Jody is the guy many service members know
Jody is the guy many service members know
Jul. 15, 2017
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The cellphone footage shows a man turning a doorknob and quietly entering a house. He tiptoes through the front room as a child cries out somewhere.
Then, about 12 seconds into the wobbly, first-person video, he darts up the stairs and finds a stranger with a woman, presumably his girlfriend or wife.
"What are you doing here? Are you cheating on me?" he asks her.
He orders the intruder to leave, tells him to look at the camera and predicts that his military career is ruined.
The man asks the paramour his name and rank, but he already knows what to call him.
The video's legitimacy is questionable - and it's too profane to link to on The Pilot's website - but its more than 3.6 million YouTube views reflect a sweeping fascination with the idea of "Jody," similar to the glad-it's-not-me intrigue among drivers who slow down to gawk at a fender bender.
The term represents a decades-old foe of service members, a mainstay of marching cadences, pop culture, gallows humor and cautionary tales on military-themed websites.
"Jody" is the guy who cozies up to a deployed service member's significant other while he's gone. He sleeps in the man's bed, drives his car, eats his food and plays with his dog, according to folklore. He's the guy everybody knows but nobody wants to meet.
But where did "Jody" originate?
A symbol of racial oppression Hints of the phrase date back to at least the 1930s, according to Tyina Steptoe, an associate professor of history at the University of Arizona, when Irvin Lowry recorded a work song called "Joe de Grinder" at an Arkansas prison.
The term began as symbol of oppression in black communities: getting a raw deal with little chance of recourse. Jody shares traits with white authority figures during the Reconstruction Era and after, writes Michael Hanchard, a professor of Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
The word evolved into its modern form and became part of military marching cadences during World War II. According to Steptoe's essay, "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone: Gender, Folklore and the Black Working Class," historians widely credit a black army private named Willie Duckworth, who led his fellow soldiers in the following chant while marching back to the barracks one day at Fort Slocum:
Ain't no use in going home,
Jody's got your girl and gone.
Ain't no use in feeling blue,
Jody's got your sister, too.
The phrase later appeared in popular music during the Vietnam War, Steptoe writes, including Bobby Patterson's "Right On, Jody" and Johnnie Taylor's "Jody's Got Your Girl and Gone."
A gay best friend named Tyler?
Readers had lots to say when we asked them to share their "Jody" encounters. The Pilot got one of its highest response rates on Facebook with a post seeking sources.
One reader deemed the term offensive when used outside military circles, likening it to a racial slur. Many criticized us for even bringing up a topic so sensitive to military members. But others had stories to tell.
A former truck driver and an electrical line worker each said they've heard the term used in their industries. "My ex married Jody and then divorced him too," another reader wrote.
"Jody took my girl during basic and knocked her up while I was deployed," another man wrote on The Pilot's Facebook page.
A soldier stationed at an Army base in Texas, who asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons, said "Jody has gotten" him a couple of times, most notably while he was away at basic training.
The soldier said it started as a "pretty solid relationship." He gave her his Army shirt when he left, and she cried when he got on the bus. They wrote letters back and forth, and he hung a picture of her at his locker.
To cope with the time apart, he said, she told him she had been spending a lot of time with "her gay best friend, Tyler."
He didn't think anything of it - until he returned home.
"Tyler was there," he wrote. "Turns out he wasn't gay after all. Jody got me."
A friend from the ship? But lest we think it's only women back home cheating on heroic service members, 32-year-old Kallie Gould has a cautionary tale from the other side.
The Virginia Beach resident recalled a 18-month relationship she had with a sailor. The couple lived together and were all but inseparable while he was on transfer leave between ship assignments. They even embarked on a lengthy road trip to his hometown, where she met his family and childhood friends.
"We were ridiculously in love, and happy," Gould wrote in an email.
After deployment, Gould and he kept in touch on Skype and often exchanged multiple emails a day. He quickly made friends on the ship and frequently mentioned a female sailor.
"She was engaged to another man on the same ship so I didn't think anything of it," Gould wrote.
But a few months after he returned from deployment, he said his friend was thinking of breaking off the engagement. She ultimately did, and within a week, Gould's boyfriend dumped her and began living with the friend from the ship.
The woman's name: Jodi.