|WWI Slang and a Glimpse of Life at the Front|
ACK EMMA Morning. AM (ante meridian), before noon.
ACK-ACK Anti-aircraft (AA) fire. From the military phonetic alphabet in use at the time (A = ack)
ADVENTURER, AN a member of the 1st Division
ALF A MO One moment, please
ALLEYMAN German soldier. From French Allemande.
ANZAC BUTTON, AN a nail used instead of a button to hold up one's trousers.
ANZAC SOUP a shell hole full of water polluted by a corpse.
ANZAC STEW any improvised meal the troops managed to prepare from their monotonous rations.
ANZAC WAFER, AN a hard biscuit
ARCHIE Anti-aircraft fire or artillery piece
ARSAPEEK upside down Comparable to 'arse over head'.
AUSSIE, (AN) or an Australia A sufficiently severe injury to be shipped back to Australia.
AXLE GREASE butter
BAGS OF a lot, a great number, a great amount
BANGER, A a sausage
BANJO Spade, entrenching tool; from the shape.
BASE RAT A soldier perpetually at the base, therefore maintaining comfort and safety. Also known as a base wallah.
BATTLE BOWLER Steel helmet, first introduced to British troops in February 1916. Named after the civilian hat. Term used mainly by officers.
BEFORE YOUR NUMBER WAS DRY Expression used by more experienced soldiers to rookies as a form of put-down: "I was killing Germans before your number was dry" - i.e. before the ink on the junior soldier's enlistment papers was dry. Alternative useage: Before you was breeched, before you nipped, and I was cutting barbed wire while you was cutting your milk teeth.
BELGIAN RATTLESNAKE The Lewis gun, a .303" caliber light machine gun.
BELLY ACHE, A a serious, often mortal wound
BILLJIM Any Australian. A composite word formed from two popular Australian forenames of the time.
BINT A young woman. From Arabic bint, daughter.
BIRDIE General Birdwood a 'decent enough bloke'
BLANCO Block used to whiten full-dress webbing. Khaki blanco was used on service equipment.
BLIGHTY England. From Hindustani Bilayati, foreign land.
BLIGHTY ONE or a Blighty A wound serious enough to require the recipient to be sent to England.
BLIMP RAF slang for the small, white, dirigible airships used chiefly for submarine reconnaissance over the English Channel.
BLIND PIG Mortar bomb.
BLUE CROSS German respiratory irritant gases. From the marking painted on the delivery shell casing.
BOCHE German, from French tete de boche, obstinate person.
BODY-SNATCHER, A Graves Registration officer
BOMBER One trained in the use of hand grenades; known as grenadier early in the war. The Grenadier Guards, however, protested to the War Office about the use of the term grenadier, claiming that the title was exclusively theirs. In May 1916 it was officially announced that it was His Majesty's 'express wish' that the description 'bomber' should be substituted for that of grenadier.
BON Good, fine When off duty, men would often be found having a 'bon time' at the local estaminet. The opposite was non bon.
BONZER very, very good , expressing a superlative quality of something.
BRASS HAT High-ranking staff officer. From the gold decoration on the peaked cap.
BRASS nickname for higher officers from insignia on cap and uniform
BREEZE-UP Variation of Wind-Up
BRITISH WARM An overcoat, knee-length and close fitting at the waist, worn by mounted troops and officers.
BUCKSHEE Free, spare From Arabic/Hindustani baksheesh gratuity.
BULL RING British army training establishment such as those base camps at Rouen, Harfleur, Havre and Etaples. Men were posted here from the front line for refresher training, and to "inculcate the offensive spirit". The Bull Ring at Etaples was infamous for its severe discipline.
BULLY Tinned beef,
BULLY BEEF Tinned corned beef. The principal protein ration of the British (Australian) army.
BUM BRUSHER, A The personal servant of an officer. A 'batman'.
BUMF Toilet paper, or newspaper used for that purpose. Later on came to mean any excessive official documentation. From bum fodder, an 18th Century expression.
BUZZ OFF to go or run away
CAGE Prisoner of war camp.
CANTEEN MEDALS Beer or food stains on the breast of a tunic.
CHAR Tea. A nice cup of char.
CHAT Louse. Possibly derived from chattel, personal belonging.
CHAT-BAGS (under-) clothing
CHIT Note or receipt. To be excused duties, a soldier had to be in possession of a sick chit. From Hindustani cittha, a note, originally derived from Sanskrit citra, marked.
