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The Australian National University

Glossary of Slang and Peculiar Terms in Use in the A.I.F.

Annotated edition

1921-1924

Edited by Amanda Laugesen

This is an annotated edition of the Glossary. There is the original entry (errors are corrected; the original manuscript retains all spelling and grammatical idiosyncrasies); a line providing information about the word (for example, if it was generally used, if it was Australian, and so on), the first date it was recorded, and a reference to other texts that attest to the word's usage. This is followed by some additional information explaining the word and its context. In some cases, a citation (a quote showing how it was used at the time) is also included. Links to webpages with further information about terms, equipment, events and other relevant aspects of the experience of the Great War have been provided where possible.

Entries with * are those that are identical to Downing's Digger Dialects. Others may be borrowed from Downing but are not specific enough to be marked. Some of those marked have been added to by Pretty. For an explanation of the relationship between the two texts, see the introduction. Those with the headword italicised are those added to the typescript of the glossary by hand by A.W. Bazley.

Abbreviations (for texts referred to in annotations).

All  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

Abdominal Abbreviation of ‘Abdominal thud’, or crash, which is a polite adaption of ‘Gutzer’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson note in Digger Dialects: ‘A facetiously elegant play on gutzer. That this was probably general WWI slang is suggested by Partridge’s inclusion of abdominal crash “aeroplane smash, heavy fall”, as Royal Flying Corps slang.’

Abdul  Turkish Soldier, individually, and collectively. An Arabic proper name.

General World War I. Australian. From 1915 (AND).

This term was probably largely used by Australian troops stationed in Egypt and fighting in Turkey. It probably had some currency amongst the Allied Forces generally as well as within the Australian Army, as it is noted by B&P, Partridge, and Green.

So though your name be black as ink
  For murder and rapine,
Carried out in happy concert
  With your Christians from the Rhine,
Life will judge you, Mr. Abdul,
  By the test by which we can –
That with all your breath, in life, in death,

  You’ve played the gentleman.

1916  CEW Bean ‘Abdul’, ANZAC Book p. 59 

Ace

World War I Flying. Attested in numerous sources.

The term ‘ace’ was Royal Flying Corps slang for a pilot who had shot down five or more enemy aircraft. The etymology of the term is unclear: ‘ace’ meaning an expert was current in the United States from the late 19th century (Green), however, both F&G and B&P both see this term as originating during the war and being adapted from the ace in a deck of cards.

Acid  See ‘put the acid on’.

Ack.  Signalman’s pronunciation of ‘A’.

General military terminology. From 1898 (OED).

In communications, particularly telephone communications and code messages, signals used a system of pronunciation, for clarity and to prevent misunderstanding. ‘Ack’ for the letter ‘a’ is an example of this code. ‘Ack’ was replaced by ‘able’ in December 1942. Some other examples of signalmen’s pronunciations are ‘beer’ for ‘b’, ‘emma’ for ‘m’ and ‘pip’ for ‘p’.

*Ack. Ack. Ack.  Full stop. Three A’s in a signal signifies the end of a sentence. Otherwise expressed as ‘three to a leaf’, ‘three of a kind’ etc., or ‘ackety ack’.

See ack. Attested in Digger Dialects and commonly used in World War I.

Ack. I. Fuf.  A.I.F. (Australian Imperial Force)

Not otherwise recorded.

Jocular pronunciation for the initials of the Australian Imperial Force, based on the ‘signalese’ mentioned above (see Ack).

Adrift  Absent without leave. Apparently derived from the inference that a soldier who is an illegal absentee is not under the control of the authorities.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

While certainly used in World War I by the military, Partridge suggests an earlier usage, dating from the mid-19th century, as a general term for ‘missing’. It is recorded in PWWII, suggesting that it was also used in World War II.

Alf-a-mo  (1) ‘Wait a moment’. Originally a request for the one spoken to, to pause for the convenience of the speaker. (2) A small moustache, which was also frequently referred to as a cricket match (eleven a side).

(1) From ‘half a mo’. General colloquialism. From 1896 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This phrase was originally Cockney, but became popular with soldiers in World War I. Partridge records the catchphrase ‘alf a mo, Kaiser!’ from a recruiting poster of the war enjoying popularity 1915–18.

(2) World War I Australian. From 1916 (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, Baker, and Partridge.

Alley  Go; ‘alley at the toot’, go quickly. (Corruption of the French ‘Allez’.)

General World War I. From 1915. Attested in Digger Dialects, B&P, F&G, and Partridge.

Numerous wartime slang terms were adaptations or jocular pronunciations of French words. See also, for example, cat-sou, toot-sweet, and tray beans.

Allyslopers Cavalry

General World War I. Attested in F&G and B&P.

This was a jocular play on the initials of the Army Service Corps, the corps responsible for road transport behind the lines. Ally Sloper was a pre-war comic book character who was something of a buffoon. The Army Service Corps was the target of some pointed humour as they were considered by the infantry and artillery as enjoying good pay and relative comfort and safety. Another variation on the Army Service Corps’ initials was the Army Safety Corps. In World War II, there was a popular song in the military, ‘Ally Sloper’s Cavalry’:

But there’s a bunch of soldiers
That are all forgot about
For we’re the old RASC

They call us Ally Sloper’s Cavalry. 

*Andy Mc Noon  An unqualified idiot. From the Arabic ‘Inta machnoon’, a damned fool.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

This play on the Egyptian Arabic word ‘magnoon’ meaning ‘crazy’ is only attested in Digger Dialects and this glossary. The term 'magnoon', which is attested in both AND and Partridge. Partridge notes that it was in use from the late 19th century, but was especially popular with Australian troops in World War I.

*Annie  (1) ‘Gentle Annie’ – a big German Howitzer, which fired on Bailluel, during March and April, 1918. (2) ‘Up in Annie’s Room’, facetious answer to questions as to the whereabouts of someone who cannot be found. (3) Annie from Asia.

(1) World War I. Attested only here and in Digger Dialects, but see (3).

Many of the big guns of the enemy were given such nicknames. Gentle Annie must have been a specific one that the Australian troops were well acquainted with for a short time in 1918.

(2) World War I. Attested in Partridge, Green, and AND.

The etymology of this is unclear. It was popular in World War I and is similar to the response hung on the wire as an answer to a question regarding the whereabouts of someone. Partridge suggests that it was used in the Services slightly before World War I, and often had a sexual connotation, implying that the person sought was with a woman. However, in the war it had more serious implications, suggesting that the missing person was dead. In post-war Australia, it was used in a more general way to suggest a person or thing was missing, and sometimes occurs in the phrase ‘up in Annie’s room and behind the clock’ (AND).

(3) World War I. Attested in F&G and Partridge as ‘Asiatic Annie’.

This was another nickname for a big gun. This was a Turkish heavy gun at the Dardanelles.

Ante up  (1) To surrender an article that was ‘souvenired’. (2) To hand over, to settle an account.

(1) This sense, probably transferred from (2), is otherwise unattested.

This sense appears to be specific to World War I. It should be noted that Digger Dialects records this as meaning ‘to surrender anything’. See also souvenir.

(2) General. Originally US, current from 1861, this term also appeared in Australia from 1878.

The term ‘ante-up’ originated with the game of poker and came to be used more generally in the sense of paying up.

Anty  Sugar – so called on account of the frequency with which ants found their way into the sugar receptacles.

General World War I army. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

This most likely derives from the attraction of ants to sweet things like sugar.

Anzac  (1) Initial letters of Australian, New Zealand Army corps contracted.  (2) The area on the Gallipoli Peninsula occupied by the Anzac Corps.  (3) One who was on Anzac during the campaign.  (4) Used sarcastically in reference to Military Policemen. The Provost Corps was originally named ‘Anzac Provost Corps’. The term ‘Anzac’ also implied gallantry, another reason for its sarcastic application to the Military Police.

(1) World War I to modern. Attested in numerous sources.

This was the abbreviation used when the Australian and New Zealand soldiers were formed into the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps prior to their landing at Gallipoli in April 1915.

Anzac has become the sort of code word for the Army Corps.

1916 C.E.W. Bean Diary 6 May p. 33

(2) Anzac Cove, the place at Gallipoli where Australian and New Zealand soldiers landed. Attested in AND (1915–1925, then historical).

I was asked by General Headquarters to suggest a name for the beach where we had made good our precarious footing, and then asked that this might be recorded as ‘Anzac Cove’ – a name which the bravery of our men has now made historical, while it will remain a geographical landmark for all time. Our eight months at ‘Anzac’ cannot help stamping on the memory of every one of us days of trial and anxiety, hopes, and perhaps occasional fears, rejoicings at success, and sorrow – very deep and sincere – for many a good comrade whom we can never see again.
1916 Anzac Book p. (ix)

(3) World War I. Attested in numerous sources. Of special importance in Australia (AND) but also used more widely (OED).

Initially ‘Anzac’ was used to describe soldiers who had fought at Gallipoli, but it came to be attached to any Australian or New Zealand soldier. B&P suggest that journalists popularised the use of ‘Anzac’, but that British troops preferred to use the terms Aussie or digger to refer to the Australian troops. Elting notes that American troops also picked up the use of ‘Anzac’ after 1917. The term passed into Australian national mythology, and from July 1916 was protected from exploitation for commercial purposes by law.

The reason why they always avoid calling themselves ‘the Anzacs’ is that the term was at one time associated in the Press with so many highly coloured, imaginative, mock heroic stories of individual feats, which they were supposed to have performed, that its use from that time forth was, by a sort of tacit consent, irrevocably damned within the force. The picture which it called up was that of the ‘Anzac’ in London, with his shining gaiters and buttons and generally unauthorised cock’s feathers in his hat, reaping the glory of the acrobatic performances which his battered countrymen, very unlovely with sweat and dust, were credited with achieving in No Man’s Land.

1917 C.E.W. Bean Letters from France p. 231

(4) World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Anzac Soup  Shell-hole water polluted by a corpse.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Anzac Stew  The ordinary Army stew diluted with water to a greater extent than usual.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

Digger Dialects notes that this stew generally consisted of hot water and one bacon rind. Lawson records this rare term, but gives it a different meaning – ‘foul water’, a sense perhaps more similar to Anzac Soup.

Anzac Wafer Name given to the Army Biscuit issued as portion of the Iron Ration, or when bread was not fully available. ‘Anzac’ because of their constant use on Gallipoli, and ‘wafer’ sarcastically because of their size and extreme hardness.

General World War I. Australian. Attested  in numerous sources.

When he returned from Sick Parade it was at once evident that something was on his mind. ... At scran-time his Bully and ‘Anzac Wafers’ were untouched, and he drank his section’s rum issue without noticing what he did.

1918 Aussie No. 5, June p. 10 

Apres la Guerre The reply usually given to embarassing questions (especially from mademoiselles); also the beginning of a soldier’s song.

General World War I catchphrase. Attested in Digger Dialects, B&P, and F&G.

This term is French for ‘after the war’. It came to mean ‘never’ and was, as F&G put it, ‘[a]n expression of weariness at the apparently interminable continuance of the War’. The definition given here seems to be a more specific one relating to a popular song, recorded by B&P:

Après la guerre fini,
Anglais soldats parti,
Mademoiselle in the family way,

Après la guerre fini.

Variation:

Mademoiselle can go to hell

Après la guerre fini. 

Archie Anti-aircraft shell or gun.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

This was largely a World War I term applied specifically to the German anti-aircraft artillery. Elting suggests that it was used at the beginning of World War II, but was replaced, at least by the American troops, with the term ‘flak’. The only suggested etymology for the term is that it came from a popular music-hall song with the refrain ‘Archibald, certainly not’ (Digger Dialects, Elting).

Over the railways and over the dumps, over
the Hun and the Turk,
You’ll hear him mutter, ‘What ho, she
bumps’ when the Archies get to work.

1918 Kia-Ora Coo-ee March 15, 1918 p. 9 

Army Safety Corps Army Service Corps. The A.S.C. rarely had to operate under fire.

General World War I. See Allysloper’s Cavalry.

Arsapeek  Upside down.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Lawson, suggesting that it might have been popular with Australians; Partridge notes arse a-peak as a lesser-used Services term.

Arsey-Tarsy To fall upside down.

This is otherwise unattested, but the variation ‘arsy-varsy’ is attested in OED and Partridge as slang dating from the 18th century.

Artist  See ‘Star Artist’.

As Near as Damn It  Closely approximating the ideal.

General. From 1894 (OED). Its use in World War I is attested in Digger Dialects.

Atcha ‘Yes’. ‘Alright’. Hindustani used by the A.I.F. in Mesopotamia.

General army. From the middle of the 19th century (Partridge).

A popular army phrase from the Hindustani ‘accha’ meaning ‘good’.

Atmosphere See ‘Vertical Atmosphere’.

Aussie (1) Australians.  (2) Australian made goods.  (3) A wound of sufficient severity to warrant the return of the recipient to Australia.

(1) General World War I, referring to Australian soldiers, which has subsequently passed into general popular usage (AND).

(2) As an adjective, ‘Aussie’ was first attested in 1916 (AND) and has passed into general popular usage.

(3) World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Sense (3) is probably a play on blighty.

A.W.L.  Absent without leave.

Military abbreviation, also often A.W.O.L. or AWOL.

This glossary and Digger Dialects both record this abbreviation. It is also attested in a number of World War I sources, which suggest that the A.W.L. abbreviation was more popular with the British and Australian army. The AWOL version is an Americanism which has subsequently become more common. ‘Absent without leave’ dates back to the 19th century as an offical designation for a soldier who abandons his duty without permission.

Axle Grease  Butter.

General. Attested in numerous sources.

While Green suggests that this is a term of Australian origin, the HDAS records this as an American term dating back to 1883. It probably enjoyed a new popularity in World War I.

Babbling Brook, Babbler  An Army cook. Originated in the rhyming slang as ‘Babbling Brook’, one of the few terms so originated that were subjected to further adaption.

Specific World War I use of general Australian rhyming slang. Attested in numerous sources. AND records ‘babbler’ from 1904, and ‘babbling brook’ from 1913.

Both ‘babbling brook’ and ‘babbler’ were current in Australia prior to World War I to refer to a cook. In World War I it was applied specifically to an army cook. Partridge suggests that it also had some use by the British army in World War I.

‘What’s this the Babbling Brook has given me – tea or stew?’ asked the new hand perplexedly, as he contemplated the concoction in his dixie. ‘It’s tea,’ announced his cobber.

1918 Aussie No. 6, August p. 1

Babblers Offsider  See ‘Offsider’.

Baby Elephant

World War I Flying. Australian. Attested in Cutlack.

According to Cutlack, the ‘Baby Elephant’ was a nickname for a scout aeroplane, manufactured by Martynside Ltd. in 1915, and used by the No. 1 Australian Squadron in Egypt.

*Back Chat  (1) An impertinent bandying of words. (2) To answer back.

(1) General. From 1901 (OED) and probably originally a Services’ term.

(2) From 1919 (Digger Dialects). OED records the verb from 1927.

*Back in One’s Cart  Interfere, to ask for more.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Lawson includes this phrase as meaning ‘to intrude’ which is very close to the definition provided here; it is possibly an Australian phrase.

Bags  (1) Plenty, a larger quantity. (2) The sandbag revetted parapet of the trench.

(1) General. First recorded in World War I Services’ (1917, OED), but passed into general use. Attested in numerous sources.

(2) World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

An abbreviation of ‘sandbags’, specific to military use. Sandbags lined the top of trenches.

Balls in a Knot (to get)  To lose one’s temper.

General. Not otherwise recorded in this form.

Lighter and Partridge record the phrase ‘get one’s balls in an uproar’ meaning to become unduly excited or angry. Partridge attributes this to the Canadian Army during World War I and becoming common in the British Army until the 1970s. This particular form is not found anywhere else, and might be an Australian variation.

Banger  Sausage.

General. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance of this term. It was possibly originally a Services’ term. By World War II the term was general and widespread in both Australia and Britain (Partridge). It derived from the tendency of sausages to explode, if not pricked when fried.

Banjo  Shovel, so called by reason of the similarity in shape and also perhaps, because of the metallic ring of the steel when struck.

General Australian. From 1915 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Most sources record this as originally Australian, but Partridge suggests that it was also a Durham miners’ and builders’ term. This is probably from a device used for washing tin, in mining (also used in Australia). In Australia, ‘banjo’ also referred to ‘a shoulder of mutton’ from 1897 (AND). In World War I, soldiers used it to refer to entrenching tools.

Bank, to

General Flying. From 1911 (OED).

This refers to the action of inclining a machine in flight at an angle to the horizon, usually in order to turn (Digger Dialects, Cutlack).

Bare  Exactly so, with nothing to spare. The slang element in its use was due only to the unnecessarily frequent usage to which the word was put rather than to any corruption of orthodox meaning.

General. Standard English from c.1200 (OED).

Barrage  (1) A French word officially a name for concentrated artillery, trench mortar, or machine gun fire. (2) In the slang sense the term means a communication; to confound, ‘a gas barrage’, or oration.

(1) General military. From 1916 (OED).

(2) Figurative use of (1). From 1919 (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, B&P, and Partridge.

Bass attack  A drinking bout. A humorous corruption of ‘Gas attack’, Bass is a brand of English beer.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Base wallah  A person employed at the base.

General World War I military. 1915–18 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

This was a term that implied that someone was comfortable and safe working at the base, behind front lines. ‘Wallah’ is derived from Hindi (‘connected with’) and means a ‘chap or person’, and was used alone and in various combinations, usually as part of British Army talk.

Bastard  A term of endearment.

General Australian. From 1892 (AND).

‘Bastard’ as a term of abuse is recorded in the OED from 1830. Its use in a more good-humoured sense is Australian.

Bat  Language. Hindustani, used by Australians in Mesopotamia.

General. From 1887 (OED).

This word was picked up by the British Army in the late 19th century. Its use here suggests it was still current in World War I.

Batt  Abbreviation of Battalion or Battery. Officially used in correspondence order, etc.; and vocally as slang.

General military. US from 1862 (Lighter) and British army from late 19th century (Partridge).

Beachy Bill The Turkish guns emplaced in the Olive Grove (Gallipoli) which caused considerable casualties at Anzac, mostly on the beaches.

World War I. 1915 (Partridge). Attested in F&G and Partridge.

While Partridge does not note this as specifically Australian, ‘Beachy Bill’ clearly has special relevance to the Australian experience of the war.

There’s a certain darned nuisance called ‘Beachy,’
   Whose shells are exceedingly screechy;
               But we’re keeping the score,
               And we’re after your gore –

So look out, ‘Beachy Bill,’ when we meet ye.

1916 ANZAC Book, p. 96.

Bean  A mode of address, as ‘Hello, old Bean’.

General. ‘Bean’ from 1860 (Partridge); ‘old bean’ first used during World War I (1917, OED) but not specifically military.

OED records that ‘old bean’ was first used as an expression of familiarity around the time of World War I. ‘Bean’ alone meaning ‘a man, chap, fellow’ dates back much earlier.

Beano  Treat, feast. From ‘bean feast’.

General. From c.1897 (Partridge).

The term ‘bean feast’, according to Partridge, dates back to 1806 as an annual feast given to workmen by their employers. By the late 19th century, the term ‘beano’ was in use to refer to an annual feast or more generally to ‘a jollification’. Dennis includes ‘beano’ in his glossary to The Sentimental Bloke, suggesting some currency amongst Australians during the war period.

Beans  WELL! see ‘Tray Beans’, from the French, ‘bien’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded. See tray beans.

*Beat it  Hurry away.

General. Originally US. From the late 19th century (Lighter, Green).

Beat-off, The  On the wrong track, getting away from the point.

Not otherwise recorded.

*Beef it out  Call in a stentorian voice. From the simile of a roaring bull.

General Australian. From 1916 (Dennis). Attested in Lawson and Partridge.

This probably derives from the American ‘beef’ meaning to ‘to talk loudly or to no purpose’ (from 1866, Lighter). It possibly may have an older origin in the flash term ‘beef’ meaning ‘to cry or give beef’, to stop a thief (F&H). Dennis provides the first example of ‘beef it out’ and defines it as meaning ‘to declaim vociferously’.

Beer Esses   Flattery, kidstakes. An abbreviation of ‘Bull Shit’.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

This is based on signalmen’s pronounciations of ‘b.s.’ See ack.

Beer Pull  A control lever in an aeroplane (also beer lever, pump, handle, joy-stick).

World War I. ‘Beer-pull’ attested here and in Digger Dialects but otherwise not recorded.

A transferred use of the Standard English ‘beer-pull’, the ‘handle of a beer-engine’ (‘a machine for drawing or pumping up beer from the casks to the bar’) (OED). The additional sense of beer-lever is recorded by Partridge as an RAF term from the 1930s used in World War II, but its presence here and in Digger Dialects are the earliest recorded instances. See also joy-stick.

*Beer-swiper  A drunkard.

Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects and Lawson.

AND includes a variety of terms for a drunkard including ‘beer-chewer’, ‘beer-eater’ and ‘beer-sucker’ but this particular variation is not well attested. It is unclear whether this was a term used only in World War I or if it was current in Australia prior to the war.

*Beer-up  A drunken orgy.

World War I, thereafter general Australian (AND).

While Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance of this term, it was almost certainly a term used by Australian soldiers during World War I. The next citation evidence (1921) in AND is from Aussie, a popular battlefield newspaper that continued in the postwar period and represented the language and culture of the Australian soldiers and veterans.

Belgium  A fatal wound, as distinct from a ‘blighty’ or an ‘Aussie’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Belly-ache  A mortal wound.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but otherwise unrecorded.

Bergoo  Porridge.

More commonly ‘burgoo’. General. From 1750 (OED).

This term was originally a seaman’s term for ‘a thick oatmeal gruel or porridge’ (OED). It became widespread to refer to institutional cooking, hence its popularity in the Services during World War I. Partridge notes that while British soldiers preferred the spelling of ‘burgue’, the Australian soldier preferred ‘burgoo’ probably because of the possibility of using it as rhyming slang for stew, to which the word was sometimes attached. The word itself originally was derived from the Arabic ‘burghul’ for ‘cracked wheat’.

*Bernhardi’s Botts  A Regimental Band. So called from ‘Gen. Bernhardi, the apostle of frightfulness’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This was possibly a name applied to a specific regimental band. It played on the name of General Bernhardi (1849–1930), a German officer who was an advocate of German military expansion, and the term bott ‘a cadger’.

Bertha  A German long range gun, esp. one of those used by the Germans to bombard Paris. Named perhaps after Mme. Bertha Krupp, friend of the Ex Kaiser.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

German heavy guns and mortars earned the nickname ‘Bertha’ (also ‘Big Bertha’) from the name of the owner of the Krupp steel works that produced much of the war’s weaponry, Bertha Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. F&G record that the term was popular with all the Allied Forces and in the press. In particular, the name was applied to those guns which bombarded Paris in March and April 1918 and had extreme range.

*Bezooks  Francs.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Biff  To hit or punch.

