The actual origin of this term is a bit more grisly. It comes from the Vietnam War. When a U.S. officer demonstrated a bit too much idiocy and/or incompetence in front of his troops, and then ordered them to do something patently stupid one too many times, he was at risk of being 'fragged.' This was originally short for 'fragmentation grenade.' During action, one of his troops would make sure that a stray 'frag' fell in his vicinity, rendering the chain of command safe for the grunts. However, the term eventually came to mean any killing of an officer by his own men during confusion or action, when he might have been plausibly killed by the enemy.

As the Jargon File write-up notes:

"from Vietnam-era U.S. military slang via the games Doom and Quake"

But, eh, we should recognize the actual origin here. "Frag" is short for fragmentation grenade. It's the kind of grenade that kills by shooting splinters of hot metal--fragments--in all directions. As opposed to, say, phosphor grenades. (These kill by extreme heat and fire, which they are uniquely engineered to distribute. I had a teacher once, of Lithuanian origin, who bore huge scars on his legs...told me a live phosphor grenade he found on a beach not far from his home as a child was responsible. This was in the '40s. He called it Adolph's gift.)

But frag, as a verb, came into popular usage during the Vietnam War. As in Charlie Sheen's line from Platoon: "I say we frag that fucker tonight!" He meant murder his commanding sergeant. As in kill him with a fragmentation grenade, a readily available weapon.

four-color glossies = F = fragile

frag n.,v.

[from Vietnam-era U.S. military slang via the games Doom and Quake] 1. To kill another player's avatar in a multiuser game. "I hold the office Quake record with 40 frags." 2. To completely ruin something. "Forget that power supply, the lightning strike fragged it. See also gib.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

"Frag is a computer game without a computer." So says Steve Jackson Games, regarding their tabletop adaptation of first-person shooter video games.

Yes, that's right; if you remove all that pesky hyper-fun action from Unreal Tournament and Quake 3, then combine the result with a dice and card-based role playing game minus any story or character whatsoever, you've got FRAG.

Even Magic: The Gathering has a diegesis, however weak.

Players do start the game by creating a character. This character has about as much depth as you get by choosing your armor color and skin in Unreal Tournament. Players are given a ration of points to distribute between various murderdeathkill attributes, and away they go. An extremely large number of 1d6s are necessary to decide your fate, along with the cards; weapons, bonuses, etc.

Using the dice and cards, players... run around and kill each other. A lot. When you're killed, you "respawn" on your next turn. The game ends when a player achieves three frags.


On the plus side, there are some interesting details to the game. The point is not to simply simulate a Quake-like game, but to evoke playing such a game on a computer and over a network. Players can draw cards with names such as Lag, No Carrier, and Game Hack: Insubstantial which mimics "no clipping" game cheats and allows players to walk through walls. It's also quite open to player modification, allowing you the ability to create your own maps (again, not unlike an actual FPS computer game).

I suppose Frag is an alternative for that subset of gorehounds who are afflicted with motion sickness by high-speed digital 3D environments. Perhaps this game is merely a public service. Perhaps it's solace for the poor kids who entirely lack reflexes.

If you simply can't get enough, fear not: there are expansion sets. There are, in fact, three expansion sets:

Philip Reed did the world the favor of conceptualizing and designing this game. Russell Godwin tossed in some of his own ideas. Mr. Steve Jackson himself developed and edited the rules, and Alex Fernandez fed himself by creating the artwork for the cards and covers. and saved my sanity.
"Frag" is a short for "fragmentary order', the piece of a larger order for an operation that unit is expected to execute. When most military units get an order, what they're really getting is a frag because what they're doing is almost always part of a larger operation. As armies can be quite large, co-ordinating the many parts of a large military force is quite complex.

Let me offer an example. During the Second World War, most American armored divisions were the triangular divisions, meaning they had three tank, three armored infantry, and three mobile artillery battalions, plus associated headquarters, medical, maintenance, communications, quartermaster and other support subunits. The unit had around 272 tanks, 452 half-tracks. and fifty-four M7 Priest self-propelled guns, and 1,869 vehicles of all types, and 10, 670 soldiers when at full strength. American fully tracked tanks and SPs were very reliable for the type, but all tracked vehicles require constant maintenance and a road march means lots of breakdowns, and the division drinks seventy-four tons of fuel every day. In combat a unit that size can easily consume a thousand tons of supplies every single day. Division vehicles alone fully occupy three miles of roadway at any one time. In a large operation, other subunits of other divisions will probably also be moving, and in any particularly area the road net can be quite constricting. The reason Bastogne became a battlefield during the Battle of the Bulge is because most local highways ran through Bastogne. If the German offensive was to succeed many military subunits and their supplies would have to pass through Bastogne, making it critical ground.

So to move our theoretical armored division to Bastogne you must first tell each of the many major subunits where they need to go, when they need to depart, when they need to arrive and what road they are to take. Moving different units down parallel roads makes the unit less vulnerable to the Enemy, traffic jams and helps it move faster. Fuel, food, ammunition and other supplies must be made available, which means quartermaster units need to be told where to deliver said supplies and what supplies to deliver. Military Police units need to be told where to direct traffic, and what traffic has the highest priority. Supply and repair companies need to be prepared and ready. Attached air units need to be told when and where to rendezvous with the advancing units if appropriate. Field kitchens need to be set up and provided with food to feed the soldiers as they pass through.

If the unit is in combat, disengagement and relief plans have to be made. A really big operation, such as Operation Cobra, involves moving around enough people and vehicles to handle a fair-sized city. To create the breakthrough from Normandy, Operation Cobra involved moving two large armored divisions (six tank battalions instead of the normal three), four infantry divisions, additional attached artillery, tank, tank destroyer battalions, plus two tactical air wings of P-47 Thunderbolts and most the strategic bombers in the Eighth Air Force for the opening attack. Additional divisions were expected to make holding attacks, attacks designed to both disguise the true objective of the offensive, and to keep the enemy from rushing reinforcements to the most threatened sectors. Giving that many people mission orders is the reason generals have a staff. Moving armies isn't like moving chessmen around on a board. Moving one division can be a really big thing, capable of snarling miles of road. Each and every subunit down to the company level has a defined role in that operation, and thus requires orders that may necessarily involve considerable detail. While commanders like to give subunit commanders considerable latitude in doing their jobs (Division staffs tend to generate the orders for their own subunits, etc) the fact is the order list for large operations can go on for many pages.

Which gets us back to the frag. What each battalion or company staff actually sees is just their tiny piece of this very large puzzle. Soldiers very often don't know anything besides what they themselves are doing. A platoon commander doesn't really need to know what units many miles away are doing. He and his men are cogs in a very large machine. All he needs to know is what his team is supposed to be doing, what is expected of the Enemy, what support he can expect and any friendlies who might be in the vicinity. He doesn't need the full order, in fact it would be bad if he had it and were captured. He just needs his fragment of the larger order making the the army go.

He just needs his frag. Probably that's all he'll get.

haqiqat tells me the current slang is "fraggos", which would differentiate it from an alternative use of frag.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.