CHRONIC Very bad. The correct meaning of this word is long lasting, although seldom used in this way except perhaps by medical officers.
CIVVY Civilian. To be in civvies was to be dressed in civilian clothing rather than uniform.
CLOUT, A a wound or sometimes a hit
COAL SCUTTLE German steel helmet,
COAL-BOX Heavy German shell, usually a 5.9. From the black smoke of the shell-burst.
COBBER, A a mate, a friend
COFFIN NAIL, A a cigarette. See also : 'camel dung'.
COLD FEET Cowardice.
COLD MEAT TICKET Identity disc. Men were issued with metal identity discs. These gave the name, number, unit and religion of the holder. One disc remained with the body (the cold meat) in the event of death.
COOL, A someone reluctant to join the AIF, someone still living in Australia.
COOT Louse. Pre-war term, said to be derived from a titled lady who had suffered this misfortune.
CORKSCREW Looped steel post, or picket, for staking barbed wire. The corkscrew shape at the end enabled the stake to be twisted quietly into the ground by wiring parties. Previously, the noise of hammering stakes in had attracted enemy fire.
CORP Corporal. Familiar term used by lower ranks.
COW, A an obnoxious person or thing
CRICKET BALL British Number 15 hand grenade, a spherical bomb. Used with good effect in the Gallipoli campaign, this grenade went on to be spectacularly unsuccessful at the battle of Loos in September 1915, where wet conditions rendered useless the external friction fuse igniter. Superceded by the Mills bomb in late 1915.
CRIMED. Indicated being charged (accused of a military crime)
CRUMBING UP De-lousing. See also chatting.
CRUMMY To be itchy because of louse-bites.
CRUMP German 5.9 inch shell or the burst thereof. The last crump referred to the end of the war.
CUBBY HOLE Small dug-out or shelter in the side wall of a trench. A funk hole. Possibly derived from cupboard.
CUSHY (1) Easy, pleasant. (2) A minor wound necessitating some time away from the front line; perhaps a Blighty one. From Hindustani khush, pleasant
DAISIES Boots. From Cockney rhyming slang - daisy roots.
DAISY CUTTER Shell with an impact fuse (graze fuse) designed to explode immediately on contact with the ground. Used in the clearance of barbed wire defenses.
DEEP THINKERS men belonging to reinforcements in the last stages of the campaign, often members of the 3rd Div.
DEKKO Look, observe
DEVIL DODGER Army chaplain.
DICK SHOT OFF D.S.O. - the Distinguished Service Order, an 'officers only' award. Ordinary soldiers substituted this phrase when these post-nominal letters were used.
DIGGER (1) Australian soldier (2) (Less commonly) Friend, chum.
DIGGER, A Anzac soldier
DINGO Mad, insane or cowardly
DINKUM Genuine, right Something proper was said to be fair dinkum. Among the Australian troops, those who had served at Gallipoli were known as The Dinkums.
DINKUM real, original, vintage
DINKUM OIL Truth
DIVVY, A a division
DIXIE Large oval-shaped metal pot with lid and carrying-handle for cooking. The lid was often used for baking (e.g. bacon and biscuit pudding) whilst the pot itself was employed to brew tea, heat porridge, stew, rice etc. From Hindustani degchi, small pot.
DOCK Hospital. To be in dock was to be confined to hospital due to wounds or sickness. From the nautical expression for ship repairs.
DODGING THE COLUMN Shirking. The art of avoiding particularly dangerous or unpleasant duties. The expression originated in India and South Africa, a column being a body of troops sent forward into hostile territory.
DOG AND MAGGOT Bread and cheese.
DOGGO In hiding and keeping quiet. Probably from dog.
DONKEY WALLOPER British cavalryman, especially a member of the Household Cavalry. The expression originated amongst the regiments of British Foot Guards, the longstanding rivals of the Household Cavalry.
DOUGHBOY U S soldier. Originally an American flour dumpling.
DRAW CRABS To attract enemy artillery fire.
DUCKBOARD Ribbon to the British Military Medal, awarded for bravery in the field. The striped design of the ribbon resembled the wooden slats of duckboards, used as walkways in the trenches and across muddy ground.
DUCKBOARD HARRIER Runner, messenger. From the term for a cross-country runner, originally derived from hare.