General. From 1888 (OED).

This term is possibly of US origin (Partridge, Green). The DAE records the first occurrence of the verb in 1892. It has remained a popular term in the US.

Billy Harris  Abbreviation of ‘Bilharzia’, a disease common in Palestine.

General World War I. Attested in F&G, B&P,and Partridge as ‘Bill Harris’.

Partridge suggests that this was originally an Australian Army name for the parasitic disease of bilharzia which had the potential to affect troops stationed in Egypt and Palestine.

Bimf  See Bumf.

Binge  A drunken orgy.

General. From 1889 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term had its origins in British dialect (Midlands and Eastern England) in a figurative use of ‘to soak’ (EDD). While this was a term current from the late 19th century, ‘binge’ enjoyed wide currency during World War I. B&P suggests that it was term used more by officers than by soldiers.

Bint  Girl (Arabic).

General Services’. From 1855 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This derives from an Arabic word meaning ‘daughter’. It was widely used in World War I by soldiers stationed in Egypt and surrounding areas. It was generally pejorative and implied a prostitute (F&G, Partridge). However, it also had some currency from about 1920, to refer to one’s girlfriend or simply to refer to a woman. Elting records the non-pejorative sense as being used by American troops in World War II.

Bird  (1) A person. (2) A girl.

(1) General. From 1852 (OED).

(2) General. From 1880 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

The general sense of ‘bird’ as a ‘girl’ was current from the late 19th century, but the term was also often specifically used of a ‘sweetheart’, especially in the early 20th century.

Birdie  Abbreviation of General Sir Wm. Birdwood and used as a nickname.

World War I. Confirmed in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 7 1891-1939.

Field Marshal William Birdwood (1865–1951) was made commander of the Australian and New Zealand forces serving in Europe in November 1914. In 1915 he oversaw the Anzac contingent in the landings at Gallipoli, after which he oversaw the Anzac troops on the battlefields of the Western Front. In May 1918 he was promoted to command the Fifth Army. He was very popular amongst the Anzac soldiers during and after the war. After his retirement from the Army in 1930, he hoped to become Governor-General, but never achieved this.

Birl  To ‘give it a birl’, a fair trial; sometimes a suggestion that a certain proceeding has gone far enough. (See ‘cut it out’.)

‘Burl’, general Australian. From 1919 (AND).

The spelling ‘birl’, given here, is the same as the Scots dialect word from which it derives meaning ‘to spin, twirl’.  See also burl. Digger Dialects  is the first recorded instance.

*Birthday  (1) A good time; satiety of good things. (2) An attack, raid, or repulse of an enemy, effected with unexpected ease.

(1) World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

(2) World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Bit – to do one’s bit  To do one’s share, to do something, however small, especially towards winning the war.

General. From 1889 (OED).

F&G note that this phrase was not much used at the front but was very popular on the home front, helping it to become established as a widespread expression.

Bit of fluff  Girl.

General. From 1903 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term carries something of a pejorative connotation, sometimes applied to a woman of questionable morals. Variations include ‘bit of goods’ (from 1847), ‘bit of stuff’, ‘bit of muslin’ (from 1874), and ‘bit of mutton’ (from 1889).

*Bite  (1) To borrow. (2) A borrowing, an attempt to borrow.

(1) ‘Bite’ as a verb is general Australian from 1912 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General Australian (AND). Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance of the noun.

*Bite the Dust  (1) Suffer humiliation. (2) See ‘Come a Gutzer.’

(1) General. From 1750 (OED).

‘Bite the dust’ more often means ‘to die’, but can also mean ‘to fall to the ground; to be abased’ (OED).

(2) See (1) and Gutzer.

*Black Hand  A Section of Bombers. (Infantry)

General World War I. Attested in F&G, Digger Dialects, Partridge.

This term had a broader sense in World War I, usually in the combination ‘black hand gang’ and referred to those sent on very dangerous missions, such as a trench-raid. This sense, according to Partridge, was current 1916–18. It was also applied to bombers, stretcher-bearers, and others assigned dangerous duties. According to Partridge, this sense was current from 1917. F&G suggest the term originated with the villain’s role in a film melodrama.

Blank, Blanky, Blankety  Words used as a substitute for foul language.

General. From the middle of the 19th century (OED).

These terms were euphemistically used as verbal representation of a dash which was put instead of an oath or profane word, for example d----d, for ‘damned’.

We're goin to sock the blighters
If we 'arf a show,
Of course we’re bloomin skiters –
We can do our bit of blow.
But we know our blanky brothers,
Who have gone along before,
Fought as well as most the others,

Though they ain’t quite won the war.

April 1917 ‘The Skiters’ The Osteralia

Blighter  An obnoxious person. More or less mild invective, a familiar form of address.

General. From 1896 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The earliest meaning of ‘blighter’ was almost entirely negative; in the 20th century, however, its meaning extended to include a jocular sense of ‘chap or fellow’ (Partridge).

Blighty  (1) England. (2) A wound sufficiently serious to necessitate the recipient’s removal to an English Hospital. Hindustani, Vilagaty, bilate, provincial Europe and English.

(1) General army. Probably pre-World War I (Green).

This sense was probably first used by those in the Indian Army, but gained wide currency in World War I. B&P allude to how great meaning was attached to the word: ‘In this one word was gathered all the soldier’s home-sickness and affection and war-weariness.’ ‘Blighty’ was derived from the Hindustani ‘bilayati’ meaning ‘foreign, and especially Europe’. The Hindustani came ultimately from the Arabic ‘wilayati’ meaning ‘province’ (Elting).

(2) General World War I. From 1915 (Partridge).

Blimp  (1) A small dirigible airship. (2) A particular make of Naval Airship.

General. From 1916 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The term ‘blimp’ for a ‘small dirigible airship’ came into currency during World War I.  It was essentially a slang term, of uncertain origin. During World War I, the British Army employed two types of airships: the first were non-rigid airships, used for antisubmarine patrols along the coast (and perhaps explaining (2)); the second were rigid airships and were mostly used by the Germans (and also known as Zeppelins, after their producer Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin). The British Army did employ some of these latter type, mostly for convoy protection.

Blind Spot

World War I Flying. Attested in Cutlack.

Cutlack’s Flying Corps Glossary, from which this term was taken, records the following definition of ‘blind spot’: ‘A point (below the tail of an aeroplane) at which an approaching adversary was hidden from the sights of the observer’s guns. It was therefore the position usually taken up, if possible, by an adversary attacking a two-seater.’

Blithered  Drunk.

General Australian. From 1911 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This derives from the British dialect term ‘blither’ (or ‘blather’) meaning nonsense (EDD). ‘To blither’ meaning ‘to talk nonsense’ was current from 1868 (OED).

Blitherer  Something or someone excellent.

Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects and Baker.

This possibly derives from the same source as Blithered.

Block, Did his  Lost his temper.

General Australian. From 1907 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Bloke  Fellow, used in the third person.

General. From 1851 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term dates back to the 19th century, but was in widespread general use in the 20th century, and was widely used by Australians. It was also commonly used in the Army, according to F&G.

*Blood bath  The Somme 1916. Thought to be a German expression.

World War I. Attested in Partridge.

Partridge records this as indeed being a German expression referring to the 1916 Battle of the Somme, but was thereafter adapted to any big battle with heavy casualties (from 1917).

Bloody  An expletive. Unpleasant.

General, but characteristically Australian. From 1814 (AND).

This term dates back to the 17th century, connoting detestation. In World War I, it was popularly used as an adjective referring to all work (Partridge).

*Bloods worth bottling  A phrase expressive of admiration.

General Australian. From 1919 (Digger Dialects). Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

This may well have originated amongst Australian troops in World War I.

Blotto  Inebriated.

General. From 1905 (Partridge).

Partridge suggests that this word, of uncertain origin, might have derived from either the absorbing qualities of blotting–paper, or from the Romany ‘motto’ meaning ‘intoxicated’.

Blow off  (1) Go away, clear out. (2) To voice one’s anger.

(1) This exact sense is not otherwise recorded.

(2) General. Originally US. From 1863 (Lighter).

‘A blow-off’ was generally an ‘emotional outburst’. The imperative ‘blow off’ does not appear to be a common expression.

*Blow One’s Bag Out  To boast.

Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects, and ‘blow one’s bags’ in Green and Partridge.

Not a common expression, but a use of ‘blow’ meaning to ‘boast’ dating back to 1789 (OED). Another variation of this is ‘blow one’s trumpet’. Green and Partridge date ‘blow one’s bag’ to 1961, but it appears to have an earlier currency.

Blow Out  (1) A big meal. (2) To overthrow another’s contention.

(1)  General. From 1824 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) Not otherwise recorded.

Sense (2) is possibly related to the sense of ‘a quarrel, row’, originally American, from 1825 (Lighter, OED).

*Blow-to-fook  Shatter to fragments.

This exact phrase is attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The OED records the similar, but more polite, ‘blow to bits’ and ‘blow to atoms’, from the 19th century. ‘Fook’ is a euphemism for ‘fuck’ (possibly playing on a dialect pronunciation similar to ‘choom’ for ‘chum’).

*Bludged on the Flag  To fail to justify one’s existence as a soldier.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The term ‘bludge’ meaning ‘to evade one’s own responsibilities and impose on, or prey upon, others’ is Australian, from 1899 (AND). This phrase must have been a World War I adaptation.

Bluey  The usual nickname of an auburn haired man.

General Australian. From 1906 (AND).

*Blue Light  A prophylactic establishment.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects in this form.

Probably an abbreviation of ‘blue light clinic’ meaning ‘a venereal disease clinic’, and related to ‘blue light outfit’ an ‘anti-VD kit supplied to armed services’. Both are Australian, attested in Green and Partridge.

*Bluff-stakes  A deceitful or mala fide attempt to influence the conduct of another.

World War I Australian. Attested here, in Digger Dialects, and in Lawson but not otherwise recorded.

See the similar but more common Kid-stakes.

Body-snatcher  A member of a raiding party. Raids were usually for identification purposes; the method being to bring back if possible live Germans, but failing that, shoulder straps, or any other means of identifying the opposing unit.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but this precise sense is not recorded otherwise.

‘Body-snatcher’ had two senses current in World War I. One was ‘stretcher-bearer’; the other was ‘a sniper’ (Partridge and Dickson). The term went back to the 19th century meaning ‘a violator of graves’ (Farmer and Henley), a sense echoed here.

Bog in  An exhortation of vigorous action.

General Australian. From 1907 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This term was used generally in the sense of ‘to engage (in a task or activity) with vigour or enthusiasm’ and was used particularly to refer to eating. It probably is a figurative use of the sense of ‘bog’, ‘to sink, to get stuck into’. The sense recorded here is the imperative.

*Boils  The name applied to the Aust. Corps in the line. Also The Boil, [that is,] impossible to take the core (corps) out.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

A joke referring to the Australian soldiers, and suggesting their dogged fighting spirit.

Boko  Nose.

General. Originally US. From 1859 (Lighter and OED).

This was a popular late 19th century British slang term, also well attested in Australian English.

Bollocks  Absurd, an absurdity; an embellishment of ‘balls’ (the testicles) used derisively.

General. From the late 19th century (Partridge).

Bolo  ‘Bolo the Bat’, speak the language, used in Mesopotamia.

General army. From the late 19th century (Partridge).

This term was derived from Hindustani ‘bolo bat’, meaning ‘to speak’. See also Bat.

*Bombing Officer  The Moon. Moonlight nights were favoured for bombing operations.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Bonzer  Good, beautiful.

General Australian. From 1906 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

The etymology for this term is unclear. It is similar to the terms Boshter and Bosker.

Boob  (1) Prison, or Guard Room. (2) One who is simple or incapable.

(1) Specific World War I use of general sense of ‘prison’, US, from 1908 (Lighter).

‘Boob’ is a shortened form of ‘booby-hatch’, which dates from 1859,  a US term generally referring to a prison or lock-up (Lighter).

(2) General. Originally US. From 1907 (Lighter).

This sense of ‘boob’ originated in referring to ‘a lunatic, an inmate of a lunatic asylum’ (Lighter).

Bookoo  A lot, much, from the French ‘beaucoup’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. This spelling attested in Dickson.

Other spelling of this were also current, for example buckoo.

Boom  ‘Well in the boom’, to be popular where such popularity might lead to advancement in the ranks; regarded highly by one’s superior.

Army. Not otherwise recorded.

Boozer  (1) Public house or estaminet. (2) One addicted to the use of alcohol.

(1) General. From the late 19th century (Partridge).

Partridge notes this as being current in Australia since before World War I.

(2) General. From 1819 (OED).

Bosche  A German, especially a soldier.

This spelling of ‘Boche’ is recorded here and in Digger Dialects, and was a fairly common misspelling. Boche was French, and became a general World War I term for Germans, especially those in the German Army (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This French slang word referring to Germans was taken up by the English press and public. F&G argue that Jerry and Fritz were more commonly used by the Army and Navy, and Hun by the Air Force. Elting argues that although this term was used by the American troops, they generally preferred ‘Heinie’, ‘Kraut’ or Fritz.

Boshter; Bosker  See ‘Bonzer’.

General Australian. ‘Boshter’ from 1903, ‘bosker’ from 1904 (AND).

Bott  (1) A cadger; a hanger on. (2) Plenty; much; many.

(1) General Australian. From 1916 (AND).

This was a figurative use of ‘bot’, a ‘parasitic worm or maggot’. It was used in 19th century Australian English in the sense of ‘a lurk’ or ‘a strategem’.

(2) This sense not otherwise recorded.

Bottling  See ‘Blood’s worth bottling.’

General Australian. From 1894 (AND).

This was a general term meaning ‘excellent’. It was also used in the phrase blood’s worth bottling.

*Bounce  (1) Arrogance; (2) ‘to come on the bounce’, make an arrogant demand.

(1) General. From 1714 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Adapted from the sense of ‘bounce’ as a ‘loud burst of noise’ to mean a ‘boast’ or ‘impudent self-assertion, swagger’.

(2) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but this sense not otherwise recorded.

Partridge records ‘on the bounce’ as being a World War I term meaning ‘on the spur of the moment; at the critical moment’, and Hargrave notes this as meaning ‘an opportune moment’.

*Bounce the ball  To assert oneself.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but this precise sense not otherwise recorded.

Partridge records this as meaning ‘to test public opinion or sentiment’, since about 1920.

*Bowie-Knife Army  The American Expeditionary Force.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is a reference to the large bowie-knives named after Jim Bowie, an American adventurer who fought and died at the Alamo in 1836. The bowie knife is one of the most aggressive fighting knives ever made.

Box-on  (1) A fight, a battle, a tussle. (2) An injunction to continue suspended action.

(1) World War I Australian (AND). Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance.

(2) World War I Australian (AND). Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance.

*Boy with his boots off  A shell which bursts before the sound of its passage through the air is heard.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Brads (Bradburys)  The £1 and 10/- (half-a-brad) currency notes bearing the signature of Sir John Bradbury.

General. ‘Bradbury’ from 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The term ‘Bradbury’ was current from 1914 to approximately 1933, and derived from Sir John Bradbury, Secretary to the British Treasury, 1913–19. The pound notes were in circulated until 19287 and ceased to be legal tender in 1933. Interestingly, however, ‘brads’ was a generic name for money in circulation from the early 19th century (F&H, Partridge). F&H speculate that this originated among shoemakers, ‘brads’ being the small rivets or nails that they used. Paul Beale in Partridge suggests that this may have been an abbrevation of ‘darby’, a term meaning ‘easy money’.

*Branding-paddock  The parade ground.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Brass  Money.

General. From the late 16th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

Brass Hat  Senior Field or Staff Officers.

General army. From the late 19th century (Green).

The term derived from the gold lace embroidery officers had on their caps, and was used by the general soldiers. It was adopted by the US Army in World War I from the British Army (Elting).

*Brasso King An officer who insists that his men should assiduously polish the brass work on their equipment and uniforms.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Breadwinners  Rifle.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Bride  A young lady, she with whom one is seen in company.

General. From 1935 (OED).

This is the earliest recorded instance.

Brig  Abbreviation of Brigadier.

Army. From 1899 in US (Lighter).

*Brigand  (French) A rascal.

General. From 1421 (OED).

This is a weakened form of the standard sense of ‘brigand’ as a ‘freebooter, bandit, desperado’.

Broads  Playing cards.

General. From 1789 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Broke to the wide  Financially embarrassed; devoid of cash.

General. From 1915 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

*Broken-doll  An inefficient Staff-Officer returned to his unit.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Buck  Refuse.

General. Originally US from 1849 (Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

This term came from the sense of ‘buck’ ‘to defy, resist’(DAE, Lighter), related to the British sense ‘to butt into, against’ (OED).

*Bucking-horse  Sovereign (coin). Derived from the impression of St. George and the Dragon.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Buckoo  Much, from French Beaucoup.

World War I. Corruption of the French. This spelling attested here and in Digger Dialects.

See Bookoo.

Bucks Bombardy  Badly torn or broken – from French Beaucoup Bombarde.

World War I. From the French. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Buckshee  A prize, a catch, a windfall, something for nothing. From Hindi, bakhshi: giver, or bucksheesh: gift, tip.

General army. From the 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

This term was brought into English from the Hindustani (although originally Persian) by the British Army. It was especially popular in World War I.

*Bug House  Inferior.

World War I. This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This possibly derives from the US term ‘bug house’ referring’ to a ‘verminous lodging house’, current from 1852 (Lighter). It also was used to refer to an insane asylum, US, from 1899 (Lighter). Later this was applied to a ‘run-down cinema’ (Partridge, Green).

Bullet (Bristol)

World War I Flying. From 1914 (Cutlack).

Cutlack records that this was a particular type of plane. It was produced by the Bristol and Colonial Aeroplane Co. in 1914, and was a scout aeroplane. It was adopted as the standard training-machine of the Royal Naval Air Service.

Bullfodder  See ‘Bullshit’.

General Australian. Attested in Baker, Digger Dialects, and Green.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance of this euphemism for bullshit.

Bull Ring  Ground on which intensive training was carried out at Base Depots.

General World War I. Attested in Green, Elting, and Partridge.

This term, adapted from the standard sense of ‘bullring’ as a place where bull-fights took place, was used in World War I of the training areas where soldiers were sent for final training before going into the line. Green notes that this originally referred to a site at Etaples in Northern France where British soldiers were trained.

‘Ye Gods! Why do memories of the ‘Bull Ring’ and the front line mix themselves so, and come back to haunt me in my slumbers?’

1917 Hyde Park Boomerang No. 7, 23 March p. 4

*Bull Shit  Insincerity; [something] incorrect; flattery.

General. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This possibly originated in the US and was certainly popular with the troops.

Bully  Abbreviation of bully beef. A name given to the preserved meat issued, usually in one pound tins.

General. From 1753 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This abbreviation of ‘bully beef’ dates back to the 18th century to refer to ‘pickled or tinned beef’. In World War I, according to F&G, such meat made up a significant part of soldiers’ rations.

*Bumbrusher  An Officer’s servant.

World War I Australian. First attested in Digger Dialects (AND).

Bumf  That portion of the enormous mass of official correspondence which was used for a more undignified purpose than originally intended. Later applied more generally to correspondence and literature of little value.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

This was an abbrevation of ‘bumfodder’ current from 1889 as schoolboys’ slang for ‘toilet paper’. In the war it was applied to official correspondence, most of which was viewed as unnecessary. It has acquired general currency for paperwork since World War I. Also spelt ‘bumph’.

Bunch  A number, unit.

World War I. This use attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is a specific military use of ‘bunch’, ‘a company, group of persons’ which dates from 1622 (OED).

*Bunch of grapes  The club suit in a pack of cards.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Bung; Bung-hole  Cheese. So called by its alleged constipating effect.

General Services’. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

Both terms are attested as meaning cheese, and seem largely to be used in the Services.

Bunk  (1) Abscond, or ‘do a bunk’. (2) Bed.

(1) General. From the 1890s (Partridge).

This term was popular in Australia (Dennis, S&O’B), especially in the phrase ‘bunk off’ (Partridge).

(2) General. Originally US. From 1758 (DAE, OED).

Bunk-up  A lifting up.

General. 20th century (Partridge, Green).

Burl  A try, a shot, a fair burl.

General Australian (AND). Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance.

See Birl.

Bus  A contraction of omnibus, applied in the army to aeroplane omnibuses or motor lorries used by the British Army.

World War I. Royal Flying Corps (for aeroplane, lorry sense not attested otherwise). Attested in numerous sources.

While first recorded in 1910, the term ‘bus’ referring to an aeroplane only became widespread in World War I and was airmen’s slang (B&P, Partridge). It was little used in World War II.

Butch  Doctor, abbreviation of butcher.

World War I military. ‘Butcher’ attested in numerous sources.

‘Butcher’ referring to a surgeon, and then any physician, was current in the US from 1849 (Lighter). In World War I, ‘butcher’ was widely used to refer to a medical officer. Elting notes that ‘butch’ was popularly used in the pre-World War II army.

*Butcher  The king in a pack of cards.

General. Possibly Australian in World War I, although British in the 19th century (Partridge).

Partridge records that this was public house slang in the 19th century but became obsolete. However, it continued to be current in Australia, especially among poker players.

Butt-in  To interfere, intrude.

General. Originally US. From 1899 (Lighter).

Buzz  To beg, cadge.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Although this precise sense is not recorded elsewhere, it may have developed from a 19th century sense meaning to ‘pick pockets’ (F&H, Partridge). Green also records this as US tramps’ (1910s to 1930s), meaning ‘to solicit handouts’.

*Cab Rank  Transport lines.

World War I. This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects  but not otherwise recorded.

Elting records a World War I flying sense meaning ‘flight line’ and the OED suggests that the standard ‘cab rank’ (‘a row of cabs on a stand’) was transferred to a line of aircraft waiting in readiness. Partridge records a World War II sense of a line of ships – motor launches, motor torpedo boats, etc.

Cadorna  See ‘Gutzer’. Came into use after the defeat of Gen. Cadorna the Italian Commander-in-Chief.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This was used in the same way as gutzer and was probably shortlived. It referred to the Italian chief of general staff, Luigi Cadorna (1850–1928), who was recalled and placed on half pay after the defeat of the Italian Army at Caporetto (Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects).

Cage  Prisoner of War compound.

World War I military. Attested in Partridge.

‘Cage’ dates back to the 17th century as a term for ‘a prison’ or ‘lock-up’ (Partridge, DAE). This was a specific use of the term, which was also popular in World War II.

Cake in Gaol  see ‘Flowers on his Grave’.

Not otherwise recorded.

Camel (Sopwith)

World War I Flying. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Cutlack.

This was a small scouting aeroplane, designed by the Sopwith firm in 1916, and used in combat from 1917. It was called the Camel due to the humped fairing over its twin machine guns. It was a popular fighter plane, although it was a difficult plane to fly and many inexperienced pilots died during training. The No. 4 Australian Squadron used this type of plane.

