early beginning
I was definitely not found of violence and whether or not I could
shoot anyone was a mystery to me. I just didn't like the idea.
But at basic training in Fort Campbell, Kentucky I was quite a shot
with an M1, that is I thought I was until I found out that the persons
pulling and marking my target were my friends; they gave me a high
score instead of waving the red flag, which they swore I deserved
and represented a total miss of the target - a "Maggie's Drawers."
Aha! Here's one confirmation that a red circle was used sometimes:
Quote:
MAGGIE'S DRAWERS: red disc used on the rifle range to signify missing the target.
I'd be interested to know what D's dad connects it with.
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  #8  
Old 10-17-2001, 09:29 PM
TV time TV time is offline
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Larry Mudd you have clearly out-evidenced me. I stand corrected.

TV

[fixed coding]

[Edited by bibliophage on 10-18-2001 at 04:37 AM]
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  #9  
Old 10-17-2001, 09:47 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Whoo-hoo. I'm right! Actually, TV, it makes sense to me that it would have been a white flag at some point. But I can't resist one more cite, from an unlikely source:
The Museum of Menstruation.
(I started a thread about it a while back.)
Quote:
Maggie's drawers Doesn't mean menstruation, but: on the military rifle range, when the shooter misses the target the spotter in the pit waves a red flag indicating a miss. That red flag is called "Maggie's Drawers."
It all begins to make sense.. I'll never think of "spotting" in the same way again!
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  #10  
Old 10-17-2001, 09:48 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Lighter cites it first in print from 1936. It certainly referred to just what Larry Mudd said.

It evidently was from a ribald song, which obviously came before 1936. An article in the 1942 version of American Speech said
Quote:
...common army slang; taken from an obscene song, "Those Old Red Flanned Drawers that Maggie Wore,"...dating from 1921 or earlier--probably from the First World War.
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  #11  
Old 10-17-2001, 10:21 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Hey, that's great! Can anyone provide the lyrics? The closest I could find was this site that has plenty of bawdy soldiers songs.. ..but only a passing reference to "Those Old Red Flannel Drawers That Maggie Wore."
I'm still curious to know what Daowajan's dad is referring to when he yells, though. That the light's red, or that he missed it? Come on, Daowajan, don't you check this board every seven minutes like the rest of us compulsive types?
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  #12  
Old 10-17-2001, 11:51 PM
Daowajan Daowajan is offline
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It's a reference to the light being red, I think. He's not too sure himself; I e-mailed him this thread.

And I DO normally check this board every seven minutes, but I'm home on fall break, and I've got to share an unstable computer with my little sister. I think I'll start a pit thread about her computer.
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  #13  
Old 10-18-2001, 01:24 AM
kniz kniz is offline
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I remember going to the ranges in Quantico in the late 50's and that it was hard work tending the targets. What kept our spirits up was hoping for a "Maggie's drawers". Although I remember the circle on a stick, "Maggie's drawers" was still a flag on a stick and it would be waved accompanied by the cheers of everyone behind the targets.
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  #14  
Old 04-12-2011, 06:42 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is offline
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My dad and I talked about shooting last weekend. He said they still used a white flag in basic training in the late 40's. Switched to a red one in the 50's. He was in the military 22 years.

I wondered if they still use this term in the modern military?

Last edited by aceplace57; 04-12-2011 at 06:43 PM..
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  #15  
Old 04-12-2011, 06:48 PM
Maggie the Ocelot Maggie the Ocelot is offline
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They were in Maggie's Dresser, as of this morning.

---Maggie
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  #16  
Old 04-13-2011, 06:33 AM
janis_and_c0 janis_and_c0 is offline
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It took 10 years for them to get there??
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  #17  
Old 07-08-2012, 08:24 PM
Vietvet1968 Vietvet1968 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daowajan View Post
My dad yells this when running red lights. He swears it's an old sailor expression. Does anyone have any clue how it originated, what it means, or how it was used?
Vietvet1968 Active Marine 1965-1970! At Parrish Island Boot Camp when a recruit missed the entire target, it
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  #18  
Old 07-10-2012, 04:06 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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Possible spam reported in hopefully humorous manner.
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  #19  
Old 07-10-2012, 04:32 PM
Spavined Gelding Spavined Gelding is offline
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In my youth and strength when rifle marksmanship was sometimes tested over a known distance range with fixed paper targets the size of a bed sheet, the crew in the trench underneath of the target would mark the point of the bullet strike with a red disk on a pole so that the shooter and the shooter's coach/spotter could adjust fire. If the shooter missed the bed sheet target altogether the crew waived a flag on a pole to monument the failure. The flag was “Maggie’s Drawers,” and its appearance was accompanied by whooping and guffawing all up and down the firing line.
The whole “Maggie’s Drawers” culture with its public humiliation of poor shots pretty much disappeared with the universal use of pop-up silhouette targets on train fire ranges where the emphases was in estimating ranges and adjusting aim to hit the target quickly rather than the precision musketry of the known distance bull’s-eye ranges.

Last edited by Spavined Gelding; 07-10-2012 at 04:32 PM..
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  #20  
Old 07-12-2012, 07:17 AM
Harvey The Heavy Harvey The Heavy is offline
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Former USMC here, late eighties. On the range we had a metal disc on a stick, about a foot in diameter, that was red on one side and white on the other. The white was shown only for a bullseye (a 5), held up over the center of the target. A 4 was the red side over the center, 2 and 3 were the red side held up on either side of the target (I now can't remember which was which), and a miss was the red side swept across the target left to right, and was still called Maggie's Drawers, even though we didn't use flags at all.
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  #21  
Old 07-12-2012, 11:40 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Mudd View Post
Whoo-hoo. I'm right! Actually, TV, it makes sense to me that it would have been a white flag at some point. But I can't resist one more cite, from an unlikely source:
The Museum of Menstruation.
(I started a thread about it a while back.) It all begins to make sense.. I'll never think of "spotting" in the same way again!
Whenever we went to the range, it was indeed a red metal circle mounted on a long pole. The circle was passed across the face of the target to indicate a miss. Some wiseguys would make it bounce up and down as they moved it across, just to rub someone's nose in things.
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