DUD A shell that has failed to explode; anything of dubious value (particularly a person, especially an officer).
DUG-OUT (1) An underground shelter. (2) An officer who has been 'dug out' from retirement and recalled to active duty, usually much to his displeasure and the displeasure of those under him.
DUG-OUT DISEASE Facetious term for fear, which kept those thus affected (and whose rank permitted a choice) within the safety of their dug-outs.
DUM-DUM A split or soft-nosed rifle round (bullet). The tip would open out on impact, causing horrific wounds. From the arsenal at Dum-Dum, a town near Calcutta.
EGG Hand grenade. From the spherical shape.
EMMA-GEE Machine gun. From the phonetic alphabet of the time for the letters MG.
EN-ZEDDERS New Zealanders
ERSATZ Substitute, artificial, substandard. From German ersetzen, to substitute.
ESTAMINET Building found in villages and minor towns for the purpose of eating, drinking and general entertainment of troops. A typical estaminet would have a low roof, an open iron stove and wooden benches and tables. The proprietress would serve wine, cognac, thin beer, coffee, soup, omelettes and the most popular of all French dishes of the time - egg and chips.
FINI KAPUT Gone, finished, napoo. From French finis and German kaput (done for).
FIVE-NINE German 5.9 inch artillery shell.
FLAK Anti-aircraft fire. From German Flieger abwehr kanone, aircraft defence gun.
FLEABAG Sleeping bag.
FLYING PIG British 9.45" trench mortar bomb.
FOOTBALL Trench mortar bomb. From the shape.
FOOT-SLOGGER British infantryman. Eighteenth century term originally used by cavalrymen.
FOUR-TWO German 4.2 inch artillery shell.
FRITZ (1) German. From the diminutive of Friedrich. (2) Potato chips. From the French, frites.
FUNK State of nervousness, fear or depression.
FUNK-HOLE Small dugout or shelter, just big enough to accommodate one or two men, usually scraped into the front wall of a trench. See cubby-hole.
FURPHY, A a camp rumor; from Broadmeadows Camp (Melbourne) where the name 'Furphy Shepparton' was found on 'sanitary carts' that visited the camp, and therefore brought news from outside. Later the word was taken along to Egypt.
FURPHY, A (2) The Furphy engineering company made small water carts. The troops in the training camps would gather around these carts for a drink and exchange information. The stories or rumors that circulated became known as Furphies.
GALLIPOLI GALLOP, THE diarrhea
GAS BAG (1) The cloth bag in which the respirator was carried. (2) An airship or barrage balloon.
GASPIRATOR British gas mask incorporating a filter. From a combination of gas and respirator.
GAWK (ACT), A an exhausting 'stunt' (or small operation), that accomplished nothing else, as far as the troops could see
GLASSHOUSE Prison or detention center.
GLORY HOLE Dug-out.
GO UP To go up the line, i.e. into the trenches.
GO WEST (1) To be killed, to die. The most popular euphemism of this type. (2) To go astray or be stolen.
GOGGLE-EYED BUGGGER WITH THE TIT British gas helmet. The wearer had to breathe in through the nose from inside the helmet and breathe out through a valve held in the teeth.
GRASS-CUTTERS Small anti-personnel bombs dropped from aircraft on to camps and bivouacs behind the lines. They were designed to burst on impact and scatter shrapnel balls at low-level, with the intention to kill rather than to destroy material things.
GREEN CROSS German phosgene gas, from the marking painted on the delivery shell casing.
GRUNGEY self-made dish consisting of bully beef + biscuits + onion + water and salt, and then heated.
GUM BOOTS Rubber boots or waders sometimes worn in wet trenches.
GUNFIRE Strong tea, usually laced with rum.
GUTZER, A a piece of bad luck, a misfortune, a failure as in "I really come a gutzer that time" (I failed badly)
HARD TACK British army biscuit ration (iron rations), eaten cold, usually with bully beef. The biscuits, if kept dry, also served as useful firelighters.
HARNESS Infantryman's equipment. This was of two basic types: brown leather and khaki webbing. Neither was particularly popular; although the webbing did not cut into the shoulders as much as the leather, it was considerably heavier when soaked with rain.
HOM FORTY French railway carriage used for troop transportation, average speed one and a half miles per hour. From the capacity stenciled on the side of the carriage - Hommes 40, Chevaux 8 - the horses being an alternative not an additional load!