*Camel-dung  Egyptian cigarettes.

General. From 1903 (OED), but not widely attested.

*Camouflaged Aussie  An Englishman serving with the A.I.F.

World War I. Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The term ‘camouflage’ in English was a new one, only being used from 1917 (OED).

*Cane-up  Damaged, harrass, goad. See ‘tripe roared out.’

Not otherwise recorded.

Canned  Intoxicated.

General. From 1910 (Partridge, Green).

A World War I army variation was ‘canned up’, attested in F&G and Partridge.

*Cark sucker  An American soldier.

World War I. This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Cock sucker’ as a general term of abuse is originally US, from 1910 (Green). This spelling is also attested only here and in Digger Dialects, but is probably an attempt to imitate the American pronunciation of ‘cock’.

Cartwheel  Five Franc Piece; a silver coin of a large size.

Of a large coin, general, from 1867 (OED). Attested in numerous sources. This sense World War I, attested here but not otherwise recorded.

‘Cartwheel’ was widely used of a large coin, especially a five shilling or crown piece (F&H, Partridge). In the 19th century US it was used of a silver dollar (DAE, Green).

Cat-sou  Twopence, from the French Quatre Sous.

World War I. Corruption of the French, ‘quatre sous’, ‘four sous’. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Partridge and F&G record the term ‘catsood’ being used in World War I to mean ‘drunk’. F&G explain that ‘cat-sou’ was the price of a drink at an estaminet, and although the price was raised later, the name stuck.

*Celluloid  Money. The inference being its rapid burning propensities.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Centre  The amount of money staked on the toss of the coin in two-up.

World War I Australian. Not otherwise recorded.

AND and Baker record this as a two-up term, but it usually refers to ‘the central part of the ring, where the spinner stands and bets with the spinner are taken’.

*C’est la Guerre  ‘It’s the war’ (a phrase used on every and any occasion).

World War I catchphrase. Attested in Digger Dialects, Elting, and Partridge.

Charlie Chap A moustache resembling that of the famous film comedian [Charlie Chaplin].

World War I military. Attested in Partridge.

Partridge notes that this was typically used of an officer’s moustache.

Chat  (1) The vermin that infested clothing, blankets, and dug-outs. (2) To search clothing for chats.

(1) General. From 1690 as thieves’ cant (OED), but World War I Australian from 1916 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Chat’ meaning ‘louse’ was a British slang term from the 19th century which dates back to 1690 as cant, but came into widespread use, particularly amongst the Australian troops, during World War I.

Next parcel, please don’t forget some life buoy and Mortien for it is almost impossible to keep free from chats as we call them. They keep us awake at nights & we have to fasten a rope round a gun on to our legs to keeps them from running away with us.

William John Duffell, Letter to his Mother, 1916.

(2) World War I Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Chat  To tell a person something. See ‘hard word’.

General. From the 15th century (OED).

The general sense of ‘chat’ as ‘to talk idly, to chatter’ has been part of the English language for centuries. The sense here seems to be slightly different, and possibly relates more to the sense of ‘chat’ as ‘to talk to, advise, approach or address tentatively, flirt with’ which is a mostly 20th century sense.

Chatty  Verminous underclothing.

Recorded in 1812 but revived in World War I. Attested in Green.

From the noun ‘chat’, this was probably used by the Australian troops to describe their clothes when infested with lice. It is not well attested, however.

Cheer-oh, Cheerio  Keep your pecker up, don’t be downhearted.

General. From 1910 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

While pre-dating the war, this was probably popular during the war. Both F&G and B&P record it as being a word much used by the Services’ during World War I.

*Chew the rag  To suffer chagrin.

General military. From 1885 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The phrase ‘chew the rag’, similar to ‘chew the fat’, meaning ‘to grumble, discuss complainingly’ was often used in a military context (OED, Partridge).

*Chip  Taunt, ask an unpleasant question, make an uncomplimentary remark.

General Australian. From the late 19th century (Green, Partridge). Attested in Baker, Digger Dialects, Green and Partridge.

Probably derived from ‘chip at’ meaning ‘to make (a person) the object of a joke; to chaff, banter; to find fault with’ which dates from 1888 (OED).

Chiv  Chin or jaw.

General Australian. From 1902 (AND).

This is a more exact reference to the chin or jaw, but ‘face’ is attested in numerous sources. ‘Chiv’ comes from rhyming slang, ‘chevy chase’ for ‘face’.

Chivoo  A celebration.

General Australian. From 1844 (AND).

Generally spelt ‘shivoo’, this spelling is attested only here and in Digger Dialects. The word might have come from the British dialect ‘shiveau’ and the French ‘chez vous’ meaning ‘at your place’ and used to refer to ‘a party or celebration’ (AND).

Chocs The 8th Brigade, A.I.F. [Known as] ‘Tivey’s chocolate soldiers’.

World War I Australian. From 1915 (AND).

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects provide the following explanation: ‘A shortening of “chocolate soldiers”, a name jokingly applied to the 8th Infantry Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force, which arrived in Egypt after the Gallipoli campaign. The allusion was to the chocolate (cream) soldier (a soldier who will not fight) of G.B. Shaw’s Arms and the Man. The Brigade was under the command of Colonel Edwin Tivey (1866–1847).’

*Chop  Share. ‘To hop in for one’s chop’, to enter in, in order to secure a privilege or benefit.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green,and Lawson.

Chop in  Take a part, interfere.

General. From the 16th century (OED).

Probably from the sense of ‘chop in’ as ‘to “strike” in, thrust oneself in, enter forcibly, intervene, break in with a remark’. This doesn’t appear to be particularly well attested in the 20th century.

*Christen the squirt  To bayonet a man for the first time with that particular bayonet.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The idea of ‘to christen’ meaning ‘to use for the first time’ dates back to the late 19th century (Green), while ‘squirt’ is Australian for ‘revolver’ from 1899 and possibly transferred here to a bayonet.

*Chuck a seven  See ‘Throw a seven’.

General Australian. From 1908 (AND). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

See Throw a Seven.

Chuck it up  Give in, surrender.

General. From 1878 (OED).

This comes from ‘chuck up (the sponge)’ in sense of ‘give in, give up, yield’ and the variant ‘chuck it’, ‘to adandon’.

Chum, Choom  Form of address amongst English troops, used by Australians as a nickname for Englishmen.

‘Chum’ general from 1634 (Partridge); ‘choom’ World War I Australian from 1916 (AND).

B&P argue that ‘chum’ was more popular with the troops during World War I than either ‘mate’ or ‘pal’. The Australian and New Zealand troops picked up a British dialect pronunciation ‘choom’ for ‘chum’ and would use it to address unknown English soldiers.

We trotted along in silence, and I was wondering if our leader had lost the trail, when a point of light pulsed in the darkness, away to the left. Tom and I spurred our nags, and overtook the wagon. ‘Hulloa! Choom, what’s wrong?’ asked the driver, pulling up.

1918 Kia Ora Coo-ee No. 2 April 15 p. 20

*Circus  A flying squadron.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

F&G define ‘circus’ thus: ‘The name given colloquially in the Air Force in the War to any specially selected squadron which cruised from one point on the Front to another whenever offensive air strength was required’. The term was more widely adopted, and was particularly associated with the squadron under the command of Baron von Richtofen.

Civvys; civvies  (1) Civilian people. (2) Clothes.

(1) General. From 1895 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General Services. From the middle of the 19th century (Partridge).

Both terms obviously gained new relevance and popularity in World War I.

Click  To promiscuously make the acquaintance of a young lady.

General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was usually used in the sense of striking up a temporary liason between two people of the opposite sex. It is a figurative use of the sound ‘click’.

Clickety-click  Number 66 in the game of ‘House’.

General. 20th century, possibly Services’ (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

Clinah Girl. This term with most others with the same meaning was in use in Australia before the war.

General Australian. From 1895 (AND).

Most commonly spelt ‘cliner’, this word was common in Australia until the middle of the 20th century.  This entered Australian English from the German ‘kleine’ meaning ‘small’ (AND).

Clink  Prison, field punishment compound, or guard room.

General. From 1515 (OED). In military sense of a ‘detention cell’, from 1880 (Partridge).

The original ‘clink’ was a large prison in Southwark which was burned down in the Gordon Riots in 1780 and was thence applied to other prisons.

My word, these Australian boys of yours love their homes! Numbers of chaps when going into ‘clink’ (gaol) or to the camp hospitals, bring me their pocket-books containing the photos. of their loved ones, and say, ‘Will you take care of this for me,please?

1919 The Army that Went with the Boys p. 144

Clobber  Clothes.

General. From 1879 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Although a widespread slang word, this enjoyed a new popularity amongst the soldiers in World War I. It probably entered English from the Yiddish, and was initially a word used primarily by Jewish and Cockney people (Partridge).

Clout  A wound or hit.

General. From 1400 (OED).

‘Clout’ meaning ‘a heavy blow’ is Standard English. It was widely adopted in World War I.

Coal box  A type of German shell from which, upon explosion, a dense cloud of smoke (black) emanated.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

B&P explain that the name derived from the black smoke which the exploded shell emitted.

On the latter of the two ‘second nights’, they had a narrow escape: five minutes after they had left their well-finished trench, they heard a nice little ‘strafe’ going on there, ‘coal-boxes’ as well as ‘whizz-bangs’ delighting the German gunners with the damage that they were presumed to be doing.

1929 Frank Honywood, Private p. 83

Cobber  Mate, friend. Used in the second or third person. Was largely superseded as a mode of address by ‘Digger’.

General Australian. From 1893 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

As I gaze on Bill, me cobber, sure I smile a little smile, For his happy, careless nature doesn’t fit the poet’s style; No, he don’t resemble Caesar in his looks or in his speech, Nor Napoleon nor Cromwell - why, they ain’t within his reach

He's a decent sort of cobber, but he doesn't push a claim

To be classed ‘ a gallant guardian of Britain’s honoured name’

1916 The Anzac Book p.151

Coffin nails  Cigarettes.

General US. From 1888 (OED, Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

In World War I and beyond, Partridge notes, this was sometimes shortened to just ‘nail’.

*Cog-wheels  ‘To have cog-wheels’, to be demented.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Coil-up  To go to sleep.

US, from 1862 (Lighter).

This term is not well attested.

Cold  Dead.

General. From at least the 17th century (OED).

Cold feet  Fear. ‘Coldfooter’, one who was afraid to enlist for active service.

‘Cold feet’ general. Originally US. From 1896 (DAE, OED). ‘Coldfooter’ World War I,  Australian, from 1916 (AND).

‘Cold feet’ meaning ‘fear, cowardice’ dated back to the 19th century in the US, but gained wide currency in World War I for obvious reasons. ‘Coldfooter’ was an Australianism for a person who refused to enlist.

*Cold storage  ‘To go into cold storage’, to be killed during the 1916 winter.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

A short-lived phrase, it was a play on the more standard sense of cold storage, ‘a means of preserving perishables’. Green records this as a 20th century term for ‘death’.

College  Nickname for 39 General Hospital and No. 2 Stationery Hospital, when venereal disease was the chief if not the only ailment treated. A soldier who received full treatment was regarded as having graduated.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

The No. 2 Auxiliary Stationary Hospital was located in South London and dealt primarily with soldiers who had lost limbs; the No. 39 General Hospital was primarily a venereal disease hospital, and was located in Bulford, England.

Column of lumps  In disorderly formation.

General army. From 1899 (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Partridge notes that ‘column of lumps’ was favored by the Canadian Army from 1915. Another variation on this was column of blobs. Both of these were jocular variants of the standard ‘column of route’.

 

Come-at  Undertake.

General Australian. From 1911 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

*Come Over  Deliver, ‘of the enemy to attack’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is possibly related to the idea of going ‘over the top’ (see Top (1)) and Over the bags.

*Come the Double  Demand one’s due after having already received it.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

*Comforts Fund  Shells.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is no doubt an ironic play on the Australian Comforts Fund, an organisation established in 1914 to provide aid to soldiers. It raised money for needed purchases, and made clothes for the troops. It lasted until January 1920.

Common-tally-plunk  ‘How are you’. A mutilation of the French ‘comment-allez-vous’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested here and in Hargrave.

Hargrave records the term ‘come on tally plonk’.

Comme sa Like that. From the French, ‘comme ça’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Comme si, comme sa  So-so, indifferently. From the French, ‘comme ci, comme ça’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Compree  Understand. From the French, ‘compris’.

General World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Conchy  A conscientious objector to the Military Service Act of 1916.

General World War I. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This has the variant spellings ‘conchie’, ‘conshie’ and ‘conshie’. As Australia never introduced conscription, there was no need for conscientious objection in World War I. In the US, the World War I draft law exempted from combat those who came from peace churches, such as the Quakers. Such conscripts still had to perform military service, and as there was no alternative service program in place, they performed medical and menial work. Britain introduced conscription in 1916, but as it was a potentially controversial move, they made provisions for conscientious objection.

*Concrete macaroon  Army biscuits.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is no doubt a jocular reference to the hardness of the army biscuits provided as part of a soldier’s rations.

Cooler  Prison or guard room.

General. Originally US. From 1872 (Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

Lighter notes that this originally referred to a jail or lock-up, but from 1899 it might also refer to a solitary confinement cell. It became popular in World War I with the Services to refer to a guard room or detention cell (Partridge).

Cool off  To take things easily.

This precise sense not otherwise recorded.

This is probably a slight variation on the general ‘cool off’ meaning ‘to calm down’ or ‘to become less zealous or ardent’. It dates to the middle of the 19th century, and is originally US (Green, OED).

Cooties  Lice, chats.

General World War I. From 1917 (OED).

This possibly had an earlier currency (Lighter, B&P) but was widely used in the military and press by 1917. The term continued to have some currency after World War I, particularly in the US (Green). Its etymology is unclear. The OED suggests that it might derive from the Malay ‘kuti’, ‘a parasitic biting insect’, but Lighter argues that this connection is tenuous.

*Corpse Factory  The Western Front.

World War I. This precise sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This term, first attested in Digger Dialects, gained some broader currency after the war as ‘a place where many people are slaughtered’ (OED).

*Cough-up  (1) Part with. (2) Speak.

(1) General. Originally US. From 1890 (Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

Of the two sense provided here, this is the more widely attested.

(2) General. Originally US. From 1896 (Lighter and OED).

This was generally used in the sense of ‘to speak frankly, to divulge’.

*Coushay Sleep. ‘Coushay full marching order’, to go to bed with one’s clothing on.

World War I. Corruption of the French, ‘coucher’. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Cow  The vilest of invective. To refer to anything as a ‘fair cow’ was the worst that could be said of it.

General Australian. From 1864 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

AND provides the following definition: ‘A term of abuse applied to any person, situation, or thing to which the speaker takes, or pretends to take, exception; often used good-humouredly.’

Cowpunt Road  Horseferry Road, the location of the A.I.F. H.Q. in London and abhorred by the fighting forces.

World War I Australian. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Horseferry Road, London, was set up as AIF headquarters in 1916. It dealt with all the paperwork relating to AIF personnel. Soldiers on leave in London went there to collect pay and a new uniform. The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History records the following verse from an Australian World War I song that illustrated the soldiers feelings about Horseferry Road:

He went up to London and straight away strode To Army headquarters on Horseferry Road, To see all the bludgers who dodge all the strafe

By getting soft jobs on the headquarters staff.

*Crabs  (1) Shells, shelling. (2) Parasites.

(1) World War I Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects.

This is an abbrevation of ‘crab-shell’, alluding to artillery shells, and is usually found in the phrase ‘to draw the crabs’, ‘to attract enemy fire’ (from 1918, AND).

(2) General. From 1707 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is an abbrevation of ‘crab-louse’.

Crack  (1) Hit; punch. (2) ‘Cracked’, crazy.

(1) General. From 1836 (OED).

Dennis records this sense in his 1916 glossary, suggesting some currency in Australia.

(2) General. From 1611 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Crash  To suffer misfortune. See ‘Gutzer’.

General. From 1817 (OED).

*Cream puffs  Shell bursts.

World War I. Attested in Dickson and Digger Dialects.

Dickson records this as an airman’s term.

Crool the Pitch  To spoil a chance, or the further exploitation of some enterprise.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in AND.

‘Cruel’ (as a verb) is used much in the same way and is well attested in Australian English from 1899. ‘Crool the pitch’ is recorded here and in one AND citation dating to 1915. Partridge suggests ‘cruel the pitch’ may have its origins in cricket.

Crow-eater  A South Australian.

General Australian. From 1881 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Crumby  Infested by lice.

General. From 1859 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is often spelt as ‘crummy’.

Crump  Explosion of a heavy shell.

General World War I. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was an adaptation of the British dialect ‘crump’ meaning ‘a heavy blow’. It was also used as a verb, meaning ‘to bombard with heavy shells’.

Crush  Unit, i.e. ‘what crush do you belong to?’

General Army. Attested in numerous sources.

F&G and Partridge suggests this dates back to the nineteenth century, however, OED’s first evidence is from 1916. F&G records this as a colloquial term among soldiers, generally in referring to their own regiments.

Cushy  Soft, easy, safe, comfortable, the ‘cushy job’.

General Services’. No recorded evidence pre-World War I, but possibly Indian Army (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

This may be an Indian army word, as it is possibly originally from Hindustani (‘khush’, ‘pleasant’). It became popular in World War I, and has subsequently gained wide currency in the English language.

I wish the politicians, especially the talkers, could get three months’ duty at the various fronts – not ‘cushy jobs’ as the soldier puts it - but just the ordinary rough and tumble work and life of the ordinary soldier.

1919 [C. Duguid] The Desert Trail p. 72

Cut  See ‘chop’.

General. Possibly originally US. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Cuthbert  A man with a cushy job in a government office, especially one who avoided military service on the score of occupation. Personal name supposedly suggestive of effeminacy.

General. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

F&G provide the following explanation: ‘A name in the War, coined by “Poy”, the cartoonist of the Evening News, and colloquially adopted by way of contempt for fit men of military age, particularly in Government Offices, who had been “combed out” for the Army. ... In “Poy’s” cartoon the “Cuthberts” were represented as frightened looking rabbits.’ ‘Cuthbert’ was also used to refer to a conscientious objector.

Cut-it-out  Desist.

General. From 1850 (Partridge).

*Cut-off  ‘To push in one’s cut-off’, to stop talking.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Cut-throats  See ‘nose-bleeds’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Dab  Expert, extremely proficient. An abbreviation of ‘dabster’.

General. From 1691 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The OED notes that this is frequently school slang, but its origin is unknown.

Daddies, the  The name applied to the British Labour Corps serving at Anzac. The personnel of these units were all above military age, or had been rejected for active service in fighting units.

Not otherwise recorded. See Old and the Bold.

Dag  Hard case, either as a humorist or disregarder of convention.

General Australian. From 1875 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

The 1875 citation recorded in AND is the only pre-World War I citation of this sense of ‘dag’, and it is likely that it only became well established in Australian English during the war.

Dark  Mode of addressing especially those with dark hair or complexion.

General. From ca. 1880 (Partridge).

This is an abbreviation of ‘darky’ applied to ‘a white man with a dark skin’.

Date  (1) A term for the posterior orifice. (2) An appointment.

(1) Attested here and in Digger Dialects. Recorded in AND but next evidence is from 1961.

(2) General. Originally US. From 1885 (DAE).

F&G suggests that this US term was adopted by British servicemen during the war, at least partly from American cinema, but the OED suggests fairly widespread usage in Britain from the end of the 19th century.

*Dead Meat Ticket  See ‘Meat ticket’.

World War I. Attested here and in Green.

‘Dead meat’ for ‘a corpse’, or ‘a person facing certain death’ is originally US from 1865 (Lighter). ‘Cold meat ticket’ is recorded by F&G and is a variant of ‘dead meat ticket’, the soldier’s identity disc which recorded his name, regimental number and creed and was a means of identification should the wearer be killed. See Meat Ticket.

*Dear Auntie  A phrase signifying utter weariness or disgust. It implies the well-known text of a fictitious soldier’s letter: – ‘Dear Auntie, this ain't no ordinary war IT’S A BLOODY BASTARD, and if you want to see your little Johnny again, get right down on your knees, and pray like hell.’

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Dear Bill  See ‘Dear Auntie’.

*Deep Thinker  A reinforcement who arrived in a fighting unit late in the course of the war.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

Although few dictionaries have picked up on this term, primary sources from the war attest to its currency.

O Anzacs, who have fought from the beginning

  And dowered your country with eternal praise,

A word to those who came to share your winning –

  The reinforcements of these later days.

They came because they saw that they were needed;

  It was not fame, not fortune, that they sought

Deep thinkers? Yes, but as the war proceeded

  So has there been the food for deeper thought.

1918 Aussie April 4 p. 9

Dial  Face.

General. From 1842 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Diehards, the  The men of the final parties in the evacuation of Anzac; or the men who worked to stay until the last.

World War I Australian. Not otherwise recorded in this specific sense.

F&G record that ‘the Diehards’ was used of the 57th Regiment of Foot in the British Army after an incident in 1811, when it fought to the death at Albuera. They note that 16 May was Albuera Day and was observed in the regiment’s memory. The Australian use of the term is almost certainly unrelated, but is a similar use of the idea that one should fight to the very end, and ‘die hard’.

Digger  Mate, friend. Used in the second or third person. This term had been in use on the Aust. gold fields, and New Zealand Kauri gum fields for many years prior to the war. It was not until the end of 1917 or early 1918 that it came into universal use in the A.I.F. or N.Z.E.F. The first to use the term, to any extent were the N.Zealanders from whom it quickly spread through the A.I.F.

This sense is World War I Australian. From 1916 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Digger’ was present in Australian English from 1849 to refer to ‘a miner’. It was revived in World War I to refer to an Australian soldier. The explanation given here as to how it was first used by New Zealanders has no supporting evidence. B&P note that the British troops used the term ‘digger’ to refer to Australian and New Zealand troops. In Australia after World War I, ‘digger’ became an official name for a veteran.

Dingbat  (1) Batman, servant. (2) Also used in the plural to indicate that the person referred to had ‘rats’ or was not speaking or acting in a rational manner.

(1) World War I Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G and Partridge.

This was a transferred use of (2).

(2) General Australian. First attested in New Zealand 1911, in Australia 1920 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Dingbat’ meaning a ‘crazy, eccentric, or foolish person’ was current from 1879 (Lighter), and in the Australian context was used to refer to ‘a simpleton; a halfwit’. The term was formed on ‘ding’ (as a bell) and ‘bat’ as in ‘bats in the belfry’. It was then found in the phrase ‘to have dingbats’, meaning to suffer from delusions, often as a result of delirium tremens (AND).

Dinkum  Good, genuine, honest.

General Australian. From 1908 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

In Australian English, this is often used in the combination ‘fair dinkum’ as well, which was current from 1890 (AND), meaning ‘fair play’; and ‘dinkum oil’ meaning ‘genuine information’.

*Dinkum, The  The 2nd Division. Also applied to the New Zealanders.

