Who Exactly Is Geronimo—and Why Do We Say His Name When We Jump Off Stuff?

“Aubrey” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Tatiana Ayazo/Rd.com, Shutterstock

Few of us have ever been in a situation where we’re jumping out of a plane, unless you decided to cross skydiving off your bucket list or are following the steps to survive a plane crash. (The former is much more likely, for the record.)

But most people have heard someone scream, “Geronimo!”, an exclamation most commonly associated with jumping out of airplanes. That’s because the first person to say it did so while, you guessed it, jumping from a plane—and his name was Aubrey Eberhardt.

Aubrey was a private in the U.S. Army during the 1940s, when the army was beginning to have soldiers parachute from airplanes as a new method of deployment, according to Today I Found Out. His unit was one of the first to do so. The night before the big jump, the soldiers went out on the town for drinks, a movie, and more drinks. The movie they most likely saw was Geronimo, a western film about the Apache Indian chief of the same name.

Now, we all know alcohol has certain effects on the body, and our young Aubrey fell susceptible to those conditions. Armed with liquid confidence, he began bragging about how brave he was, how he wasn’t scared to parachute the next day. The other soldiers tried to call his bluff. He’d probably be so scared, he wouldn’t even remember his name.

Aubrey then exclaimed, “All right, dammit! I tell you jokers what I’m gonna do! To prove to you that I’m not scared out of my wits when I jump, I’m gonna yell ‘Geronimo’ loud as hell when I go out that door tomorrow!”

And that’s just what Aubrey did. Eventually, the rest of his unit adopted the phrase and it spread throughout the army. The first official Parachute Infantry Battalion even had the word put on their insignia.

There’s also a legend that Geronimo himself came up with the battle cry, yelling his own name as he leapt down a nearly vertical cliff on horseback to escape American troops at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Nowadays, this tradition has been carried on by adventurous folk who jump off various other objects: a diving board, a bungee-jumping cliff, a deck into a large pile of leaves. You’ve probably said it yourself at one point. After all, screaming your own name would just be awkward. Here’s another fact: this is why we call them “white lies.”

[Source: Today I Found Out]