HUN German. Kaiser Wilhelm II urged his troops to behave like the Huns of old in order to instill fear into the enemy. The name was further popularised when British soldiers discovered that Germans wore belt buckles with the words Gott Mit Uns (God is with us).
IGGRY Hurry up. From Arabic. One particular crossing in Bullecourt was named Iggry Corner by the Australians.
JACKS Military Police.
JAKES Latrines. Expression dating back to Elizabethan times.
JAM-TINS Originally, home-made or improvised bombs made from jam-tins, mainly used before widespread introduction of the Mills Bomb. Later on in the war, however, jam was issued in cardboard tubes. See Tickler's. The expression was also used as a nickname for the No.8 and No.9 Double Cylinder grenades of late 1914 and early 1915 due to their resemblance to jam tins.
JERRY German. Expression became popular later in the war, eventually coming into it's own during World War Two.
JERRY UP! Warning exclamation that a German aeroplane was overhead and may drop bombs.
JILDI Quick, hurry up. From Hindustani.
JOCK A Scottish soldier or a soldier in a Scottish regiment.
JOHNNY A Turk. From Johnny Turk.
JUMP OFF To begin an attack. The jumping off point was the start line of the attack in the front line trench.
JUMPING THE BAGS Going over the top. Attacking over the sandbags of the trench parapet.
K OR K OF K Kitchener or Kitchener of Khartoum. Field Marshal Lord Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, who was appointed Minister for War at the outbreak of hostilities. He was greatly successful in recruiting volunteers for the New Armies, his finger-pointing picture on thousands of recruiting posters being one of the most famous images of the 20th century. He drowned, along with 642 other souls, when the cruiser Hampshire struck a mine off the Orkneys on 5th June 1916.
KAMERAD Friend, comrade. From German. Often used facetiously by British soldiers amongst themselves as a term of surrender, perhaps when a story showed no signs of ending.
KITCH British soldier. Australian and New Zealand slang, from Kitchener.
KIWI (1) A New Zealand soldier also anything New Zealand as in Kiwi artillery
KNIFE-REST Portable barbed wire entanglement, stretched on an X-shaped frame and used for stopping gaps in no-man's land.
KNOCKED (OUT) killed or wounded
LANCE CORPORAL BACON very fat bacon, with only one streak of lean running through it
LANCE-JACK Lance-corporal, a junior NCO having one chevron. This was an appointment and not a rank.
LAND CREEPER Tank.
LAND SHIP Tank.
LANDOWNER Dead. To become a landowner was to be dead and buried.
LAZY LIZ, A a big shell fired by the battleship Queen Elisabeth and passing overhead with 'a lazy drone'.
LID Steel helmet.
LINSEED LANCERS The Army Medical Corps.
LIZ, LIZZIE the battleship Queen Elisabeth
LOOPHOLE Gap in the parapet of a fire trench enabling shooting to take place whilst providing head cover. May be constructed from sandbags, steel plates or other materials.
LUCIFER a match (specifically to light a cigarette)
MACONACHIE Tinned vegetable stew ration, named after the manufacturer. preferred to bully beef because of variety.
MACONACHIE MEDAL Military Medal (MM). The inscription on the back of the MM says for bravery in the field, and some soldiers maintained that the Maconachie ration (see above) was so terrible that only a brave man would eat it and thus be awarded a medal for doing so.
MAD MINUTE Firing off fifteen (or more) rounds of rapid fire aimed shots from a bolt action .303 Lee Enfield rifle in one minute. Many regular soldiers of the BEF were expert shots due to the incentive of extra pay for marksmen.
MATE, A Aussies did not have friends, they had 'mates'
MICK A soldier in an Irish regiment. Specifically, The Micks is the nickname of the Irish Guards.
MICKEY Louse. Origin of the phrase taking the mickey, to tease.
MILLS BOMB British No. 5 grenade. Invented by William Mills (1856-1932) of Birmingham in 1915, it remained in service in a modified form with the British army until the 1960s.
MINNIE-WERFER German trench mortar. A variety of calibers were employed. From German Minenwerfer, mine thrower.
MOANING MINNIE Shells fired from a German Minenwerfer. From the noise of flight and the name given by the British to the weapon (see above).
MOB Battalion or other unit.
MUFTI Civilian clothes. From Arabic mufti, free.
NAPOO Gone, finished. From French i'l n'y en a plus, there is no more. British troops in Russia or who had returned from German prisoner of war camps often used 'nichevo', a Russian word with the same meaning.