World War I Australian. From 1916 (AND).

While this is attested in various sources, there seems to be some uncertainty as to who ‘the Dinkums’ actually were. B&P and Partridge suggest that this was used to refer to the soldiers at Gallipoli. C.E.W. Bean provides a different definition: ‘The sort of Australian who used to talk about our “tinpot navy” labelled the Australians who rushed at the chance of adventure the moment the recruiting lists were opened “the six bob a day tourists”. Well – the “Tourists” made a name for Australia such as no other Australians can ever have the privilege to make. The next shipment were the “Dinkums” – the men who came over on principle to fight for Australia – the real, fair dinkum Australians.’ (1917, cited in AND). This suggests that the Dinkums were the 2nd Division. It was principally the 1st Division that fought at Gallipoli, although the 2nd Division were there for a while.

Dinky-die An oath of truthfulness.

General Australian. From 1915 (AND).

This possibly first came into currency during World War I, as the first citational evidence in AND (for use as both an adjective and adverb) is in a Services context.

*Disaster  A piastre (Egyptian coin).

General World War I. Australian. From 1915 (Partridge).

This is rhyming slang and was used by Australian and New Zealand troops in the Middle East during World War I. Partridge notes that it was revived again in World War II.

Divvy  (1) Abbreviation of ‘division’, meaning a military formation. (2) Abbreviation of  ‘dividend’, meaning one’s fair share.

(1) General military. From 1880 (Partridge).

Partridge notes this enjoyed great popularity in World War I.

(2) General. From 1872 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Dixie The container in which food was cooked.

General army. From 1900 (OED).

B&P provide the following definition: ‘A large iron pot, an oval cylinder (if such a thing can be) with an iron lid and a thin handle devised to bite into the hands when carrying. Stew, rice, porridge, soup and tea were boiled in the dixie; bacon and biscuit-pudding were cooked in the lid.’ It may date back to as early as 1879 when the Urdu word ‘dechsie’ meaning ‘a copper pot’ was first recorded (OED). As a general military term, however, it only came into currency during the Boer War.

Dizzy-limit  The last straw; incomparable; the height of ‘cheek’.

General Australian. Attested by Dennis in 1916 meaning ‘the utmost, the superlative degree’.

Partridge records this as only being current from 1930, as a variant of the ‘giddy limit’ meaning the utmost. Its use here, in Dennis, and in Lawson suggests an earlier usage.

Do; to do in  (1) To kill; to make away. (2) ‘Do your nut’, lose one’s head.

(1) General. From 1780 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General. 20th century (Partridge).

This is recorded by Partridge as ‘lower classes’ and military’.

Do a bunk  See ‘bunk’.

General. Possibly originally US (Green). From 1860 (Partridge).

Dock  A military hospital.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

This probably dates back to the sense of being ‘in dock’ when sailors had to return home for treatment when infected with venereal disease. It was obviously used more generally in World War I to refer to ‘a hospital’.

Dodger  Bread.

General Australian. From 1897 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Originally from a British dialect term ‘dodge’ meaning ‘a large cut or slice of food’, it may also have entered Australia through the US which had the term ‘corn-dodger’ meaning ‘a cake of corn bread’ from the 1830s.

*Doer  A person unusually humorous, reckless, undisciplined, immoral or eccentric.

General Australian. From 1902 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was a popular Australian term, and was a transferred use of ‘doer’, ‘an animal that does well, thrives’.

*Dog fever  A mild form of influenza.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggests this might be ‘akin to dog’s disease, an Australian expression for any of a number of ailments, which dates from the 1890s’.

Dog’s-leg  A lance corporal’s stripe. So called on account of its shape.

General military. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects and F&G.

Partridge defines this as ‘the chevron that designates a non-commissioned rank’.

Doings  (1) A place, billet or trench. (2) A circumstance; an affair.

(1) This specific sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Possibly a transferred sense of ‘doings’ first used as war slang meaning ‘applied to any concomitant, adjunct, or “etcetera”, or anything that happens to be “about” or to be wanted’ (OED).

(2) General. From the 14th century (OED).

This is an adaptation of the general sense of ‘doings’ as ‘a deed, act, action, performance, transaction, proceeding, piece of business’.

Doll up  Ornament.

General. From 1906 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Dolphin (Sopwith)

World War I Flying. Attested in Cutlack, Digger Dialects, and F&G.

Produced in 1917, the Sopwith ‘Dolphin’ was another aeroplane used by the Australians.

Domino  (1) To kill. (2) To knock out.

(1) World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

(2) General. From ca. 1870 (Partridge).

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that both these senses might be related to ‘the exclamatory use of “domino!” to express completion, or to it is domino (with) “it is all up (with), it is the end (of)”, both deriving from the game of dominoes.’

Don Ack Plonk  Divisional Ammunition Column (D.A.C.) ‘Don Ack’ is the Army method of pronouncing D.A. and ‘plonk’ may have originated as a rhyme for ‘donk’, the D.A.C.’s containing many mules. Another possible derivation is the adaption of the sound made by the sinking of the mule’s leg into the mud.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Dong  To hit, to punch.

General Australian. From 1916 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a figurative use of ‘dong’, ‘the sound made by a bell or clock’ and probably a play on the British dialect ‘ding’, ‘to strike, beat’ (AND).

Donk  Mule. The average Australian soldier would rarely refer to anything by its proper name if he could find another as expressive.

General Australian. From 1907 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Donk’ as an abbrevation for ‘donkey’ was current in the US from 1868 (Lighter), suggesting an earlier usage than that recorded in Australia. The term probably enjoyed some popularity in World War I as donkeys and mules were often used as pack animals. They did such work as carting water and meals, and carrying wounded soldiers.

Donk’s Dingbat  A mule groom or driver.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

See Donk and Dingbat.

Dook  Hand.

General. From 1874 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a variant pronunciation of ‘duke’ meaning ‘hand or fist’, a term of uncertain origin. The ‘dook’ pronunciation seems more prevalent in the 20th century.

Dook ’im one  To salute an officer.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

*Dook it  Shake hands.

This precise version is attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Duke’ as a verb meaning ‘to shake hands in welcome or congratulation’ dates back to 1865 (OED) and is common in the US (Lighter). There is also the Australian ‘have one’s dook on it’ meaning ‘to seal a bargain by shaking hands’ (Baker and Partridge).

Dope  (1) One who is absent-minded or eccentric. (2) Information. (3) Line of conduct. (4) Liquor. (5) Poison.

(1) General. From 1851 (OED).

Lighter explains that although the word ‘dope’ is popular in the US in the 20th century, it probably derived from the idea of ‘dope’ as ‘one addicted to drugs’ rather than a British origin in regional dialect, which is the source suggested by the OED. Thus it seems that while the term was used in this sense in both Britain and the US, it derived from different sources.

(2) General. Originally US. From 1901 (DAE and Lighter).

This was particularly used in the sense of ‘fraudulent information’, and possibly derived from the Dutch ‘doop’ meaning sauce.

(3) Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

(4) General. From the middle of the 19th century (Green).

‘Dope’ more commonly refers to drugs, but also occasionally was used to refer to alcohol, and, according to Green, especially whiskey. This probably derives from the same source as (2).

(5) General. Originally US. From 1872.

*Dopey  (1) Dazed, bemused. (2) Lacking in vitality.

(1) This precise sense attested here but not otherwise recorded.

This is probably derived from the sense of being ‘drugged or as if drugged’, and hence ‘groggy, sleepy’ (US, from 1896, Lighter). Hargrave records this as meaning a ‘fool; inefficient soldier’.

(2) General. Originally US. From 1903 (Lighter).

‘Dopey’ derives from dope (see sense (1) especially).

Dough  Money.

General. Originally US. From 1851 (DAE and Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge suggests this came into use in Australia from ca.1880 and in Britain from ca. 1895. It certainly had become generally used by World War I. It is a figurative use of dough (‘uncooked or unleavened bread’).

Douse the glim  Put out the light.

General. From the 18th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

*Down South  (1) Hidden, buried. (2) In one’s pocket.

(1) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise not recorded.

A more general use of (2).

(2) General. From 1890 (Partridge).

Down, to have a down on  To have a grudge against; to take a dislike to.

General Australian. From 1828 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was originally British criminal cant; James Hardy Vaux records ‘down’ as ‘a suspicion, alarm, or discovery’ in 1812.

Draft Up, Draft Vertical  See ‘Wind up’ [no entry].

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

There is no entry for ‘wind up’ but several variants of the term appeared in World War I: ‘get or have (got) the wind up’ meaning ‘to get frightened or alarmed’; ‘put the wind up (someone)’ meaning ‘to scare or greatly frighten’ and ‘the wind up’ meaning ‘nervousness, anxious excitement’. ‘Draft up’ was presumably a variation of ‘wind up’.

Dragging spare  Surplus, i.e. ‘Is anything dragging spare?’ Sometimes abbreviated to ‘dragging’.

Not otherwise recorded.

Dreadnought  V.D. prophylactic outfit issued to troops before departing on leave.

General. From 1908 (Partridge). Also attested in Green.

Partridge suggests that this derives from the British battleship Dreadnought, the first of a new type of battleship that was bigger, faster, and carried more guns than previous ships. How this came to be applied to prophylactics is unclear.

*Duckboard  (1) A wooden frame about five feet long and 18" wide, on which are nailed crosswise, short pieces of wood in the form of a grating. (2) The Military Medal Ribbon was frequently referred to by this term.

(1) General World War I. From 1917 (OED), but see citation below. Attested in numerous sources.

Duckboards were used in trenches to allow easy movement over marshy and muddy ground. F&G suggest this might derive from ‘a resemblance to the sloping boards leading up to duck houses at the edge of a pond’.

You do not walk on the bottom of the trench as you did in Gallipoli, but on a narrow wooden causeway not unlike the bridge on which ducks wander down from the henhouse to the yard – indeed it is colloquially known as the ‘duck-boards’.

1916 C.E.W. Bean in Anzac Bulletin No. 2 July 12

(2) General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and Partridge.

Partridge explains that this derived from the medal’s arrangement of colours.

*Duck’s Breakfast  A drink of water and a wash.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and DNZE.

Baker and Partridge record the variant ‘duck’s dinner’ meaning ‘a drink of water without anything to eat’.

Duck’s Disease   A description of a person’s physical build, indicating that his legs are short and his buttocks are too near the ground.

General army. From 1910 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

*Duck’s egg  A half piastre nickel coin.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson explain: ‘A duck’s egg (in short duck) is a score of nought. In this instance it refers to the value of the coin’.

Dud (1) A shell that fails to explode. (2) An incapable person; no good.

(1) General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General. From 1825 (OED).

(2) seems to have become more popular after World War I, and its sense was revived by and linked to (1). The term possibly derives, Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest, from ‘duds’ meaning ‘clothes, rags’.

Dug in  In a safe position.

General World War I. From 1919 (OED).

This seems to have first come into usage in World War I (the first evidence is Digger Dialects).

Dugout  (1) One who avoids danger by trying to remain out of the danger zone or, if in the forward area, by rarely leaving his shelter. (2) Also applied to elderly returned officers called up for service at the outbreak of war. (3) ‘Dug-out King’ – an officer who remains at the bottom of a dug-out while his men are exposed to danger.

(1) General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

(3) World War I Australian. Attested in Hargrave and Partridge.

These senses were derived from the idea of a ‘dug-out’ as an ‘underground shelter’, often part of the trenches.

*Dug-up Found (usually an absentee).

This precise sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Eat crow  Suffer humiliation; eat humble pie.

General. From the early 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

This is probably US in origin, and possibly deriving from an anecdote from the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States.

Eats  Food.

General. From 1889 (OED).

‘Eats’ meaning ‘food’ has been part of the English language since the 12th century; in the plural it dates from the late 19th century, appearing first (and frequently) in the US (OED). Green suggests that its 20th century usage is primarily US.

Eat-up A meal.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

This is similar in form to beer-up.

*Edge  To discontinue.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

Current in Australian slang, but not well attested. Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that it perhaps derives from the use of ‘edge’ to mean ‘the limit’.

Eggs-a-cook  The cry of the Egyptian egg vendors, applied to the members of the Third Australian Division who wore an oval color patch.

World War I Australian (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge and F&G suggests Australians in Egypt during World War I generally applied this name to themselves in the sense of being ‘hard-shelled’ or ‘hard-boiled’, but the Third Division adopted this name from the resemblance of their colour patch to an egg.

Eggs-a-fried  Name applied to the 4th Div. Pioneer Battalion who wore a circular white patch with a smaller circular patch superimposed.

World War I Australian. Not otherwise recorded.

Presumably this is similar to the idea of Eggs-a-cookapplied to the Third Division.

*Emma Emma Esses  Smoke-o (from the signal alphabet capital letters M.M.S. ‘men may smoke’). An order used on the march at attention when it is desired by the Officer Commanding to march at ease and allow smoking in the ranks.

General World War I (Digger Dialects and OED).

Adapted from signalese used during World War I. The OED record the following signalese combinations popularly used with emma: ‘ack emma’ for a.m.; ‘emma gee’ for m.g., machine gun; ‘pip emma’ for p.m.; and ‘toc emma’ for t.m. See also Ack.

Emma Pip  Signalmen’s way of saying M.P., used as a nickname for the Military Police.

General World War I (F&G and Partridge).

Adapted from the signalese used during World War I. See Ack and Emma.

Again, the last time I was over in Blighty I got clinked for emphasizing an argument with a Jack. In the boob next morning they were sorting out the sore and sorry when in came a parson with a couple of Emma-Pips.

1918 Aussie No. 14 October p. 14

Esses Emma  The Sergeant Major, again signal’s pronunciation.

General World War I (Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge).

Adapted from the signalese used during World War I. See Ack.

Eyefull  A close scrutiny; a good view.

General. From 1899 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Eyewash  Deception; humbug.

General military. From 1884 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was widely used in the military to illustrate contempt for much of the official nature of military procedure. B&P note the following on its use in the army: ‘Official deceit or pretentiousness, especially an appearance of virtue designed to conceal a disgraceful reality. Threats of punishment which could hardly be carried out were eye-wash, official reports of battles were eye-wash, the Orderly Officer’s Any Complaints was often eye-wash. In fact much of the Regular Army’s tradition of smartness and bustle came under this heading.’

E is for Eye-wash, a wonderful lotion,

Employed by the man who is keen on promotion.

1916 Anzac Book p. 115

F.A. (1) Field Artillery. (2) Fuck All, Fanny Adams: nothing, vacuity.

(1) World War I. Military abbreviation.

Not attested other than here, but probably a standard abbreviation.

(2) General World War I. From 1914 (Partridge).

The abbrevation ‘F.A.’ for ‘fuck all’ came into use in World War I and became quite common thereafter. ‘Fanny Adams’ was a common euphemism for ‘fuck all’ from the late nineteenth century (Partridge). It has a bizarre origin in a story about a murdered girl called Fanny Adams who was cut up and flung into a river. Her name was adopted to refer to hunks of salt meat by seamen, and later the term was transferred to the tinned meat given as rations (B&P, Partridge).

Fag  Cigarette.

General. From 1888 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is an abbreviation of ‘fag-end’, ‘the last part or remnant of anything, after the best has been used’(OED). Partridge notes that it referred to an inferior cigarette initially, but by the 20th century was applied to any cigarette.

Fagged out  Exhausted.

General. ‘Fagged’ from 1780 (OED); ‘fagged out’ US, from 1833 (DAE).

*Fair go  Equitable treatment, a fair field and no favour.

General Australian. From 1904 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

As ‘an equitable opportunity; a reasonable chance’ this dates from 1904; as ‘an equitable contest’ it dates from 1911 (AND).

Fake  False.

General. From 1827 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Fall to a Job  To be detailed to do a piece of work.

This specific phrase and sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is probably a variant of the general ‘fall to it’ meaning ‘to set to work’ which dates back to 1380, or ‘fall to’ meaning ‘to set to work, make a beginning’, from 1593 (OED).

*Fall to the Joke  (1) To be ordered to do something unpleasant. (2) To have a joke played on one.

(1) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is presumably a variant of Fall to a Job.

(2) Australian. Attested here, in Digger Dialects, and in Lawson.

Lawson records this as meaning ‘to be taken in’.

Fangs  See ‘Put the Fangs in’.

Fanny Durak  The hanging virgin and child of Albert Basilica. Frequently referred to as Annette Kellerman, i.e. the champion lady diver.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The Madonna and child of the Basilica in the French town of Albert were well known during the war. Partridge refers to the Madonna variously as ‘lady (or virgin) of the Limp’, ‘the Hanging Madonna’ and ‘the Leaning Virgin’. The legend, according to J. Maxwell, an Australian officer who wrote a memoir of his war experiences, Hell’s Bells and Mademoiselles (1932), was that when the statue of the Madonna located in the church-tower, already leaning precariously to one side, finally fell, it would signal the end of the war. The Australians dubbed this statue ‘Annette Kellerman’ and ‘Fanny Durak’ because of the visual resemblance of the leaning statue to someone about to dive. Fanny Durak (1894-1956) was an Australian swimmer who was the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal (at the 1912 Olympics). Annette Kellerman was a champion Australian diver. An example of the use of ‘Annette Kellerman’ is provided below:

In passing, I was rather amused at the comment of an Australian, who first seeing the leaning statue of the virgin on a certain well-known church, remarked, ‘’Ullo, Annette Kellerman again’.

1918 Adrian Consett Stephen An Australian in the R.F.A.

Fed Up  Disgusted and weary, surfeited, sick or tired.

General. From 1900 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term was popular during the war for obvious reasons. Its origins may well be in the soldiers’ experiences in South Africa during the Boer War (Dickson, Partridge, and OED).

*Feed Bag  A variety of gas helmet used early in the war.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Fevvers  A Cockney woman.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is a play on the Cockney pronunciation. Digger Dialects includes the phrase ‘Where d’jer get the fevvers, Liza?’ to explain this term.

F.F.F.  Completely miserable; ‘frigged, fucked, and far from home’; ‘forlorn, famished, and far from home’.

General  World War I (Partridge). Variants attested in numerous sources.

Another variation recorded by Lighter is ‘fed up, fucked up, and far from home’.

*Fill-an-Eye  To punch in the eye.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Filoosh  Money. From the Arabic.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that this ‘had a limited currency in military slang’, but note the citation below.

I now come to a word which is among the first, if not the very first, that foreigners in Egypt learn – I mean filûs, which is the Arabic word for money, and, naturally, is used very often.

1918 Kia Ora Coo-ee October 15 p. 13

Finance  Lover, corruption of ‘fiancée’.

General. Possibly from the US, from ca. 1905 (Partridge).

Partridge and Green suggest that this originated as ‘society slang’ for a rich fiancée, but its use during World War I may have been an independent development.

Finny  Finish. From the French ‘Finis’.

World War I. Corruption of the French ‘finis’. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Fixed bayonet Vin Rouge (red wine).

World War I. This sense attested here but not recorded otherwise.

F&G and Partridge record ‘fixed bayonet’ as an army name for a powerful brand of Bermuda rum, dating back to the late 19th century.

Flag, think of the  An exhortion to do one’s job. Mostly used jocularly.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Flag Wagger  A signaller.

World War I. Attested by Dickson and Hargrave.

‘Flag wagging’ is recorded by F&H in 1890 as ‘flag-signal drill’; F&G also record ‘flag-wagging’ and note that it was a Navy term adopted into the Army.

Flaker Synonymous with ‘gutzer’.

Not otherwise recorded.

See Gutzer.

Flaming Onions

World War I. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Cutlack provides the following definition: ‘A form of incendiary and illuminating shell much used by the Germans. In appearance it was a string of fire-balls. This shell was used both in order to point out the location of a machine to German anti-aircraft batteries and also against the machines themselves as a means of setting them on fire’. Partridge notes that they got their name from their resemblance to the strings of onions sold by hawkers.

Flare King  A soldier who fires rockets from the front line. Germans were frequently referred to collectively as ‘flare kings’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Flat-footed  To go flat-footed, is spoken of an airman without an aeroplane, or a member of the tank corps travelling on foot.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This possibly comes from the appellation ‘flat-foot’ for an infantryman (from 1889, OED).

*Flat Spin  To be in difficulties. (Only applied to airmen).

World War I. Originally FlyingDigger Dialects is the first evidence of the figurative sense.

OED records this in the sense of ‘an aeroplane in difficulty’ from 1917, but it is not recorded in the figurative sense until Digger Dialects. Dickson and PWWII suggest it was more common by World War II.

Flattening out

General Flying. From 1913 (OED).

Cutlack defines this as: The gradual decrease of a gliding or diving angle of an aeroplane in flight until the machine resumes the horizontal, either from a manoeuvre in the air or prepatory to landing’.

*Flea Bag  An officer’s valise.

General military. From 1909 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

According to Partridge, ‘flea-bag’ for ‘bed’ existed as a slang term from ca. 1835, but was adopted in the military as slang for an officer’s sleeping-bag or bed-roll from 1909. The definition provided here however suggests that ‘flea-bag’ was used to refer to the whole kit-bag or valise that officers carried.

*Flip  An aeroplane flight.

General Flying. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Floating Kidney  A soldier unattached to any unit, or without definite duties.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Flog (1) To express chagrin. (2) To sell an article.

(1) This sense attested here but not recorded otherwise.

This is possibly an abbreviation of the term ‘flog the cat’ (see whip the cat), an expression indicating remorse.

(2) General. Originally military. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge believes this is a military term that dates back to the late 19th century, but the OED evidence does not support this. The initial connotation was that something was sold illicitly, but was later broadly applied to legitimate sales as well.

Flop  To hit or strike. ‘To flop him one’.

General. Originally US. From 1846 (Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

This was largely a boxing term, used in the sense to ‘to knock down’.

Flowers on his Grave  Fastidious; hard to please. See also ‘port holes in his coffin’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not recorded otherwise.

Flutter  An attempt, ‘give it a flutter’.

General. From 1874 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is commonly used in the sense of gambling and betting.

Fly  (1) ‘To be fly’, to be no fool, to know a thing or two.  (2) To give it a fly, to make an attempt.

(1) General. From 1724 (OED).

(2) General Australian. From 1915 (AND).

Fly Bog  Jam.

General World War I. Australian. From 1918 (AND).

*Flying Incinerator  An incendiary shell.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Flying-pig  A heavy trench-mortar shell.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

F&G provide the following explanation: ‘A name given to a type of large (9.45 inch) heavy trench-mortar shell. From its corpulent elongated form (2 feet long) and tail with steadying vanes which suggested the appearance of a pig in the air.’ Hargrave similarly suggests that name derived from the shell’s appearance when flying through the air. Elting suggests, however, that the name may have derived from the noise it made, which resembled a pig’s squeal.

*Foch’s Reserves  A humourous reference to the Chinese Labor Corps.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects provide the following information: ‘Ferdinand Foch (1851–1929) was a French military leader, by April 1918 Allied Commander-in-Chief. Chinese, largely from Hong Kong and Wei-hai-wei, made up one of a number of “Labour Corps” recruited from Britain’s imperial possessions. Some were employed only in the Middle East but the Chinese served in France.’

