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.
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