NON-STOP Enemy shell that has passed well overhead.
O.C. DONKS quartermaster responsible for battalion. mules
OIL information news or a story good oil authentic, the truth.
OLD CONTEMPTIBLE Member of the 1914 British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who took part in the retreat from Mons and other early battles of the war. From Kaiser Wilhelm's comment that his forces in Belgium were being held up by 'Sir John French's contemptible little army'.
OLD SWEAT An experienced soldier.
ON THE MAT To be called before the Commanding Officer (CO) to answer a minor charge.
OUTED killed, taken care of
OVER THE TOP Make an attack, to go over the top of the trench parapet, or over the bags (sandbags).
PANZER German tank. From German Sturmpanzerkampfwagen, originally from the Old French panciere, a coat of mail.
PERISHER Trench periscope.
PICKET (1) Metal post used for staking out barbed wire. (2) Sentry-party or patrol (picquet)
PILL BOX Reinforced concrete gun emplacement, usually German and armed with machine guns. So called because of the cylindrical shape.
PILL, A a bullet
PIP EMMA Afternoon. PM (post meridian). From the phonetic alphabet.
PIPPED To be hit by a bullet also to be just beaten, as in "pipped at the post"
PLONK Wine. From French Vin blanc, white wine, although the expression may also be derived from the firm of Plonques, importers of a particularly reprehensible brand of Algerian red wine.
PLUG To shoot, to plug with lead.
PLUGSTREET Ploegsteert, Belgian village north of Armentières.
PORK AND BEANS Portuguese. From the observation that British army ration pork and beans contained very little, if any, pork, and therefore alluding to the fact that the Portuguese had very few troops on the Western Front.
PORK AND CHEESE Portuguese
POSH Smart. From obsolete English posh, a dandy, but often said to be an acronym of 'Port Out, Starboard Home, the optimum (i.e. shaded) position of a cabin in British ships sailing to and from the East.
POTATO MASHER German stick grenade. From the shape - the handle enabled the grenade to be thrown further.
POZZIE Position, dug out, good spot
PULL-THROUGH A tall, thin person. From pull-through, the device used to clean inside the barrel of a rifle.
PUMP SHIP Urinate. From the naval expression.
PUSHING UP DAISIES Dead and buried.
QUARTER BLOKE Quartermaster. Officer usually commissioned from the ranks and responsible for the supply of accommodation, food, clothing and other equipment to the unit, via the Company Quartermaster Sergeants. When an issue of new kit was requested, the Quarterbloke's stock answer would usually be: "Stores is for storing things; if they was for issuing things then they would be called issues."
QUICK FIRER Field Service Post Card (Army Form A2042). The card consisted of a number of pre-printed sentences which could be deleted as appropriate. Nothing, except the address of the recipient, was to be written on the post card in order to alleviate the problems of censorship.
RATS AFTER MOLDY CHEESE RAMC. Correctly, Royal Army Medical Corps.
RED LAMP Brothel. Sometimes licensed and under police surveillance. From the red light outside, the recognized symbol.
RED TAB Staff officer. From the red gorget patches on the collar.
REDCAP Military policeman, said to be the most despised men on the Western Front. From the red covering to their field service caps.
RED-CAPS, THE British military police
REST CAMP A cemetery.
ROB ALL MY COMRADES RAMC. Correctly, Royal Army Medical Corps. From the belief that medical personnel went through the pockets of casualties.
ROOKIE A recruit or newcomer. From the corruption of recruit (and not the bird), although, interestingly, infantry recruits in the modern British army are known as the crow.
ROUGH HOUSE A fight or disturbance. So-called from the type of public house where this type of behavior could arise after drinking.
RUM JAR Mortar bomb, from the shape. The rum ration was issued to the troops in earthenware jars, stamped with the initials S.R.D. (Supply Reserve Depot - not Service Rum Diluted as frequently stated), although soldiers argued that this actually stood for Seldom Reaches Destination or Soon Runs Dry.
RUSSIAN SAP Sap trench dug below ground so that the surface earth was not disturbed.
S.R.D. Rum, seldom reaches destination from Supply Reserve Depot, the inscription found on rum-jars
SAP A listening post in no man's land, connected at ninety degrees to the fire trench by a narrow communication trench. During an advance, saps were often joined together to make the new front line trench.