Fooker  An English Private.

 ‘Fucker’, general, from 1893 (OED).

Like Choom this is a jocular pronunication, playing on British dialect pronunciation. It was used to refer generally to a person, and was sometimes a term of abuse.

Foot Sloggers  Infantry.

General military. From 1894 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

F.O.Q.  Fly off quickly; fuck off quickly. See P.O.Q.

This abbreviation attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Frame-up  A scheme; a conspiracy.

General. Originally US. From 1900 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Fray Bentos  (1) A brand of preserved meat. (2) Very good. The phonetic similarity between the first words of this name and the French ‘tres bien’ caused its frequent use in place of the latter.

(1) A brand name.

Fray Bentos is the name of a company that produces tinned meat products, and was located in Argentina. Soldiers were fed tinned bully beef as part of their rations.

(2) General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects and Partridge.

This was adapted from (1).

*Freeze-A  A catch word satirically applied to a popularity-hunter. Corruption of ‘For he is a jolly good fellow’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Fresh Faces in Hell  Phrase used after a successful attack to indicate that many Germans had been killed.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Frill  Flashness, ceremonial.

General. Originally US. From 1845 (OED).

A general term for ‘affectation of dress, manners, speech’, possibly applied here to military ceremony and ritual.

Fritz  The German, individually or collectively.

General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Fritz’ was a diminutive of the popular German name ‘Friedrich’ and was used as a name for Germans during World War I. Jerry was more popular, especially later in the war. See also Hun.

*Frog, Froggie  (1) A Franc, see also ‘onck’. (2) A Frenchman.

(1) World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

(2) ‘Frog’, general from 1778; ‘froggy’, general from 1872 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

As a term of contempt for a French person, this term had a long history, but found a new popularity during World War I.

Fronk  A Franc.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Funk  High degree of fright.

General. From 1743 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

A general term that dates back to the 18th century, this was widely used during World War I, for obvious reasons.

Funk Hole  (1) A government job or similar refuge used by a shirker, especially one anxious to avoid Military Service. (2) Recess in a trench, or embankment into which a man could get for partial shelter from shell fire.

(1) General. A figurative use of (2). Attested in F&G and OED.

(2) General military. From 1900 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

First used in the Boer War in South Africa, funk-holes were small shelters or dug-outs. They were used in the trenches of World War I as a place to shelter from firing.

Furphy  This term originated in some of the camps of Australians, where the vehicles used for scavenging and water supply purposes were made by Mr. Furphy of Shepparton, Victoria, whose name was prominently painted thereon. This and the fact of the unfounded rumors seeming, as a rule, to originate among the sanitary squad, or from conversation among men visiting latrines, caused the word to be used in this way.

General World War I. Australian. From 1915 (AND).

First used in World War I by the Australians, ‘furphy’ became a popular term for ‘rumours’. Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects add, ‘It is a coincidence that Joseph Furphy, author of Such is Life, wrote under the pseudonym Tom Collins, itself a synonym for “rumour”’.

They evidently have their gossip in the German trenches just as we have it in ours – and as we had it in Sydney and Melbourne – absurd rumours which run all around the line for a week and which no amount of experience prevents some people from believing. ‘After all – they make life worth living in the trenches, those Furphies,’ as one of our men said to me the other day.

1916 CEW Bean in Anzac Bulletin 26 July p. 2

Furphy-Monger, King  One who eagerly circulates ‘furphys’.

World War I Australian. Attested here, in Digger Dialects, and in Partridge.

See Furphy.

*Gabbary A military prison near Alexandria, a gaol.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Gadget  Any article, but chiefly a tool of some sort.

General. From 1886 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

OED defines this as being ‘[u]sed as an indefinite or general name for: a comparatively small fitting, contrivance, or piece of mechanism’.

Gag  An insincere reason; an idea; a joke.

General. From 1805 (OED).

This originally was used in the sense of ‘a deception, lie’, but later came to mean ‘a joke, jest’.  Partridge notes that its use in the sense of ‘an excuse, dodge’ is a 20th century military term, ‘often heard in the army in World War I.’

Game  Courageous, prepared to attempt what may be put before one.

General. From 1727 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is found in the Australian phrase, ‘game as Ned Kelly’ meaning ‘very spirited or brave’.

*Gas-gong  Boy, from the French ‘garçon’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Gasometer  Respirator.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Gasper  Cigarette.

General. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge dates this to 1912 as a military term popularised during World War I. It originally referred to an inferior cigarette, one that made the smoker ‘gasp’.

I’ve been making a study of issue fags, or ‘gaspers’ as they are vulgarly termed, and I would be glad if somebody would enlighten me on a certain point, which has puzzled me a lot. Who named the different brands?

1918 Kia Ora Coo-ee No. 4 October 15 p. 5

Gay and Frisky  Whisky.

General. Rhyming slang from the late 19th century (Partridge).

Geek  Look.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance of this. ‘Geek’ is originally of British dialect origin, widely distributed across English dialects, often in the form ‘keek’.

*General Webb’s Entanglement  Web equipment.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Military webbing consisted of a heavy fabric that was used to make belts, straps, harnesses and other parts of the soldier’s equipment.

*Get  ‘Get you in one’; ‘I get you, Steve’; ‘Get you in large lumps’. To understand.

General. Originally US. From 1907 (Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

Get an Eyefull See ‘Eyefull’.

Get One’s Guts in a Knot  Give way to anger.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is similar to such phrases as ‘get one’s balls in an uproar’ (Green).

*Get the Strength, or Strong, of  Become possessed of sufficient information to enable one to form [a] correct judgement in regard of the matter in question.

General Australian. ‘Get the strength of’ from 1904; ‘strong of’ from 1915, ‘get the strong of’ from 1923 (AND).

This is a specific use of ‘strength’, ‘the demonstrative force of an argument’ (AND).

Get well fucked  An exclamation expressing disgust and suggesting an unpleasant course of action to the person in question or a poor opinion of him.

General. This particular expression not well attested, but Green records ‘get fucked’ as current from the middle of the 19th century.

*Gezumpher  A big shell.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

 

*Gibbit  Give. (Pidgin English)

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Giddy  A boy scout. Abbreviation of ‘giddy gout’.

Australian rhyming slang. Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

This is rhyming slang, adapted from the children’s rhyme, ‘giddy giddy gout, your shirt’s hanging out’.

Giggle House  A lunatic asylum.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this term.

Ginner  See ‘Bluey’.

Not otherwise recorded.

Gippo  A native of Egypt.

A variant of ‘gippy’, general military from 1889 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Gippo’, ‘gippy’, ‘gyppo’, and other variants were commonly used to refer to Egyptians from 1889 by the British. In World War I, the term had some currency among the troops stationed there. Partridge notes that by World War II, it had come to refer to ‘Arabs’ in general. The ‘gippo’/ ‘gyppo’ variant may well be Australian.

When by Gib. and by Suez and by Aden,

   And the land where the Gippo drinks hops,

The steamers all heavily laden

   To the land where the Kangaroo hops;

Look out, you cold-footed slackers

   Who never left Aussy or home,

For the rockets and bonfires and crackers,

   When our boys come marching home.

1917 Hyde Park Barracks October 1 p. 17

Give it a Fly  To make the attempt. To try a certain course of action.

See Fly (2).

Give it a Passage  ‘Throw it away’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Give Your Arse a Chance  Shut your mouth, stop talking.

World War I Australian. Attested in Partridge.

*Glassy Eye  A look of disappointment.

This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Glassy’ and ‘the glassy eye’ is an Australian term defined by Dennis as ‘a glance of cold disdain’. It is also recorded in Lawson as ‘a cold stare’. This sense is attested in several sources.

Glim  A light. Probably a corruption of ‘gleam’.

General. From 1700 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term for ‘a light of any kind’ is a slang term, and seems to have its origins in a lantern used by thieves.

Glimmer  ‘The Eye’.

General. From 1814 (OED).

This is a term for ‘eyes’ but it is not well attested.

*Go Crook  Become angry or abusive.

General Australian. From 1910 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

*Goddam-Guy  An American.

This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Both ‘goddam[n]’ and ‘guy’ are well attested Americanisms. This may have been a short-lived term referring to US soldiers.

*Goggle-eyed  Dazed.

General. From 1919 (OED).

This is a figurative use of the standard ‘goggle-eyed’ meaning ‘having prominent, staring or rolling eyes; also, squint-eyed’ from 1382 (OED).

*Goldies  Teeth.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Gone West  Died; gone to the unknown. This term is probably a relic of pioneering days in Australia and America when those who travelled west and still further westward into the unknown country were not heard of by their friends until they returned, if that ever happened.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources, usually as ‘(to) go west’.

This term has an older history, but was certainly popularised in World War I (Partridge). F&G suggest that the term was applied more broadly, and might also refer to something that had disappeared or had gotten lost. They note some examples of its use: ‘Poor Bill went West yesterday, a sniper got him’; ‘my leave’s gone West’; ‘my mess-tin (or anything else down to a bootlace) has gone West’.

On returning from leave he [Captain Shepherd, Royal Flying Corps] heard that his best friends had ‘gone west,’ as they say, three days before. His friends tried to dissuade him from doing anything rash, but the next day, when he was out leading three other planes, twelve Germans appeared, and he drove straight into the thick of them.

1917 Anzac Bulletin No. 35 September 5 p. 11

 

Good, to make  To succeed, to pull through, to deliver the goods, to carry out one’s promise.

General. From 1535 (OED).

*Good Bloke  See ‘Freeze-A’.

This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Good Guts  Information. Similarly, ‘good oil’.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND).

This term, first attested in Digger Dialects, may well have originated as a World War I term. See also Guts.

Good Oil  True information.

General World War I. Australian. From 1916 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Oil’ meaning ‘information’ dates to 1915, but is often used with a qualifying epithet, such as ‘good’ or ‘dinkum’.

Goosed  Spoilt.

General. From 1859 (Partridge).

This is used in the verb form, ‘to ruin, spoil utterly’.

*Go to the Kennel  Shut up, take yourself off.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Go to the Pack  Deteriorate.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Digger Dialects is the first recorded instance of this phrase. This was related to ‘go to the dogs’, current from the middle of the 19th century, and meaning, similarly, ‘to decline socially, to become rundown, dirty’ (Green).

Go Your Hardest  Do your worst or best, as the case may be.

This sense only attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson note in Digger Dialects: ‘In the positive sense the expression is in general currency; in the ironic sense recorded by Downing it is apparently Australian’.

Grandma

World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

This was a nickname for the first British howitzer behind Ypres (Cutlack, F&G). It was later applied to other big howitzers (Dickson, F&G, and Partridge).

*Grappling Irons  Spurs.

Originally US. From the late 19th century (Green). Attested in Green and Lighter.

While Green and Lighter record this, it is not a widely attested term.

Grass  (1) Issue tobacco. (2) Hair. (Papuan Pidgin English)

(1) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

(2) General. From 1910s (Green).

Greasy  A cook or butcher.

General Australian. From 1873 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This term is especially applied to one who cooks for a large number of people, such as on a sheep or cattle station, and thus came to be applied to an army cook.

*Greasies Anti-aircraft  A field cooker.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Greenies  Abbreviation of ‘green envelope’, a specially printed envelope in which soldiers might despatch correspondence without being subject to Unit censorship.

General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and F&G.

F&G provide the following explanation: ‘The usual name in the War for the ordinary Army envelope, issued to men for writing home (from its colour). The letters in these were liable to censorship, first by an officer of the writer’s unit and then also at the Base, and were handed in unfastened. For letters on specially private affairs, which the writer might not wish his officer to see, another kind of Green Envelope was issued periodically, in regard to which the writer had to certify ‘on honour’ that the letter contained no military information. Such letters were liable only to censorship at the Base. These Green Envelopes, being in demand among married men in particular, were often procured illegitimately by others and traded in, ‘Green Envelope Wallah’ being the name for the sellers.’

Grouse  Grumble.

General. The verb is army from 1887; the noun was used from 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

A popular military term, which obviously had good reason to be used widely during World War I.

Grouser  One who frequently grouses.

General army. From 1885 (OED).

See Grouse.

Grouter  The acquisition of something for nothing, or on extremely favorable terms.

General Australian. From 1902 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was frequently used in the phrase ‘come in on the grouter’ (which is probably what is being thought of here) and often used in a two-up context.

Gun-fodder  (1) Men and Horses. (2) Ammunition.

(1) Military. From 1900 (OED).

This is used in the same sense as ‘cannon-fodder’, ‘men regarded merely as material to be consumed in war’ (OED).

(2) World War I. Attested in Partridge.

*Guts  (1) The entrails. (2) Courage, determination. (3) The substance or essential part of a matter; information.

(1) General. From ca. 1000 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General. From 1893 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(3) General Australian. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

See also Good Guts.

Both (2) and (3) are figurative uses of (1).

Gutzer  (1) Removal from office; the removal from a comfortable appointment to one more or less remunerative. (2) A fall physically. (3) The failure of a scheme.  The term originated amongst swimmers as descriptive of a dive in which the diver instead of striking the water with hands head or feet first strikes with his stomach. A painful experience.

(1) A figurative use of (2), attested here but not otherwise recorded in this specific sense.

(2) Along with the figurative use (3), this was an Australian term, from 1918 (AND).

(3) Figurative use of (2), Australian from 1918 (AND).

Partridge suggests the literal sense of ‘gutzer’ as ‘a heavy fall’ was around from 1905. The figurative senses date from World War I and generally referred to ‘a failure, disappointment’.

*Hairy-belly  A sycophant.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Hairy Mob  A platoon.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Hanging To  Resulting from. ‘Anything hanging to it’. Any result likely to arise from it.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This probably derives, Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest, from ‘hang’ in the sense of ‘to be attached as a connected circumstance’.

Hard Case  An inveterate humorist, one who defies convention and etiquette.

General Australian. From 1892 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is an Australian sense of ‘hard case’ meaning ‘a character; someone who does not conform’ (AND). The term is originally US, from 1836, meaning ‘a rough or hard-bitten individual’ (Lighter), ‘a person that cannot be reclaimed, a criminal’ (OED).

Hard Word  An outrageous demand. A request for a favor vigorously expressed.

General Australian. From 1918 (AND).

This is a transferred use of a 19th century British dialect sense meaning ‘a password’, ‘a scandal’.

*Hashmagandy  An insipid and monotonous army dish.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Digger Dialects provides the first recorded evidence for this term meaning ‘stew’. It possibly had its origins in World War I as a reaction to army food, but was also applied to stew served on stations (Green and Partridge). It perhaps derived from ‘hash’, ‘a dish of chopped, cooked meat’ and ‘salmagundi’, ‘a mixture of meats’ (Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects).

Hate  The daily artillery bombardment by the Germans.

General World War I (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The term derived from the ‘Hymn of Hate’, an anti-British song popular with the Germans which was ridiculed in the British magazine Punch in 1915. The cartoon bore the legend ‘Study of a Prussian household having its morning hate’. F&G observe: ‘The word “Hate” became the war-word of the hour everywhere, with derisive applications.’

Hate Stuff  Ammunition fired by the enemy.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

See Hate.

*Head  A person of high rank or standing.

General. From 897 (OED).

The general sense of ‘head’ as a ‘a captain, leader’ etc. dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. This may be the more specific sense recorded by Partridge of ‘the heads’ being ‘those in authority’, which was current from ca. 1895 and ‘very common in the AIF’.

*Head-em  To toss the pennies used in the game of ‘two up’ in such a way that both heads are uppermost when the coins reach the ground.

General Australian. From 1902 (AND).

The verb ‘head’ found in the phrase ‘to head them (or ’em)’ dates back to 1902; ‘heading them’ referring to ‘the playing of two-up; the spinning of two coins so that they fall head side upwards’ dates back to 1871.

Heads are Right  A ‘two up’ term indicating that the heads of both pennies are uppermost.

Australian. Not otherwise recorded.

Heavies  Heavy guns.

General army. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in Dickson and Partridge.

While ‘heavies’for ‘heavy artillery’ was in use from the late 19th century, it was, Partridge notes, especially popular in World War I.

Heavy-stuff  Heavy projectiles.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Presumably this is similar, and possibly related, to Heavies.

Horse Valet  A groom.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Hot-stuff  An energetic, clever, unscrupulous or otherwise formidable person.

General. Originally US. From 1889 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

House, Housey  A legalised game of chance.

General. Originally army. From 1900 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was a popular game of chance in the Army, similar to lotto. There were numerous variants of the term: ‘housie-housie’, ‘housy-housy’, ‘housie’, ‘housey’, etc.

Hughesilier  Name applied to men compulsorily placed in camp for so-called home defence purposes after the failure of the 1916 conscription referendum for service overseas in Australia. The idea being that once in camp, [a] number of the men would volunteer for the A.I.F. The scheme was only partially successful.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

This  is probably a jocular play on ‘fuselier’, a type of soldier in particular regiments who were originally armed with fusils (a light musket) and Billy Hughes (1862-1952), the Prime Minister who introduced and pushed for the conscription referendum of 1916 in Australia.

Hum  To cadge.

General Australian. From 1913 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a transferred use of a specific use of ‘hum’, ‘to impose upon, hoax’, an abbreviation of ‘humbug’.

Hun  A German, applied to the Germans in allusion to the ex-Kaiser’s exhortation to his troops sent to China during the Boxer rising to emulate the merciless conduct of the Huns.

General World War I (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term, which meant ‘a person of brutal conduct or character’ was applied to the Germans during World War I. The application of ‘Hun’ to the Germans derived from a speech made by the Kaiser, quoted in the Times 30 July 1900: ‘No quarter will be given, no prisoners will be taken. Let all who fall into your hands be at your mercy. Just as the Huns a thousand years ago, under the leadership of Etzel (Attila) gained a reputation in virtue of which they still live in historical tradition, so may the name of Germany become known in such a manner in China that no Chinaman will ever again even dare to look askance at a German.’ F&G provide the following on its usage: ‘“Hun” during the War first came in as a generic name for a German through the newspapers, as an epithet of disgust, expressive of the universal anger aroused by the accounts of the German outrages in Belgium and Northern France. The Services, however, did not adopt the name to any extent; except the Air Force, with whom it was always the usual name for the enemy.’ Many propaganda posters in World War I characterized the Germans as the malevolent ‘Hun’.

Hung on the wire  Absent; missing.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Partridge records this as ‘hanging on the (old barbed) wire’.

Hurry Up  (1) Vigorous banter. (2) Forced to travel with greater rapidity than was intended.

(1) This sense attested here but not otherwise recorded.

This may be related to the Australian ‘hurry-up’, ‘a spur to action’.

(2) General. From 1590 (OED).

Igaree  Quick (Arabic). A peculiar feature of A.I.F. slang was the combination of words adapted from different languages, i.e. ‘Igaree at the toot’, ‘run away quickly from’, the latter portion of the phrase being derived from the French ‘toute’.

General Army. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Igaree’, also spelt ‘iggry’ or ‘igri’, was an Arabic phrase picked up by the British forces in Egypt in the late 19th century. It was also popular with the troops stationed there in World War I. The definition provided here suggests that it was taken by the Australian soldiers to France where it was also used with some French words to make new phrases.

Imshee  Go away (Arabic).

General World War I. Chiefly Australian. From 1916 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was variously spelt as ‘imshi’ and ‘imshy’. The phrase was picked up by the Australian troops serving in Egypt and was taken on to the European battlefields.

Inked  Drunk.

General Australian. From 1898 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

In the Gun  Under disfavour.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Digger Dialects provides the first recorded evidence of this phrase with this meaning. It may well be a transferred use of the British slang ‘in the gun’ meaning ‘drunk’ which dates back to the late 17th century (Partridge).

*Iodine King  A regimental medical officer; the A.M.C. corporal in a battalion.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

‘The Iodines’ is recorded by Baker and Partridge as Australian Army slang for the Army Medical Corps. Iodine is commonly used as a mild antiseptic.

Iodine Lancers  Nursing section of the A.A.M.C.

World War  I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Presumably related to Iodine King. A ‘lancer’ was historically a soldier of a cavalry regiment armed with lances (weapons with pointed steel heads), and presumably the allusion is to medical instruments such as lancets (a smaller version of lances).

*Iron Foundry  A very heavy shell.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Lighter.

‘Iron foundries’ meaning ‘heavy shelling’ is also recorded in B&P and Partridge.

Iron Rations  (1) Ammunition. (2) Officially the tinned preserved meat and biscuits that all the troops carried but were only supposed to use when absolutely necessary.

(1) General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

An ironic use of (2), that usually specifically referred to shells (Hargrave).

(2) General Services’. From 1860 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

This was an old Army and Navy word for the rations given, especially tinned meat. It was also, according to Dickson, in use during the American Civil War. It was then applied specifically to emergency rations in World War I, and ironically used for the shell-fire soldiers were subjected to.

*Issue (1) A portion. (2) ‘To go one’s issue’, to be killed. (3) ‘To get the whole issue of a shell’, to be struck bodily by a shell.

(1) General. Originally US. From 1861 (OED).

This is probably derived from the sense of ‘an item or amount of something given out or distributed’, often used in a military context.

(2) This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

(3) ‘The whole issue’, general from 1919 (OED).

Digger Dialects provides the first recorded of ‘the whole issue’ meaning ‘everything, the lot’. It may well have originated in a World War I context.

*It’s a Nice Day For It  A sardonic phrase applied to anything unpleasant, e.g. an attack which is likely to prove costly.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Jack Johnson  A large German or Austrian low-velocity shell. Facetious use of personal name.

General World War I. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was a famous American boxer whose nickname was ‘The Big Smoke’. Shells that gave off a dense black smoke when they exploded thus were dubbed ‘Jack Johnsons’.

Jacko  Nickname for the Turks used by the A.I.F. on Gallipoli and in Palestine.

General World War I. Australian (AND). Attested in AND, F&G, and Partridge.

Although AND suggests this was an Australian army term, F&G and Partridge suggest that this might have been used more widely by the forces fighting in WWI.

Jacks  Military Police.

General. From 1889 (OED).

‘Jack’ was in general usage as slang for ‘a policeman’, but in World War I was adapted to ‘a military policeman’. The ‘military police’ sense is attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and F&G.

Jag  A drinking bout.

General. Originally British dialect (‘jag’ meaning a ‘fill of drink’ EDD) and US. From 1678 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Jakerloo, Jake  ‘Jake’ was in use before the war in Australia by drivers & others to indicate that the load and harness were secure and everything ready for a start. It was also used to indicate that all was well with the speaker. The addition of the last two syllables appear to have been made in the A.I.F. abroad; perhaps the outcome of the observation by certain members of the ‘force’ of the opportunity to [rhyme] with ‘Bakerloo’, the name of the underground railway that connected Waterloo station with Baker Street, both in London. Some contend that the term was introduced on the Western Front by the Canadians and that it is a relic of the French Revolution when the plotters were known as ‘Jaques 1’, ‘Jaques 2’, etc., in order to avoid detection.

