There is a military command to Present Arms.
And, depending upon the military and the situation, the typical response is to either salute or hold one’s weapon in front of them in the prescribed manner.
I’ve always wondered why this became the standard construction for this command in place of Present Your Arms or Present The Arms?
It just strikes me as a strange construct even for an imperative. It feels like it’s missing an article or a possessive which would normally be present.
You wouldn’t say: Wash plates!, or Open door!
Rather, you’d say: Wash your plates!, Open the Door!
Is this just a nod to brevity? Is there a historical reason for the deletion of articles from military jargon?
The command Present arms follows a drill and ceremony requirement, such as what’s given in Field Manual 22-5 “Drill and Ceremonies” (FM 22-5). It’s used to order a hand salute or to present the hand carried weapon.
This command and may others are delivered at a cadence that can be synchronized with marching steps, using what is called the command voice in section II of FM 22-5, paragraph 2-11.
Cadence, in commands, means a uniform and rhythmic flow of words. The interval between commands is uniform in length for any given troop unit. This is necessary so that everyone in the unit will be able to understand the preparatory command and will know when to expect the command of execution. For the squad or platoon in march, except when supplementary commands need to be given, the interval of time is that which allows one step (or count) between the preparatory command and the command of execution. The same interval is used for commands given at the halt. Longer commands, such as Right flank, MARCH, must be started so that the preparatory command will end on the proper foot, and leave a full count between the preparatory command and command of execution.
There are short commands, like halt, that can be said in a single step, but longer commands are broken into more steps. Present arms is broken into the preparatory command step present followed by the execution command step arms.
As to why one of these steps doesn’t include the word your, you might consider this, from paragraph 2-7:
A correctly delivered command will be understood by everyone in the unit. Correct commands have a tone, cadence, and snap that demand willing, correct, and immediate response.
The U.S. Marine Corps Parris Island Drill Manual shows some more complicated commands, and gives a hint into what’s not in these commands, and hints stingily, if for any reason you felt the need to create a new command, what should be part of a command and what should be left out.
Take for example this marching command: Column Of Three’s To The Left MARCH and this command while halted: Take Interval to the Right MARCH.
What you see are complicated preparatory commands that may have definite articles, but no possessive pronouns.