SAPPER Equivalent to a private soldier in the Royal Engineers. Originally, a digger of saps.
SARNT Sergeant. Seen as a smarter and more soldierly form of address. However, sarge was never permitted: "There are only two bloody types of sarges in this mob - passarges and sausarges - now move yerself!"
SAUSAGE (1) Barrage balloon. (2) German mortar bomb. "...we pick out at once the faint plop! of the mortar that sends off a sausage, or the muffled noise when a grenade is fired" - Lt Robert Graves, Royal Welch Fusiliers.
SHORT ARM INSPECTION medical inspection of the OR's private parts to look for cases of VD
SHRAPNEL (1) Shell for anti-personnel use designed to burst in the air and eject a number of small projectiles. (2) Metal balls (usually lead) contained therein. (3) Any metal splinter from a shell. From General H Shrapnel (1761-1842), the English army officer who invented it during the Peninsular War.
SIGNALESE The phonetic alphabet.
SILENT DEATH The practice of waiting quietly at night in no man's land for the advent of a German patrol. The patrol was then dispatched hand-to-hand as quickly and silently as possible by the use of trench knives. Much favored by the Colonials.
SILENT PERCY Artillery piece firing at such long range that it could not be heard.
SILENT SUSAN High-velocity artillery shell.
SIX BOB A DAY TOURISTS nickname for members of the 1st Division.
SKIPPER Officer's informal expression for a Captain commanding a company.
SMOKO, A a break for a cigarette
SNIPE, TO to shoot at the enemy from a hidden position.
SOUP TICKET Medal citation. A small card presented to soldiers recommended for a gallantry decoration, usually a DCM or MM, giving some details of the act.
SOUVENIR To steal. From French souvenir, to remember.
SOUVENIR, TO to try and find battlefield trophies after an engagement- to try and steal something useful, for instance from an army dump.
SOUVY, A a battlefield trophy or souvenir, usually taken from a dead enemy.
SPOTTED DOG Currant pudding.
SPOUT Rifle breech. Soldiers often loaded the .303 Lee Enfield rifle with ten rounds in the magazine and one up the spout.
SPUD (1) Potato. (2) Nickname given to a person with the surname Murphy. (3) Metal shoe affixed to a tank's tracks to provide better grip in muddy conditions. From spudde, a 15th century word for digging tool.
SPUDHOLE The guard room.
SQUADDIE Soldier. From squad, but also said to be a corruption of swaddy, an 18th century word for bumpkin.
SQUARE HEAD German. From the shape of the M.1916 German steel helmet.
STAR Badge of rank, or pip, worn by British officers on the sleeves or epaulettes of the tunic.
STAR SHELL Artillery projectile consisting of a magnesium flare and a parachute, intended to illuminate the battlefield during night operations. Coloured star shells, not always incorporating the parachute, were used for signaling purposes.
STAY AT HOME, A someone reluctant to enlist.
STICK BOMB German grenade, a potato masher.
STIFF, A a corpse, a dead soldier
STIFFS' PADDOCK, A a graveyard
STOP ONE To be hit by a bullet, shell fragment, etc.
STOUCH, TO to fight, hit, kill or use violence in general.
STRAFE (1) To machine gun, especially from the air. (2) General bombardment. From German Strafen, to punish. Gott Strafe England (God punish England) was a popular song and greeting in Germany during the war years.
STUNT A job, a raid, an attack or a small advance
STUNT, A originally a small-scale operation, involving a relatively small body of men, but later also used for bigger enterprises
SUICIDE CLUB Bombing or raiding party. (Also the Machine Gun Corps)
SUMP HOLE Small holes dug at intervals in the base of a trench for collecting water. Sump holes made the baling out of flooded trenches somewhat easier.
SWEET FANNY ADAMS, S.F.A. Nothing at all. Originally nineteenth century naval slang for tinned cooked meat, from the notorious murder and dismemberment of a girl so named. The initials S.F.A. were, by the time of the Great War, also allocated to the expression Sweet Fuck-All, and Sweet Fanny Adams was a bowdlerized version of this phrase.
TAPE (1) Chevron or stripe worn on the uniform sleeves by non-commissioned officers. (2) Line of tape used to indicate the starting line of an attack or the direction it should take.
TAUBE German aircraft. Although a Taube was a specific make, British troops referred to all German aircraft as 'Taubes', or, more correctly, 'Tauben', during the early part of the war. From German for 'dove', so named due to the swept back wing tips.