‘Jake’, general. Originally US of obscure origin. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Jakealoo’, general Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Jane  A Girl.

General. Originally US. From 1906 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term, originally from the US, was also popular in Australia, and, according to Partridge, current from before 1916.

Jericho Jane A Turkish gun which fired on the Light Horse in Palestine.

World War I Australian. Attested in F&G and Partridge.

F&G provide the following explanation:‘The name given by the Australians in Palestine to a long range Turkish gun in the Jordan Valley in July, 1918, which caused considerable trouble till finally destroyed by airmen.’ Partridge adds that this gun fired into Jericho from the Shunet Nimrin hills.

Jerks  Physical exercise.

General. Originally military. From 1905 (Partridge).

Jerry  (1) A nickname for the German soldiers and aeroplanes. It was more commonly used amongst the English troops than Australians. (2) Also used as a question, ‘Do you jerry’, do you understand. (3) To ‘take a jerry’, change (for the better) one’s course of conduct.

(1) General World War I (OED).

F&G record: ‘In the later stages of the War the universal name for the enemy.’ Elting and Partridge suggest that this was transferred from the sense of ‘jerry’ meaning ‘a chamberpot’ which the German army’s steel helmets resembled, but might also relate to German, as it was sometimes spelt ‘Gerry’.

(2) General Australian. From 1894 (AND).

This derives from the US slang ‘jerry’ often found in the phrase ‘to be jerry to’ meaning ‘to be wise to’ (OED).

(3) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not recorded otherwise.

‘Take a jerry to’ was used in the same sense as (2). The sense recorded here may follow from this –  ‘change one’s course of action’ based on a sudden realization, understanding.

Jit  A cigarette.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not recorded otherwise.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects note: ‘A shortening of Gitane, the proprietary name of a French cigarette since 1910’.

Job  (1) Employment. (2) A hit or punch.

(1) General. From 1694 (OED).

(2) General Australian. Attested in Baker, Dennis and Lawson.

‘To job’ meaning ‘to hit, strike’ possibly derives from ‘to do a job for him’ meaning ‘to ruin him, to knock him out, or even kill him’, a colloquial phrase current since 1860 (Partridge).

Jock  A Scotch soldier.

General. From 1788 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Jock’ was current for ‘a Scottish sailor, soldier’ and then for a Scotsman generally from the late 18th century.

*Joey  A Military Policeman. (Also ‘Pretty Joey’)

General Australian. From 1869 (AND).

‘Joe’ was a general term for a policeman, first used on the Victorian goldfields, and deriving from the nickname ‘Charley Joe’ for Victorian governor Joseph LaTrobe (1851-4). It was first recorded in 1854, while ‘joey’ came into use in 1869 (AND). Its use for a military policeman is probably a World War I development.

Joint  Any place, anywhere, but principally a place of amusement or restaurant.

General. Originally US. From 1821 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This originated in reference to a place where illicit activities took place, but later came to be adapted to any place.

Jonah  One who brings misfortune to a party.

General. From 1612 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Joy-juice  Rum, whisky, etc. Chiefly rum.

General. Originally US. From 1913 (Lighter).

*Joy-stick  See ‘Beer-pull’.

General Flying. From 1910 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was the most common slang term for the control lever of an aeroplane, and continued to be used after World War I. Dickson writes: ‘The nickname for the main control lever of an aircraft; clearly, a play on the phallic nature of the instrument’.

*Joy Water  Champagne.

General. Originally US. From 1907 (Lighter).

This was less common than ‘joy-juice’ but had the same meaning.

Jug  Military Prison.

General. Originally US. From 1815 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was first used of a prison, but was adapted to mean a military prison in World War I. It was more fully ‘stone-jug’. Partridge suggests that it derives from the French ‘joug’, ‘a yoke’ from the Scots ‘joug(s)’, ‘a pillory’.

*Junker  A superior officer.

World War I. Transferred use of ‘junker’, from 1865 (OED).

‘Junker’, a name for a ‘young German nobleman’ was often used in a transferred sense to imply an overbearing, reactionary character. It was obviously transferred to refer to superior officers in World War I.

Kadi  Hat.

General. From 1846 (OED).

Variant spellings of this exist, most commonly ‘cady’. It is possibly of British dialect origin, specifically noted in Lancashire (OED).

Kamarad  Friend, comrade (the German cry for quarter).

General World War I. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Germans, when surrendering, tended to use this term for ‘friend’ or ‘comrade’.

Kangaroo Feathers  (1) An impossible thing. (2) A tall feather, emu plumes of the Aust. Light Horse.

(1) World War I Australian. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

This may be a figurative use of (2), as kangaroos having feathers is an impossibility.

(2) World War I Australian (AND).

*Kennel Up  Stop talking.

General. From 1919 (OED).

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this sense.

*Kerensky  ‘To come a Kerensky’. See ‘Gutzer’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects note: ‘The reference is to Aleksandr Feodorovich Kerenski (1881-1970), a Russian who led the democratic revolution of 1905 and who was Premier of the Duma when the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917.’ It was used much in the same way as Gutzer.

Kid Stakes  Insincere flattery, bluff, joking.

General Australian. From 1912 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a jocular formation on British slang ‘kid’ meaning ‘humbug’ and ‘stakes’ as in racing (AND, Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects).

She’ll tell you she is lovely, she loves Aussies too,

She hasn’t had a sweetheart since the last boat passed through.

But, get me digger, it’s kid stakes and rotten to the core,

The same old yarn is spoken to soldiers by the score.

Bak-Ara No. 3 August-September 1919.

Kimberly  Nickname for Diamond in the game of ‘Crown & Anchor’.

Attested in Partridge.

This was one of several nicknames used in the popular World War I card game, ‘Crown and Anchor’. It probably derived from the famous South African diamond, the Kimberly Diamond. Crown and Anchor, according to F&G was: ‘The popular, although officially prohibited, gambling game in the Services, played with dice and a coloured cloth marked out in squares. The Ace, a Crown, is usually referred to as “The Lucky old Sergeant Major”, and the anchor called the “Mud-hook”. (Navy slang for an anchor). The players put their stake on the squares. Usually, two or three partners run a Crown and Anchor board, one man financing the board, a second acting as a sort of umpire, and the third “minding out” or keeping watch for the approach of a military policeman. Luck invariably favours the board, and in the War, when the game was constantly played on out of the way places, it was sometimes said that men in some cases “made hundreds of pounds” at Crown and Anchor, particularly the holders of the Board.’

*King o’ the Nits  Provost Sergeant.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘King’ was often combined with other terms, resulting in terms such as this, and others like Brasso king, Dug-out king, Flare king, Furphy king and Kiwi-king.

Kip  The short flat piece of wood on which the pennies are placed in ‘two-up’ preparatory to tossing.

General Australian. From 1887 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Two-up’ was a popular gambling game amongst Australian and New Zealand troops during World War I. ‘Kip’ probably derived from the widespread British dialect word ‘kep’, meaning ‘to catch, to throw up in the air’.

*Kippsie  Lean-to, shelter, house, dugout.

General Australian. From 1905 (AND).

Other spellings recorded in AND are ‘kipsy’ and ‘kipsie’. It derives from ‘kip’, meaning ‘a lodging house’.

Kiwi-King  A Military Policeman or anyone who is very particular to keep his boots and the leather portions of his equipment brightly polished. So called because the most popular brand of leather polish was ‘Kiwi’.

General World War I. Attested in Elting and Partridge.

This was a short-lived expression for an ‘officer fussy about polish’. Although it is recorded in AND, it was widely used throughout the forces.

Knock  To be exhausted, to give in.

General. From 1737 (OED).

In standard usage, it is often construed with ‘up’.

Knock-back  A refusal.

General Australian. From 1915 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was originally a British dialect term from Warwickshire, and became current during World War I. After the war, its use was primarily Australian and New Zealand.

*Knock One’s Can In  To surprise, to completely disconcert, to confound.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Knut  Important person, swanker.

General. From 1911 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was possibly derived from a popular music hall song from 1914 by Arthur Wimperis, Gilbert the Filbert, the Colonel of the Knuts. F&G write that a ‘crude parody of the song was much used as a marching song’. A ‘knut’ was generally ‘a dandy, a fashionable or showy young man’ (OED, Partridge) and a jocular variant of ‘nut’.

Kybosh  To put ‘the kybosh’ on to anything is to put a stop to, or frustrate, an attempted action.

General. From 1836 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term, popular since the 19th century, enjoyed some popularity in World War I, according to F&G, in the expression ‘To put the Kybosh on the Kaiser’. The word is of uncertain origin. Paul Beale, editor of the 8th edition of Partridge, provides a number of different explanations for the origin of this term, the most plausible being that it derives from the Yiddish ‘kabas, kabbasten’, meaning ‘to suppress’.

Lamps  Eyes.

General. From 1590 (OED). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green and Partridge.

Originally poetical, and first used by Shakespeare, ‘lamps’ for ‘eyes’ was slang by the 19th century.

*Lance Corporal Bacon Bacon consisting of fat through which runs one thin streak of lean; resembles the stripe on the Lance Corporal’s sleeve.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Lance-Jack  Lance-Corporal.

General military. From 1912 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Jack’ probably derives from its use in nautical contexts to refer to a sailor, and taken up in the Royal Navy to mean ‘other ranks’ (Partridge).

*Lay-an-Egg  (Of an aeroplane) Drop a bomb.

General Services’. From 1918 (OED).

PWWII notes that while this meant ‘dropping bombs’ in World War I, in World War II it was used of ‘laying mines (in enemy waters)’.

*Lazy-Lizz  A heavy long distance shell which passes overhead with a lazy drone. (Also called ‘Tired Theodore’.)

World War I. ‘Lazy Lizz’ attested here and in Digger Dialects; F&G and Partridge record ‘Lazy Eliza’.

F&G provide the following description for ‘Lazy Eliza’: ‘A trench expression for a long distance big shell, passing overhead and making a slow, rumbling sound in its flight – somewhat resembling the rumble of a late tram returning empty to its terminus.’

*Leadswinger  A person who schemes with the object of avoiding duty in a dangerous area, a malingerer.

General World War I. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘To swing the lead’ was a popular Army phrase, and one who did such was known as a ‘leadswinger’. It alluded to ‘heaving the lead’, ‘taking a sounding to ascertain the depth of water’, apparently an easy task.

*Legs Eleven  (1) The number 11 in a game of House. (2) A thin tall man.

(1) General military. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green and Partridge.

(2) General military. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, Hargrave and Partridge.

(2) is a transferred sense of (1).

*Let Down  To deceive, fail, trick, omit to fulfill an obligation.

General. From early 1900s (OED).

This was a specific use of the sense ‘to disappoint’ (OED).

Lie-out Possy  The troops’ position when assembled in battle formation before attacking.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Possy became part of Australian English to refer to ‘a position of supposed advantage to the occupant’ but originated in the trenches of WWI as ‘an individual soldier’s place of shelter or firing position’ (AND). ‘Lie-out possy’ is a specific combination of this widely used term.

Limit  See ‘Dizzy Limit’.

General. From 1906 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The ‘limit’ means ‘the very extreme; the last point or stage; the worst (etc.) imaginable or endurable; the maximum penalty’ (OED). It is found in several phrases, such as ‘to go the limit’ and ‘the dizzy limit’.

Line, The  The firing line; forward area.

General World War I. From 1916 (OED).

Line Up  An assemblage.

General. Originally US. From 1899 (OED).

Presumably this enjoyed some currency during World War I, due to the necessity of such assemblages.

Lingo  Language. Corruption of the word ‘Lingus’.

General. From 1660 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

OED defines ‘lingo’ thus: ‘A contemptuous designation for: Foreign speech or language; language which is strange or unintelligible to the person who so designates it; language peculiar to some special subject, or employed (whether properly or affectedly) by some particular class of persons’. Its origin is probably via Portuguese ‘lingoa’ from the Latin ‘lingua’, meaning ‘tongue’ (NODE).

*Little Bit of Eyes Right  A girl.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects note that this is a ‘jocular use of the military command eyes right! “turn one’s head and eyes to the right in salute.”’

*Little Hell  Three two-pip cards in a game of ‘Poker’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This probably derives from the fact that this is a very poor hand to be dealt in Poker.

Lit-up  (1) Drunk. (2) A man suffering from venereal disease.

(1) General. Originally US. From 1899 (Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Lizzie  A warship of the same class as H.M.S. ‘Queen Elizabeth’.

This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

F&G record this as a term for a big gun, ‘a term originating at the Dardanelles and suggested by the firing of the big fifteen-inch guns of H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth.’ Partridge suggests that ‘Lizzie’ was also ‘a Royal Navy nickname for the HMS Queen Elizabeth’.

Lob  (1) A Policeman, one who goes out of his way to report breaches of discipline or law. (2) ‘To Lob’, to arrive.

(1) Not otherwise recorded.

(2) General Australian. From 1911 (AND).

This Australian sense is transferred from the standard ‘lob’ meaning ‘to move heavily or clumsily’ (AND).

*Lock-Suey  Rain.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Lolly  (1) Something easy. (2) A person easy to trick or overcome.

(1) General Australian (Baker). Attested in Baker, F&G, and Partridge.

(2) General Australian (Baker). Attested in Baker, F&G, Lawson and Partridge.

Lord Nelson  The three aces in a game of ‘Poker’. (See ‘three ones’.)

General. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Macnoon  Mad. (See ‘Andy Mc Noon’.)

General World War I. Australian. From 1917 (AND),

‘Maghnoon’, derived from colloquial Egyptian Arabic, was picked up from the late 19th century by British troops in Egypt, but was primarily used, especially in the form ‘magnoon’, by the Australian troops stationed there in World War I. The Australians also used a variant Andy Macnoon.

*Maconochie  (1) The meat and vegetable ration, so highly esteemed by the troops the bulk of which was prepared by the Aberdeen firm Messrs. Maconchie. (2) Stomach (e.g. ‘Knocked in the Maconochie’).

(1) General. From 1901 (OED).

This tinned stew was especially relevant to soldiers who were served this when on active service. Hargrave adds that the name came ‘[f]rom name on one maker’s tins, but applied to any make.’

(2) General World War I. From 1919 (OED).

The first recorded evidence of this sense is recorded in Digger Dialects. It is transferred from sense (1) as the stomach is the place where these rations end up.

*Maconochie Cross  A Military Cross.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

The Military Cross was often abbreviated to ‘M.C.’, and was then probably jocularly referred to as ‘Maconochie Cross’.

*Maconochie Medal  A Military Medal.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

As with Maconochie Cross, the Military Medal was the ‘M.M.’ and probably jocularly known as the ‘Maconochie Medal’.

Mademoiselle from Armentieres The beginning of a ribald song much sung in France.

World War I. The song is well attested (B&P).

Partridge writes that the ‘Mademoiselle from Armentiers’ has, from 1919, and especially among Cockneys, been the female counterpart, and occasionally the companion, of ‘Ballocky Bill the Sailor’, a mythical person commemorated in a late 19th–20th century song and often mentioned by way of evasion (for someone who was ‘a bit of a lad’) by soldiers in World War I; ‘he is reputed to have been most generously testicled.’

Mag  Chatter.

General Australian. Verb from 1918; noun from 1895 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is originally a British dialect term, but has since the late 19th century been primarily Australian.

Maggotty  Angry.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is originally a British dialect term, mostly from the Midlands and Southwest area of England, meaning ‘queer-tempered, fractious, cross, ill-tempered, irritable’ (EDD).

Maleesh Arabic term much used by the Light Horse and troops in Egypt, in the same way as the troops in France adopted ‘San-Fairy-An’.

General. From 1913 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term, Arabic for ‘no matter, never mind’, was current from 1913, probably first picked up by the British troops in Egypt. It was used a lot by the Australian troops stationed there in World War I. It continued to be used in Australian English (AND).

*Margarine Merchant  A supply or A.S.C. [Army Service Corps] Officer.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Material to Administer  See ‘Stuff to give ’em’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Material to Administer’ apparently equates with the popular phrase Stuff to give ‘em.

*M & D  Medicine and duty. A familiar sick parade slogan.

General World War I. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

F&G explain this as ‘The letters marked in the Medical Officer’s report opposite the name of a man reporting sick, but with really little the matter with him in the Medical Officer’s opinion. As the notation consequently often implied a suspicion of malingering, in the ranks at the Front ‘M and D’ was used as an expression applicable to men suspected of malingering, or shamming sickness.’

Meat Hook  The arm.

General. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this term. It continued to be used in Australia and the US in particular (Green).

 

Meat Ticket  Identity discs worn by all troops to enable identification by burial parties in the event of their death.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

See Dead Meat Ticket for further explanation.

Meat Trap  The mouth.

Originally US. From 1851 (Lighter).

This term is not well attested, the more common expression for ‘mouth’ being simply ‘trap’. Green and Lighter indicate that ‘meat trap’ was predominantly a US term.

*Menin Road Meat Extract  Bully beef, beef tea, beef extract. So called from the number of dead horses and mules on the Menin Road (Ypres Sector).

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Mercy Blow Through  Thank You. (From the French ‘merci beaucoup’).

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested in Dickson and Partridge.

A short-lived World War I play on a standard French expression. Dickson records ‘messy bucket’ also being current.

*Merry Anzacs  Casual Australians (used ironically).

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Methusilier  A member of the Australian Remount Unit. So called because its personnel consisted of men over [military] age.

General World War I. Australian. From 1916 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Methusilier’ was a play on ‘Methuselah’, grandfather of Noah, said to have lived 969 years (Genesis 5:27) and used of ‘any old person’, and ‘fusilier’, a member of any of several British regiments formerly armed with fusils (a light musket) (NODE).

Micks  The tails of the pennies used in a game of ‘two-up’.

General Australian. From 1918 (AND).

*Middlesex Officer  A foppish officer, i.e., a member of the ‘middle sex’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Mills’ Spud  Mills’ grenade.

‘Mills’ (used attributively) general World War I. From 1916 (OED).

‘Mills’ spud’ for the ‘Mills’ grenade’ is attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge. It was a hand grenade invented by Sir William Mills (1856-1932), serrated on the outside to form shrapnel on explosion. The name was a jocular reference to the grenade’s resemblance to a potato.

Minnies  A popular abbreviation of ‘Minenwerfer’ used chiefly in reference to the minenwerfer bomb. (A heavy German trench mortar bomb.)

General World War I. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Mitt  The hand.

General. Originally US. From 1893 (Lighter).

Moke  A mule or horse.

‘Donkey’, general. From 1848 (OED). ‘Horse’, general Australian. From 1863 (AND). Both attested in numerous sources.

The Australian usage of ‘moke’ for ‘a horse’ generally implied ‘an inferior horse’.

*Mole-Hole  A dug-out.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Moniker  A name, signature.

General. From 1851 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Arthur and Ramson speculate that this possibly came from Shelta, ‘a cryptic jargon used by tinkers and composed in part of Irish and Gaelic words.’

Mooch  To saunter more or less aimlessly or absent-mindedly.

General. From 1851 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This probably comes from the standard English sense from 1851, ‘to loaf, skulk, sneak, loiter, or hang about’ (OED), but is perhaps also influenced by the US sense, ‘to go, amble’, recorded from 1894 (Lighter).

*Mopper-up  (1) A drunkard. (2) One of [a] party of men who follow the leading waves of attack in order to clear the enemy from the ground behind the assaulting troops.

(1) ‘To mop up’, general. From ca. 1810 (Partridge).

The verb ‘to mop’ meaning ‘to empty a glass’ or ‘drinking in quantity’ is attested. ‘Mopper-up’ as ‘drunkard’ presumably derives from this.

(2) ‘To mop up’, general military. From 1900 (OED).

The verb ‘to mop up’ in a military sense meaning ‘To clear ground of remaining enemy combatants after an attack’ is attested in numerous sources. ‘Mopper-up’ derives from the verb.

Mother’s-Pet  An abbreviation of the initials M.P. denoting ‘Military Policeman’, and a common nickname for members of the Provost Corps.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Mousee  Cheese.

This term attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Partridge notes ‘mouse-trap’ for ‘cheese’ being current in the Services but does not record this variant.

*Mouth-Organ  A Stokes shell. So called from the peculiar note caused by the air passing through the holes around the base of the shell as it rises.

General World War I. From 1916 (Partridge). Attested in F&G and Partridge.

*Movies  Searchlights.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

Dickson records that the person working the searchlights was said to be ‘on the pictures’ or ‘on the movies’.

*Mud-Hook  (1) An anchor (2) The anchor in the game of ‘Crown & Anchor’.

(1) General. From 1827 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Mug  A fool, one who is easily defeated or defrauded.

General. Originally US. From 1859 (Lighter and OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Lighter notes this as being originally an underworld and carnival term.

*Mug-Gunner  Lewis machine gunner.

World War I Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Partridge notes that this is formed on the initials of ‘machine-gunner’ and the dangerous (i.e. a ‘mug’s’) job.

N.B.G. No bloody good.

General. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in B&P, F&G, Green, and Partridge.

*Nail-scissors  The crossed sword and baton worn by a General.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Napoo  Finished, gone away.

General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was a corruption of the French ‘il n’y en a plus’, ‘there is no more’. B&P continue ‘given in answer to enquiries for drink, when the estaminet keeper expected officers or colonial troops who would pay more. From this word came to be used for all the destructions, obliterations and disappointments of war’. F&G also note that this was ‘originally the French shopkeeper’s stock reply when asked for anything sold out.’

Nark  One who spoils a scheme; a spoil sport.

General. Mainly Australian. From 1846 (OED).  Attested in numerous sources.

This sense is chiefly Australian, although the OED records an 1846 usage (although the sense is unclear); the verb ‘to nark’ meaning ‘to thwart (a scheme, etc.)’ is Australian from 1891 (AND).

Nat Goulds  Reinforcements. So called because they have ‘landed at last’, the name of one of Gould’s books.

World War I Australian. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Nat Gould (1857-1919) was an Australian novelist whose books were very popular in the early 20th century. Many were about racing and other sporting activities. Landed at Last was indeed the title of one of his novels, and was applied here to a soldier’s reactions to the arrival of reinforcements.

Navel  See ‘Gutzer’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is a jocular euphemism for the more common Gutzer.

Ned Kelly’s Blood  Vin Rouge, red wine.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Nip  To beg or borrow.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Green.

‘To put the nips in’ was current in Australia and New Zealand from 1917 (AND). The verb ‘to nip’ meaning ‘to cadge’ was first recorded in Digger Dialects.

Nit  A policeman.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

This is a more specific use of ‘nit’, ‘the egg or young form of a louse or other parasitic insect, especially the egg of a human head louse attached to a hair’, which was used generally as a term of contempt.

*Noah’s Doves  Reinforcements who were at sea and on their way to the war zone at the time the Armistice was signed.

World War I Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

*Nob  A double headed penny (‘two-up’).

General Australian. From 1903 (AND).