TAUBE, A German airplane, used for reconnaissance over the lines, but also capable of dropping explosive 'eggs'
THIRD MAN To go too far. The most popular superstition on the Western Front was that the third man to light his cigarette from the same match would inevitably be killed soon after. This was derived from the story that enemy snipers would, at night, use the flame of the match to find a target - the first light alerted the sniper, the second allowed him to aim, and the third time he fired.
TICKET Official discharge from the army, especially for medical reasons before the full period of service with the Colours had been completed. To work one's ticket was to scheme to get out of the army.
TIN HAT Steel helmet.
TIN OPENER A bayonet.
TOASTING FORK A bayonet, often used for this purpose.
TOC EMMA Trench mortar (TM). From the phonetic alphabet.
TOFFEE APPLE Mortar bomb with attached shaft. (2 inch medium Trench Mortar)
TOMMY British army soldier. From Tommy Atkins, a name sometimes used on specimen forms to represent a typical British army private soldier. Said to be derived from a British soldier who distinguished himself at the battle of Waterloo.
TOMMY BAR Spanner or wrench for unscrewing the base of Mills bombs (to adjust the timing fuse).
TOMMY COOKER Small, portable oil-fuelled stove.
TOOT SWEET Quick. From French toute de suite
TOOTH PICK A bayonet.
TOWN MAJOR Staff officer (not necessarily a major) responsible for billeting arrangements in a town or village behind the lines.
TRACER Rifle or machine gun round which can be observed in flight by the (usually) red phosphorescent trail it leaves in it's wake. Used chiefly at the time by airmen. The rounds are identifiable by the red painted tip, and some soldiers and gunners loaded a tracer as the penultimate round in their magazine or ammunition belt, in order to indicate that a reload would then be necessary.
TYPEWRITER, A a machine-gun
VAMOOSE To go quickly. From Spanish vamos, let us go.
VELVET Good To be on velvet was to be in exceptionally fortunate and comfortable circumstances.
VERY A flare or coloured light fired from a Very pistol for signaling at night.
WALLAH Chap. Person in charge of a particular object, duty or task. Used in conjunction with appropriate word. For example, the soldier unfortunate enough to be on latrine duty was invariably known as the shit-wallah.
WALLAH, A a man, a person. See also 'a base wallah'
WANGLE, TO to acquire through some sort of trick or clever scheme.
WHIPPET Specifically, the medium mark A British tank first seen in 1917, but later applied generally to any type of light tank, including the French Renault.
WHITE STAR A German mixture of chlorine and phosgene gas. From the identification marking painted on the delivery shell casing.
WHITESHEET Wytschaete, Belgian village on the ridge just north of Messines.
WHIZZ-BANG High-velocity shell. From the noise of the rapid flight and the explosion. Usually applied to the German 77mm
WHIZZ-BANG, A German 77 mm shell
WILLIE Tank. From the prototype British tank, Little Willie.
WIND UP, TO HAVE THE -to be scared
WIND-UP TUNIC British officer's tunic with the stars worn on the shoulders instead of the sleeves, a standing order in some regiments even during the early stages of the war. The practice of wearing the badges of rank on the epaulettes was favored by many officers as it made them less conspicuous to the enemy, and after the war the wearing of rank badges on the sleeves was discontinued. The same officers often carried the .303 Lee Enfield rifle into battle in preference to the issue service revolver for the same reason. However, some senior officers disapproved of this practice, viewing it as a case of an officer with the wind-up (see windy).
WINDY Afraid, nervous. Such a person was said to have the wind-up. From the production of intestinal wind or gas due to nerves.
WIPERS Ypres (Flemish Ieper), Belgian town in West Flanders.
WOODBINE A cheap and particularly offensive but popular cigarette.
WOOLLY BEAR German shrapnel shell, bursting with a cloud-like explosion.
WRITE-OFF a casualty, a corpse, a ruined military vehicle
YANK American soldier. From Yankee.
YELLOW CROSS German gas. From the identification marking painted on the delivery shell casing.
YPERITE French name for mustard gas.
Z Z-hour; zero hour The time that an attack was to commence.
List 5 slang words that are still used (in one form or another)
Which 5 slang words did you think were the most interesting? Why?
Which 5 slang words did you not understand? What could you do to help yourself improve your understanding?