This derives from British slang ‘nob’ meaning ‘head’.

Nobby A nickname usually given to men named Clarke.

General. Originally naval. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in F&G, Hargrave, and Partridge.

*No Farver, No Movver  A catch phrase which implies the remainder of the original expression in ‘the poor little fellow’ copied from begging boys in Eastern places.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

No Good to Gundy  Of no advantage, ‘no good to me’.

General Australian. From 1907 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

The origin of this term is not known. Green provides the following possible etymologies: from the Welsh dialect ‘gundy’ meaning ‘to steal’, thus ‘not worth stealing’; a relict of the flood that devastated the town of Gundagai in 1852; from a comment by an Aborigine known as Gundy when rejecting a drink of whiskey; or from the rebuttal of a temperance preacher attempting to force his views on the populace of Gundagai.

*Nose Bag  See ‘Feed-bag’.

General World War I. From 1915 (OED).

This was a humorous term for ‘a gas mask’. See also Feed bag.

*Nose-Bleeds  Red gorget tabs worn by Staff Officers.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Nose Dive   A vertical drop, nose first (of an aeroplane).

General Flying. From 1912 (OED).

Nose Well Down  In a great hurry.

General military. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

This might derive from the sense of soldiers marching with their heads down, or as Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest it is ‘a jocular emphatic formation on the aeronautical term “nose down”, “with the nose directed downward.”’

Nuggett  A short soldier.

General Australian in the sense of ‘a short person’. From 1852 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Nugget’was used of a ‘a small, stocky animal or person’ in Australia from the middle of the 19th century.

Number Nine  A purgative pill, the M.O.’s panacea.

General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, Hargrave, and PWWII.

This was a common term for a pill that cured all, and was used across the Services. Its origin is unknown.

Nut  (1) The head. (2)  A brainy person. (3) A funny person.

(1) General. From 1846 (OED).

(2) This sense attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Baker does record the term ‘nut-worker’ for ‘a man who uses his brains to avoid work or achieve some object.’

(3) General. Possibly originally US. From 1917 (Lighter).

This sense may well be originally American deriving from a vaudeville sense of ‘nut’ meaning ‘an eccentric comedian’, and thereafter applied to ‘a highly amusing person’ (Lighter). Baker and Partridge also record an Australian sense of ‘nut’ meaning ‘a young larrikin, a high-spirited young dare-devil’ which may be related to this sense, and possibly also (2).

Office  A hint; information.

General. From 1803 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Offsider  Assistant. The term applies to a bullock driver’s assistant who when his services are required works on the off or right hand side of the team.

General Australian. From 1879 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Oil  News; information.

General World War I. Australian. From 1915 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was often used in the phrase ‘dinkum oil’, meaning ‘correct information’, and was popularly used by the Australian services. It is a figurative use of ‘oil’, ‘a substance essential to the running of a machine’.

Oiled  Drunk.

General. Originally US. From 1737 (Lighter and OED). Attested in numerous sources.

To be ‘oiled up’ was an Australian variant of this, current from 1898 (AND). It is a figurative use of ‘oiled’, ‘to lubricate’.

Old & Bold, The The name applied to the British Labour Corps serving at Anzac. The personnel of these units were all above military age, or had been rejected for active service in fighting units.

World War I. This precise sense attested here but not otherwise recorded.

See the Daddies. ‘The Old and Bolds’ is recorded by Partridge as referring to a specific British regiment, quite different to the ones described here. The two are probably unrelated, as ‘old and bold’ is more likely to be a description of the attributes of the soldiers described here.

*Old Man Gains Experience  A phrase applied to cases where a man who runs a gambling game loses in the betting.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Old Slippery  See ‘Rubber-heeled Jack’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

See Rubber-heeled Jack.

*Olive Branch  A reinforcement who arrived in a fighting unit after the Armistice.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

See also Noah’s Doves, Rainbow. All make reference to the biblical passage of finding land after the Great Flood.

Oncks  Francs.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and F&G.

This is presumably a corruption of ‘franc’.

*On One’s Pink Ear  Down and out. Frequently used without the ‘pink’.

‘On one’s ear’, general. Originally US. From the late 19th century (Green).

One Pip,  One Dot  A Second Lieutenant.

General military. From 1919 (OED). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

A Second Lieutenant only had one pip to denote his rank.

Oojah  Any article; one of the names given to a Fullerphone, when in the forward area, when it was devised to keep its presence unknown to the enemy.

General. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The term is of uncertain origin but the OED provides the following definition: ‘A substitute expression used to indicate vaguely a thing of which the speaker cannot at the moment recall the name, or which he does not care to specify precisely’. In full, it was often ‘ooja-cum-pivvy’ or a similar variant.

*Open Go  See ‘Fair Go’.

General Australian. From 1918 (AND).

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects make the following observation: ‘Perhaps subtly different from fair go “an equitable opportunity”, in that this means more “an unimpeded opportunity”’.

Oscar  Money. An abbreviation of the rhyming slang ‘Oscar Asche’,  ‘cash’.

General Australian. From 1917 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Oscar Asche’, the name of an actor (1871-1936), is rhyming slang for ‘cash’, and was current in Australia from 1905. The abbreviation was first recorded in 1917.

Outed  Hit with such force as to be killed or rendered temporarily senseless.

General in the sense of ‘to knock out’ from the middle of the 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

In the sense of ‘to disable, knock out’, this was current from the middle of the 19th century. Digger Dialects provides the first recorded instance of the sense of ‘to kill’ (OED).

Over the Bags  An attack by Infantry.

General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, Hargrave, F&G, and Partridge.

This was synonymous with ‘over the top’, that is, to go over the sandbags that lines the top of the trenches on the front. F&G records the popular phrase ‘Over the bags and the best of luck!’

*Over the Odds  Unconscionable.

General. From 1919 (OED).

Digger Dialects provides the first recorded instance of this phrase.

Paint  Jam

General military. From the 1890s (Partridge).

This was a derisive term, referring to the poor quality of the jam provided for troops.

*Parakeet  Staff Officer (see ‘Rosella’). So called from the red gorget tabs and the red band around the hat of a Staff Officer.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Parakeet’ is not well attested, unlike Rosella, but it is a similar allusion.

*Parapet Joe  A German machine gunner who attempts by continuous fire to prevent our men from looking over the parapet.

World War I Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects, Hargrave, and Partridge.

Parley  Speak. (From the French).

General. From 1582 (OED).

While ‘parley’ had been adopted in English from the French from the 16th century, it is possible that this borrowing was a fresh one during World War I.

Party  Go away. (From the French).

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

From French ‘partir’.

P.B.I.  Poor Bloody Infantry.

World War I. From 1916 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

Dickson cites the following: ‘According to Notes and Queries for December 1918, the predominantly British “P.B.I.” was “applied by the weary “foot-slogger” to himself, seeing that he gets a greater share of the kicks than, and the fewest halfpence of, any arm of the service.’

Pea-shooters  A German anti-tank gun.

General World War I (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

This has also been applied more generally to various kinds of guns, including rifles.

*Pebble Crushing  Route marching.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The OED records ‘gravel-crushing’ in a similar sense, that is, soldiers crushing pebbles or gravel when marching. Elting records the term ‘pebble-pusher’ meaning ‘an infantryman’.

*Peek [Peck in original ms]  Give in; yield.

General. From early 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects and F&G.

Penguin  A member of the Women’s Royal Air Force. A nickname, because they cannot fly.

World War I. Attested in F&G.

Percy

World War I. Attested in Cutlack and Dickson.

Cutlack defines ‘Percy’ as ‘an early name for a 4.7 inch naval gun in the field’.

Perked  Drunk.

Australian. Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

This probably derives from the term ‘perk’ meaning ‘beer’ current in Australian English from 1913 (AND). It derived from a shortening of ‘perkin’ meaning ‘beer’ from the brand name Barclay and Perkins (AND). AND also records ‘perk’ as a verb meaning ‘to vomit, especially from excessive drinking’ from 1941.

*Peut-etre  Perhaps; deferred pay.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

French ‘peut-être’ meaning ‘perhaps’ was obviously jokingly used to refer to the lateness of Army pay.

*Phosgene  (1) An anti-gas instructional officer. (2) Empty talk. (3) Profanity.

(1) General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

(2) General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

(3) General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

Senses (2) and (3) derive from (1), according to Partridge. Phosgene was used as part of chemical warfare in World War I. It was carbon oxychloride used as a poison gas during WWI and later used in the manufacture of some synthetic resins and organic chemicals (OED).

*Physical Jerks   A parade for physical training.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

See Jerks

Pig Arse  A contemptuous ejaculation.

General Australian. This is the earliest recorded evidence (AND). Attested in Partridge.

Along with ‘pig’s ear’ and ‘pig’s eye’, these expressions are common in Australia and the US (AND, OED).

Pig’s Ear  Beer.

General. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in Hargrave, Lawson, and Partridge.

*Pig-stabber  A bayonet.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The term ‘pig-sticker’ is an attested term for a bayonet (OED, Partridge).

*Pill Battery  Field Ambulance.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

This appears to be a jocular use of ‘battery’, ‘an artillery subunit of guns, men and vehicles’.

*Pill Box  A concrete blockhouse built to resist shell-fire.

General World War I. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

F&G provide the following description: ‘The name, from the shape (often circular in plan and roughly suggesting a ship’s conning tower) for the German ferro-concrete small battlefield-redoubts or forts, employed from the autumn of 1917 onwards to defend sections of the line in Flanders. Some of the larger were quadrangular in shape. They were garrisoned by small detachments of infantry with machine guns and were proof against anything except a direct hit by a big gun. Their capture was often effected by infantry with hand grenades flung into the entrance at the rear, or through the loopholes, while other infantry kept down the German rifle fire by shooting at the loopholes.’ The OED adds that this was ‘ludicrously applied to various boxes, closed vehicles, or enclosures of narrow dimensions; specifically a small round concrete emplacement for housing a machine-gun or similar weapon’.

Pinch  Steal.

General. From 1757 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Pine-apple  A light German trench mortar shell, grooved into sections to ensure a fragmental burst.

General World War I. From 1916 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term was also applied to a hand grenade (Elting, Partridge). The name derives from the criss-cross lines on it.

*Pin-Head  An unintelligent person.

General. Originally US. From 1896 (DAE, OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Pink’s An abominable brand of apricot jam and marmalade made by Pinks and Son, which was served out at Anzac.

World War I Australian. Not otherwise recorded.

Pin Out  Rapidly; in a hurry. (See ‘with the pin out’.)

See With the pin out.

Pipe  Stars worn by Captains and Lieutenants as their badge, a name for a passing ailment, usually mental despondency.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Pip-Squeak  A small shell. A high explosive high velocity shell fired from a field gun.

General World War I. From 1916 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

F&G provide the following: ‘A type of German shell fired from a small trench gun. From the sound of its discharge and flight. The word was often used by young officers in semi-official and official documents until an order was issued condemning its employment.’

Plonk  The explosion of a heavy shell.

General. From 1906 (OED).

Plug  To hit or punch.

General. From 1875 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Plum Pudding  A spherical iron shell filled with explosive and projected by means of a trench mortar towards the enemy trench.

World War I. From 1915 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

The OED’s first recorded evidence for this is F&G, but it is attested in Digger Dialects. Partridge dates it to 1915. F&G explain that this shell was so named because of its shape and size.

Point Blank  The white wine commonly used in France. The term is used on the Rifle Range as the name of a poisonous white paste that is applied to the foresight of the rifle to aid sighting. Its adaption as a name for ‘Vin Blanc’ was brought about partly by the similarity in the spelling of the second word and also partly because of the harsh effect it frequently had on Australians who drank of it too freely.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Po Juggler  A batman; an officer’s servant.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

This derives from ‘po’ in the sense of ‘a chamber-pot’ and derives from the French pronunciation of ‘pot’ in ‘pot de chambre’ as ‘po’ (Partridge).

Poling  To do less than one’s share thereby rendering the other fellows more difficult. This term was also borrowed from Australian bullock driving parlance. The ‘Polers’, the pair of bullocks nearest to the pole of the wagon, are generally regarded as being not only the strongest, but next to the leaders the outest pair in the team, and therefore more inclined to take things easy and let the other bullocks do the pulling, if the driver is not observant.

General Australian. From 1906 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Pole [Poll]  To take advantage of another’s good nature.

See Poling.

Pommy  An Englishman.

General Australian. From 1912 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This term has often been seen as a derogatory term for a person of English origin, and was first used in Australia of British migrants. This is probably a shortening of ‘pomegranate’, and a play on ‘immigrant’ and ‘jimmygrant’.

Pompey The nickname given to Brigadier General Elliott of the 15th Australian Infantry Brigade [probably derived from ‘Pompey’ Elliott, the well-known captain of the Carlton (Vic.) Football Club].

World War I.

This nickname is widely attested. Elliott did not initially like the nickname that was first applied to him by his troops, but the name persisted (The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History). Why the footballer was nicknamed ‘Pompey’ is unclear, but ‘Pompey’ was a nickname for the British town of Portsmouth.

Pong  An evil odour.

General. Originally Australian. From 1919 (OED).

‘Pong’ is first recorded in Digger Dialects. Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that this may relate to the Australian use of ‘pong’ meaning ‘a Chinese’, or to pongo.

Pongo  An Infantryman. Although commonly used in some units this term could hardly be regarded as universal.

General World War I. From 1919 (OED).

This was originally nautical slang (1917) for ‘a marine’, but is first  attested in Digger Dialects meaning ‘a soldier’. By the 1940s, this term was used in Australian English for an Englishman (AND). Partridge’s explanation for the origin of this word was that it came from the ‘forage cap worn by the soldiers resembled that worn by the pet dog Pongo from a Punch and Judy show’. A more simple explanation may be that it derives from, or is influenced by, pong meaning ‘a bad smell’.

*Pontoon  A game of chance with cards.

General. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was the popular card game, ‘twenty-one’. The name probably is a corruption from the pronunciation of the French for twenty-one, ‘vingt-et-un’ or ‘vingtun’.

P.O.Q.  ‘Piss off quickly’, go immediately.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Pork & Cheese, Pork & Beans  Portuguese soldiers.

‘Pork and beans’, World War I. From 1916 (Partridge). Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and Partridge. ‘Pork and cheese’, World War I. Attested in Partridge.

Partridge suggests that the term ‘pork and cheese’ was popular mainly with the New Zealand troops; it was rhyming slang for ‘Portuguese’.

*Port Holes in your Coffin, to want  To be hard to please.

General navy. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

Posh  The best, neat, superlative. Flying Corps slang.

General. From 1903 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Despite the definition provided here, this term does not appear to have its origin in Flying Corps slang. Partridge suggests that it emerged from Cambridge University slang. It was in general usage by the end of World War I, generally meaning ‘smart’, ‘swell’, ‘classy’.

Possy Abbreviation of ‘position’; place; dug-out; home.

General World War I. Australian. From 1915 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

There was a variety of spellings for this shortening of ‘position’ including ‘possie’, ‘pozzy’, ‘possy’ and ‘pozzie’.

Pot, To  To shoot.

General. From 1860 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This originated in the sense of ‘shooting something for the pot’ and was a hunting expression. This relates to the term ‘pot-shot’, ‘a shot taken at game for the purpose of filling the pot and without regard to the rules of sport’ (OED).

Pot, A  An important person.

General. From 1880 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Pot-Hole  A short trench, capable of holding one or two.

World War I. This specific sense is attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This was a transferred used of ‘pot-hole’, ‘a deep hole of more or less cylindrical shape’. Dickson and Partridge record a World War I sense of ‘pot-hole’ as ‘a shell-hole’.

*Pouter  A man’s chest.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that this derives from ‘pouter pigeon’, ‘a breed of pigeon characterised by its puffing out of the crop’.

 

Prad  A horse.

General. By the 20th century, chiefly Australian (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Originally a British term from 1798 (OED), it was current in Australia from the early 19th century and continued to be used in the 20th century (AND). It possibly derived from the Dutch ‘paard’.

Prate  See ‘Bot’.

This sense not otherwise recorded.

Prive  A Private Soldier.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Propaganda  Tall talk.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

Proverbial  See ‘Abdominal’, ‘Gutzer’.

General World War I. From 1916 (Partridge).

Pukka  Genuine.

General. From 1776 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was an Anglo-Indian term that took on general currency outside India. It derived from the Hindi ‘pakka’ meaning ‘cooked, ripe, substantial’, but came into Anglo-Indian from the late 17tth century.

Pull  ‘To have a pull’, to have influence.

General. Originally US. From 1889 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Pull On  To undertake.

Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

This is not a well attested term. Partridge suggests that it is Australian.

Pull Out  Withdraw, stop.

General. Originally US. From 1884 (OED).

*Pump Handle  Arm.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

‘Pump-handle’ as verb meaning ‘to shake in greeting (a person’s hand, or a person by the hand) as if working a pump-handle; to move (an arm, etc) in such a manner’ dates from 1844 (OED) and is well attested.

Pup  An aeroplane (Sopwith design).

General World War I. From 1917 (OED).

This was the nickname of the Sopwith Scout tractor, a small aeroplane used for combative and instructional purposes during World War I. Dickson adds that it was described as being ‘of minute dimensions, playful temperament and powerful disposition’.

*Pup Battalion  A Btn. of the 4th or 5th Division formed from half of one of the original 16th Battalion.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Push  A general attack; an offensive.

General. From 1803 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

While ‘push’ has been current for a military advance since the 19th century, it first became widely used in World War I. B&P elaborate: ‘The word first became popular, perhaps through journalism, in 1916, and The Big Push was the general name at that time for the first British assaults on the Somme. The word indicated the desired ideal rather than the actuality.’

*Push In  Intrude, e.g. ‘Push one’s frame in’.

General. Standard English (Collins English Dictionary).

Pushing Up Daisies  To be dead and buried.

General World War I. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The phrase ‘pushing up daisies’ appears to be a term first used during World War I. The OED cites Wilfred Owen’s poems as the first recorded evidence of the exact phrase (see below). However, the terms ‘toes turned up to the daises’ and ‘under the daisies’ were current from the middle of the 19th century (OED).

‘I shall be one with nature, herb, and stone.’

Shelley would tell me. Shelley would be stunned;

The dullest Tommy hugs that fancy now.

Pushing up daisies,’ is their creed, you know.

To grain, then, go my fat, to buds my sap,

For all the usefulness there is in soap.

1917–18 Wilfred Owen ‘A Terre (Being the Philosophy of Many Soldiers)’

*Puss-in-boots  A bumptious officer.

General military. From the early 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

This was a reference to the fairy tale by Charles Perrault, ‘Puss-in-boots’.

Put his Pot On  Report him, inform against him.

General Australian. From 1864 (AND).

This is usually expressed as ‘put the pot on someone’. It derives from the sense of ‘pot’ meaning ‘to take a sitting shot’ (Arthur and Ramson).

Put it Over  (1) Beat; defeat. (2) Deceive. See also ‘Put the fangs in’.

(1) General. From 1898 (OED).

(2) General. From 1912 (OED).

*Put the Acid On  (1) Ask. (2) Test. (3) Put a stop to; to spoil.

(1) General Australian. From 1906 (AND).

This phrase derived from ‘acid test’ meaning the ‘test in which gold is distinguished from other metals by its resistance to nitric acid’. It is commonly taken to mean ‘to exert a pressure which is difficult to resist’ (AND).

(2) General. From 1908 (Partridge). Attested in F&G, Green, and Partridge.

(3) General. From 1908 (Partridge). Attested in F&G, Green, and Partridge.

Put the Fangs In  To request a favour or loan.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this term, possibly related to the Australian term ‘to bite’ meaning ‘to solicit money’, current from 1912 (AND).

*Put the Muzzle On  Stop talking.

This exact phrase recorded here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is a variant of ‘to muzzle’ meaning ‘to silence’, which dates to the 16th century (OED).

Put Up a Stall  Tell a fictitious story with a view to obtaining a privilege.

General. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in F&G, Green, and Partridge.

This is related to a slang sense of ‘stall’ meaning ‘a pickpocket’s helper who distracts the attention of the victim whose pocket is being rifled; also the action or an act of stalling’ (dating from 1591), and ‘stall off’ meaning ‘an act of stalling off; an evasive story or trick’ (from 1812).

Putty, up to  No good.

General World War I. Australian. From 1916 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

AND suggests this may be a figurative use of ‘putty’ meaning ‘powder’. Partridge suggests this may derive from the ‘softness of putty’ and may connect to the popular phrase ‘[one] couldn’t fight putty’ in the sense of being a very poor fighter.

*Put Up a Stunt  See ‘Stunt’, to effect something.

This phrase is attested here and in Digger Dialects.

See Stunt.

Put up, to be  To be indicted for a military crime.

General military. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

This derives from the general sense of ‘to bring a person into court on a charge’ from the 15th century (OED).

Quack  A Medical Officer.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Quack’ from the 17th century referred to ‘a medical charlatan’. The neutral sense, as used here, is Australian.

Quarter-bloke  Quarter-master.

General World War I. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Quick Dick

World War I. Attested in Cutlack, F&G, and Partridge.

This was a nickname for a high-velocity gun (Cutlack).

*Quiff  An idiosyncracy. ‘Regimental Quiff’, a method of performing a drill movement.

General military. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and F&G.

This is a specific adaptation of ‘quiff’ meaning ‘a clever trick or dodge’, from 1881 (OED). F&G provide the following explanation of its use in a military sense: ‘Any specially ingenious smart, tricky, or novel or improvised way of doing anything (Navy). In the Army used of any drill method peculiar to a battalion, and not usually done in others. Where the wording of the Drill Book is vague, units often read different meanings into the phraseology and invent their own “Quiffs”’.

*Rabbit-trap  Mouth.

This exact term is attested here and in Digger Dialects.

This is a variation of ‘trap’ for ‘mouth’ which was in use from the 18th century (OED). Partridge records the similar ‘rat-trap’ (1923). See also Meat Trap.

*Rag-time  Disorderly; haphazard; irregular.

General World War I. From 1919 (OED).

This first came into use during World War I. B&P note that ‘the troops used ragtime as an adjective for any special form of inefficiency or absurdity.’ It was derived from the music sense of ragtime, ‘music characterized by a syncopated melodic line and regularly accented musical accompaniment’ (NODE).

*Rainbow  A reinforcement, or member of non-combatant corps, who joined a fighting unit after the Armistice. [From the idea of] rainbow after the storm.

General World War I. Australian. From 1919 (AND).

This came to be broadly applied to any late reinforcement, and was used also in World War II (AND).

Ram  A rake; one who leads an immoral life.

General. From 1919 (Digger Dialects).

The OED records this first in 1935, making Digger Dialects the first recorded evidence of this term. Stephens and O’Brien, however, record this (ca. 1910) for ‘a libertine or licentious man’ and mark it as an Australian bush term.

Rammies  Breeches.

General Australian. From 1906 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

AND suggests that this is an altered form of ‘round me (or the) houses’, rhyming slang for ‘trousers’. It is also found in South African English (DSA).

*Rat, to  To search a prisoner or a dead body; pick a pocket.

General Australian. From 1898 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Rat, to have a  To be crazy.

General Australian. From 1894 (AND).

This term was first recorded in the US in 1890, but was chiefly an Australian and New Zealand term (OED). Stephens and O’Brien suggest that this was an abbreviation of ‘(to have) rats in your garret’.

*Rat and Fowl  An Australian shilling.

Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson note that this was ‘presumably in reference to the emu and the kangaroo in the representation of the Australian coat of arms on the 1910 shilling’.

Ration Carriers  Apart from its official meaning, a term used by orderly corporals and others in jocular vein when referring to (RCs) Roman Catholics on sick parade or their church parade.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

*Rations  ‘Wet Rations’ cooked foods etc.; rain; mud; intoxicants; ‘Dry Rations’ uncooked food; a dust storm; sand or dust; a sermon.

World War I. ‘Wet’ and ‘dry rations’ as food, attested in Digger Dialects and in F&G. Other senses attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The sense of ‘rations’ as military-issue food dates from the early 18th century (OED). The ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ senses pertaining to ‘cooked’ and ‘uncooked food’ appear to be a World War I meaning. The other senses are attested here and in Digger Dialects but are not otherwise recorded, but are probably also a World War I usage.

Rattled  Embarrassed; grip of the situation lost.

General. Originally US. From 1869 (DAE, OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Red Cap  A Military Policeman.

General World War I. Attested in B&P, F&G, Green, and Partridge.

B&P provide the following expanded definition of ‘red cap’ as used in World War I: ‘So called because they wore a sort of lid of red flannel over the top of their khaki caps. The most hated and despised men in France. Employed sometimes for the regulation of traffic, but chiefly to walk about the streets, examine passes, bully private soldiers, arrest absentees and generally exhibit truculence and self-satisfaction. They were also employed to staff military prisons and by all accounts revelled in the secret opportunities for cruelty which the job gave them. Red Caps were not voluntary and no decent man would undertake it if he realized what it implied.’

Red Light  A brothel. The licensed brothels in French towns exhibit a red or green light to indicate their business.

‘Red light district’, general. From 1900 (OED).

B&P and Partridge both record this as ‘red lamp’.

Regimental  ‘To come a regimental’, a regimental cadorna, crash, etc. See ‘Gutzer’.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

*Regimentally reduced  To go and get seduced. A refusal accompanied by abuse.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This may well be a rhyming slang euphemism for ‘go and get fucked’.

*Reinstouchments  Reinforcements.

World War I Australian. From 1918 (AND). Attested in Baker, Digger Dialects, and Partridge.

This is a play on ‘reinforcement’ and ‘Stoush’.

*Respigrator Anti-gas box respirator.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

An unexplained variation on ‘respirator’.

Rest Camp  (1) A cemetery. (2) In the official sense a camp where war wearied troops were sent for a rest.

(1) General World War I. Attested in B&P, Dickson, and Partridge.

This was an ironic use of (2).

(2) General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and F&G.

B&P write of the rest camps: ‘camps behind the lines where troops returning weary from the line were harried with incessant parades and brass-polishing.’

*Revving  Very busy. Adapted from the simile of the revolutions of an aeroplane propellor.

General. From 1919 (Digger Dialects).

Digger Dialects appears to be the earliest recorded evidence for this figurative use of ‘revved up’. Green and Partridge date this from the 1960s.

 *Ride on Your Back  Term of abuse signifying goat.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Ringer  (1) An expert. (2) A cheat. (3) A coward.

(1) General Australian. From 1848 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This derives from the verb ‘ring’, meaning to cheat (Partridge) and sometimes found in the form ‘ring it’ (F&G).

(3) This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This relates to ring it meaning ‘to show cowardice’.

*Ring In  Surreptitiously introduce.

General. From ca. 1810 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

While in general use from ca. 1810, this has acquired specific meanings in Australian English, especially in relation to horse-racing and two-up.

Ring It, Ring His Tail  Play the coward.

General Australian. 20th century (Green). Attested in Baker, Digger Dialects, F&G, and Green.

Ringo  See ‘Dope’.

Not otherwise recorded.

Rise and Shine  Reveille.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

*Rissole King  Army cook.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is yet another combination with ‘king’, popular in army talk. See King o’ the nits.

*Roar-up  Upbraid; abuse.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this term.

Roll  A sum of money; literally a roll of notes.

General. Originally US. From 1854 (DAE).

Rosella  A Staff Officer, who with his gold lace, scarlet cap band, medal ribbon etc., was supposed to resemble the Rosella, an Australian parrot possessing a great variety of colors.

General World War I Australian. From 1919 (AND).

This term was also used in World War II to refer to an officer (Partridge).

*Rough as Bags  See ‘Rough Stuff’.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This came ‘from the use of hessian sacks and sacking for a variety of purposes’(Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects).

Rough Carpenters  See ‘Ration Carriers’.

Not otherwise recorded.

Like ‘ration carriers’ this was a jocular expansion of ‘R.C.’, meaning Roman Catholic.

Roughey  A statement difficult to believe.

General Australian. From 1914 (AND).

*Rough House  A fight; disorderly proceedings.

General. Originally US. From 1887 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Rough Stuff  An undisciplined, reckless, indecent, disorderly person or thing.

General. From 1915 (OED).

*Rough Up  (1) A brawl; horseplay. (2) An unmannerly, violent or irresponsible person.

(1) General Australian. From 1891 (AND). Attested in Green and OED.

(2) General Australian. From 1911 (AND).

*Round Feet  Trench feet. A foot disease caused by cold and damp.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Rouse  Upbraid.

General Australian. From 1896 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This derived from a Scots dialect word ‘roust’ meaning ‘to roar, to bellow’. It is often used with ‘at’ or ‘on’.

 

*Rubber-gutz  (1) A clumsy person. (2) A pompous person.

(1) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

(2) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Rubber Heeled Jack  A German high velocity field gun, whose shells travels so fast as not to be heard until after the burst.

General World War I. Attested in Dickson, Digger Dialects, and Partridge.

Rumble  (1) To discover someone’s trickery. (2) To acquire by a trick, effect a swindle.

(1) General. From 1886 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Rum-Jar  A heavy type of trench mortar (German).

General World War I. From 1916 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was a minenwerfer shell. The name was derived from its shape (F&G).

*Runner  The 1914–15 war ribbon.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The 1914–15 Star was given to around 85,000 Australian service personnel, including those who served at Gallipoli. It is unclear why it was called a ‘runner’.

Run the Rule Over  Search the man for valuables, to estimate his capabilities.

General. From 1874 (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&H, Green, and Partridge.

This was originally a criminal cant term.

Salvoes  Salvation Army.

General Australian. From 1891 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

F&G record this as also meaning ‘A Salvation Army Hut. By permission of the authorities in the War, various religious bodies, the Y.M.C.A. and others, maintained establishments for the rest and recreation of the men behind the lines’.

Sand  Sugar.

General. From 1812 (OED).

This is originally used for ‘moist sugar’; from the later 19th century, it referred merely to ‘sugar’, and was mostly a Navy term (Partridge).

San-Fairy-Ann  It does not matter, don’t worry. Corruption of the French ‘Ça ne fait rein’.

General World War I. Corruption of the French. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Various sources attest to the popularity of this expression during World War I. There are a few variations: ‘san ferry ann’(Digger Dialects), ‘Aunt Mary Ann’ (F&G), and ‘sandbag Mary Ann’ (Dickson).

Sarge  Sergeant.

General. Originally US. From 1867 (DAE, OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Sarmajor  Sergeant-Major.

General. From 1919 (OED).

Less well attested than sarge, this term was first recorded in Digger Dialects.

Sausage  A captive balloon.

General World War I. From 1916 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Sausage balloons’ were kite balloons used for observation, and hoisted and lowered by cable behind the lines (B&P). The term ‘sausage balloon’ was used in the 19th century for ‘an elongated aeronautical balloon’ (OED).

Say-pah  Don’t know. Corruption of the French, ‘Je ne sais pas’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Scales  To have scales on one’s belly; to be a sycophant; a crawler.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Scamperer  Runner; front line messenger.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Digger Dialects records this as ‘scarperer’, suggesting a short-lived word based on the slang sense of ‘scarper’ meaning ‘to run away’ (Partridge). ‘Scamperer’ is recorded by Green and Partridge as a late 18th – early 19th century term meaning ‘a street ruffian’.

Scrag  Man-handle.

General. From 1835 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Scran  Food.

General. From 1808 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was first used in the sense of ‘a collection of eatables’ but was, by the late 19th century, often used in a military context for ‘rations’ (Partridge).

Scrap  A fight.

General. From 1846 (OED).

Partridge makes the comment that in World War I and subsequently, ‘scrap’ has come to mean ‘ battle’. NODE suggests that its origin is in ‘scrap’ meaning ‘sinister plot, scheme’ in the late 17th century.

Screw, To have a  To look.

General. From 1907 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Screwed  Drunk.

General. From 1837 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This might be influenced by the sense of ‘tight’ meaning ‘drunk’.

Scrounge  (1) To pilfer; to cadge; to seize. (2) A pilferer, a thief, scrounging, mean, sharp, always looking after number 1; scroungerer; a cadger esp. a cadger of cigarettes, etc.

(1) General. From 1909 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This derived from the British dialect ‘scrunge’, meaning ‘steal’. B&P write of ‘scrounge’ during World War I: ‘To steal, not personal belongings, but from a department or some other embodiment of authority. More army property changed hands in France by scrounging than by legitimate means.’

(2) The noun sense in this form is attested here but not otherwise recorded.

The term ‘scrounger’, however, is common.

 

*Sell A Pup  To deceive; trick; fail to fulfill an obligation.

General. From 1901 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The OED defines this as meaning ‘to swindle by selling something on its prospective value’, first used literally and then figuratively.

*Send Along  See ‘Put up’.

General Australian. From ca. 1870 (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

*Send Her Down Steve  Let it rain on.

General World War I. Australian (Partridge).

The more common Australian expression is ‘send her down Hughie’, current from 1912 (AND). ‘Send her down Steve’ is attested in Green and Partridge and is Australian. ‘Send it down David (or Davy)’ is recorded by F&G and seems to be a British variant. The catchphrase was used when a shower of rain began, especially if it was likely to postpone or cancel a parade. Hargrave adds that it was used sarcastically during wet weather.

*Sergt. Major  The crown in ‘Crown and Anchor’.

General military. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

F&G explain that this was suggested by the crown on a Company Sergeant Major’s sleeve.

Set  (1) Fixed; all arranged; adapted from ‘two-up’ in which it is used to indicate that the money staked by the spinner has been covered by other betters. (2) ‘Got him set’, treating him unfairly through malice.

(1) General Australian. From 1915 (AND).

(2) General Australian. From 1899 (AND).

Seventyfive The French 75mm gun.

World War I. From 1915 (OED).

The OED defines this as ‘a gun of 75mm calibre formerly used in the armies of the French Republic and the USA’.

Seventyseven The German 77mm gun.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Sheila  A girl.

General Australian. From 1832 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

*Shell Hole Soldiers  One who lags behind the advance.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

This presumably refers to soldiers who stayed in shell-holes, rather than advancing.

Shell-shocked  Badly knocked about by artillery fire, usually used in reference to a village; dump, etc.

World War I. This exact sense attested here but not otherwise recorded.

‘Shell-shock’ was in use from 1915 to refer to the psychological condition affecting soldiers during World War I. F&G provide the following information: ‘The popular term in the War for an obscure form of nervous disease prevalent in the Army. It was officially adopted in 1916 and applied to all forms of psycho-neurosis; although by neurologists the term was limited to cases of concussion or commotion of the brain, directly caused by shell explosion. Often due to fatigue, anxiety and emotional instability from prolonged strain, resulting in final breakdown, precipitated by a shell-burst near the sufferer. Owing to the number of claims for gratuity for “Shell Shock”, allowable as a battle-casualty, Army Form W 3436 was issued requiring evidence by eye-witnesses of the proximity of a soldier to the bursting shell. One result recorded at Base hospitals was that dread of a return to service in the trenches induced the development of a form of shell-shock among highly strung men, in the form of hysteria, tremors, convulsions, paralysis, blindness, deafness, etc. It was stated in the House of Lords in 1920, that in the early days of the War, before Shell Shock was fully understood, death sentences for cowardice and desertion were passed and executed on men, who in the light of later experience were suffering from shell-shock and really not responsible for their actions. Since the war, the term has been officially abolished, in favour of the technical term “Psycho-neurosis”, owing, among other reasons, to widespread abuses, through men unjustifiably posing as “Shell shock victims” to attract public sympathy.’

Shick  Intoxicated.

General Australian. From 1907 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is an abbreviation of ‘shicker’, from the Yiddish ‘shiker’.

Shining Stars  Officers commissioned in Australia and wearing bright brass badges etc. instead of the oxidized kind usually worn by infantry in France.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Shirty  Angry.

General. From 1846 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This derives from the phrase ‘to get a person’s shirt out’, meaning ‘to lose one’s temper’ (OED).

*Shooting Gallery  The front line.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

*Shooting-Iron  18 pounder field piece.

World War I. This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects.

This was used of ‘a rifle, or any firearm’, from the late 18th century (F&G, Green, and Partridge).

Short-Arm  A medical inspection of the penis.

General World War I. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was an abbreviation of ‘short-arm inspection’, an inspection for venereal disease. B&P write, ‘Conducted periodically by the M.O., to detect symptoms of venereal disease. A platoon of men would be lined up, without privacy, in a hut. The soldiers’ name is derived, by obvious analogy, from the parade inspection of rifles.’

*Shot Up the Back  Disconcerted; confused.

World War I. This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

F&G and Partridge record this as meaning ‘to be found out’. Partridge records this as a euphemism for ‘shot up the arse’.

*Show a Point  Deceive, use deceitfully. See ‘sell a pup’.

General. Originally New Zealand. From 1907 (DNZE). Attested in Partridge.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that this is related to the sense of ‘point’ as to ‘take unfair advantage of a person, a situation’.

*Shrap  Abbreviation of shrapnel. Used as a name for paper currency in low denominations by the various communes and towns in France, principally because of its tendency to disintegrate after a little use, also on account of the number of notes required to amount to any considerable sum. Also ‘Pork & Beans’.

General World War I. New Zealand (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

It is unclear what the ‘Pork & Beans’ reference is to, but it is also recorded in Digger Dialects. Partridge writes of the French paper currency, ‘they were often holey, as though punctuated by shrapnel’.

*Shrapnel Battery  Field-Cooker.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Shrewd Head  A cunning person.

General 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

Partridge notes this was mostly Australian/New Zealand military.

Shrewdy  See ‘Shrewd Head’.

General Australian. From 1904 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is also sometimes spelt ‘shrewdie’.

Shut-Eye  Sleep.

General. From 1899 (OED).

This originally appeared in a Services’ context, but has also been used generally in the 20th century.

 *Silly-Grin  An ironical ejaculation importing pain or misfortune.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not recorded otherwise.

Sin-shifter  An Army chaplain.

General. From 1912 (OED). Attested in Digger Dialects and Green.

This later referred to any clergyman (Green).

*Sit on the Tail  To fly slightly above and in the rear of an enemy aeroplane.

General Flying. From 1919 (OED). Attested in Digger Dialects.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this phrase.

Sit-Pat  Remain quiet.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is probably based on the general ‘pat’ used as an adverb meaning ‘exactly suitable or to the purpose, apposite, apt; ready or suitable for the occasion, opportune. (Said esp. of things spoken.)’ (OED), and used as a poker term.

Skirt  A girl.

General. From 1560 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was used generally of women, especially attractive ones.

Skittled  Killed.

General. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of the figurative use of ‘skittled’, ‘to knock down’. Green and Partridge suggest this sense is mostly Australian.

Sky Pilot  A minister of religion; chaplain.

General. From 1888 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term probably had its origins in naval slang and was commonly used throughout the Services.

*Slander  An improper or unfair action; or abuse.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Slanter  False play; deliberately trying to lose when running a race, etc.

General Australian. From 1864 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This has various spelling, including ‘schlanter’, ‘schelenter’ and ‘slinter’. It originated in Dutch and Afrikaans, and as ‘schlenter’ is current in South African English meaning ‘not genuine, counterfeit’.

*Slap  ‘To have a slap’, to make an attempt.

General. From 1840 (OED).

Slap-up  Good.

General. From 1823 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was often taken to mean more than ‘good’. Something that was ‘slap-up’ was ‘of superior quality’, ‘first-rate, grand’.

Slapped Up  Improvised; a hurried job.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Slatherer  See ‘Snifter’.

Not otherwise recorded.

This sense of ‘slather’ is likened to snifter which is defined as ‘extraordinarily good or big’. ‘Slather’ used in a standard sense generally means ‘a large amount’. It is originally from the US, from 1876 (DAE).

Sling  ‘Sling him one’, or sling a salute.

‘Sling him one’, World War I. From 1919 (Digger Dialects).

Partridge records ‘sling him one’ as an Army and RAF term from the 1930s, a variant of ‘throw one up’ meaning ‘to salute’. This term is attested here and in Digger Dialects, suggesting that it may well have been current from World War I.

Slip  To make a mistake; to lose an advantage (e.g. to slip for pay).

General. From 1435 (OED).

*Slippery-dick  See ‘Rubber-heeled Jack’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Sloosh  A wash. Corruption of ‘sluice’.

General. From 1912 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

OED does suggest that this might be a variant of ‘sluice’, but it is also echoic, like ‘slosh, slush’.

Slug  Strike; punch.

General. From 1862 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was originally a dialect term, and is also widely used in the US. It now has general currency.

*Slushey  A mess orderly.

General Australian. From 1880 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was first used in Australia of ‘a cook’s assistant, especially for a shearing gang’, transferred from the sense of ‘a ship’s cook’. It was adapted in World War I to refer to ‘a mess orderly’.

*Smack  (1) Wound. (2) An attempt.

(1) This sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

(2) General. From the late 19th century (Partridge).

These are both figurative uses of ‘smack’ meaning ‘a sounding blow delivered with the flat of the hand’, from 1746 (OED).

*Smudged  Killed by being blown to pieces by a shell.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Snag  (1) An obstacle. (2) A dangerous man.

(1) General. From 1830 (OED).

(2) General Australian. From 1905 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a figurative use of (1).

*Snaky  Angry (e.g. to turn snaky, irritable).

General Australian. From 1894 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

*Snare  Acquire; steal.

General. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge records this as Australian, as does Green. It is also included in Dennis’ 1916 glossary, suggesting that it had some currency in Australian English.

Snavel  To steal or misappropriate.

General Australian. From 1892 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This originated as a British dialect term but was chiefly Australian from the late 1890s.

Snifter, Snodger  Extraordinarily good or big.

‘Snifter’, general. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Snodger’, general Australian. From 1917 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Snifter’ is originally a British dialect term meaning ‘a strong wind’ (Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects). ‘Snodger’ possibly derives from the British dialect ‘snod’ meaning ‘sleek, neat, in good order’ (AND).

Snipe (Sopwith)

World War I Flying. Attested in Cutlack.

Cutlack records that the Sopwith ‘Snipe’ was produced in 1918, and was ‘primarily designed for fighting high’. It was used by the No.4 Australian Squadron from October, 1918.

Snob-shop  An army boot repairing shop.

General military. From the late 19th century (Green and Partridge).

This relates to the sense of ‘snob’ as a dialect term for ‘cobbler’ (NODE).

*Snotter  Kill. ‘Snottered’, killed.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson suggest a derivation from the Scots dialect meaning of ‘snot’, ‘a snub, admonitory rap’ (noun) and ‘to snub, reprove’ (verb).

Snouted  In disfavor or under disfavor.

General Australian. From 1913 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This might relate to the derivation of snotter. It was first recorded in New Zealand in 1905, and ‘snout’ was often found in the phrase, ‘to have a snout on or against’.

Snuff Out  To die.

General. From 1865 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Sock the Boot in  Literally to kick viciously. In a general sense, harsh treatment.

‘Put the boot into’, general. Possibly Australian. From 1916 (Partridge).

While ‘sock it to’ in the sense of ‘to strike, deal a blow’ was current from 1877, the sense given here appears to be a variant of ‘put the boot into’, ‘to kick a prostrate foe’ (literally or figuratively).

Soft snap  An easy matter.

General. Originally US. From 1877 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Sore Finger  An overdressed person, (e.g. ‘dolled’ up like a sore finger).

General Australian. From 1918 (AND). Attested in Baker, Digger Dialects, and Partridge.

Souvenir  In the slang sense, to appropriate articles belonging to a person or place; a euphemism for steal.

General World War I Australian. From 1918 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This term, while originating in WWI, has subsequently become widespread in the sense of ‘to steal’ (Green).

*Spare-Colonel, Spare Part  See ‘Floating Kidney’.

‘Spare-Colonel’, World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Spare Part’, general World War I. Attested in F&G and Partridge.

F&G records ‘spare part’ as being ‘a sarcastic term used for anyone incompetent, or not the kind of person wanted’.

*Spark Well  To be in good health.

This exact expression attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that this is a figurative use of ‘spark’, as in an internal combustion engine’.

Sparks  A wireless operator on board ship.

General. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term was used generally for ‘[o]ne who works with electrical equipment: a radio operator, an electrician, etc’ (OED).

Spin (in rough)  A bad time. From ‘two up’, in which the man who tossed the pennies in the spinner and has either a good or bad spin. It is applicable to the general experience of life.

General Australian. From 1917 (AND).

Split (1) Unusual. (2) An aeroplane on its side banking for a sharp turn.

(1) General. From 1917 (OED).

This was originally an Royal Flying Corps term, meaning ‘classy, showy’ and used of an airman.

(2) General. From 1917 (OED).

This derives from (1) and refers to a particular flying stunt.

Both of these are recorded in Digger Dialects and the OED as ‘split-ass’.

Spook  An army signaller, especially a wireless operator. How this term came to be applied in this sense is doubtful, although probably it was because the signaller at the instrument was able to receive messages apparently from space.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

Partridge cites Leechman, suggesting a different etymology to the one suggested here: ‘Perhaps because signallers occasionally practise at nights with lamps’.

Spot  Drink.

General Australian. From 1919 (Digger Dialects). Attested in AND, Green, and Partridge.

AND records this term from 1922, making Digger Dialects the first evidence of the term. It usually applies to ‘a drink of alcoholic liquor’, and is a special use of ‘spot’, ‘a small quantity’.

*Spring-heel  A man who, on joining a fighting unit immediately finds a means of leaving it.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects note this may be related to ‘spring-heeled Jack’, ‘a term for  a highwayman, fast enough on the feet to avoid capture’. Partridge records this sense.

Square-head  A German.

General. From 1903 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was very widely used in World War I, and derived originally, Partridge suggests, from the shape of the head and referred to foreigners of Germanic or Scandinavian extraction.

They all took him for a German, as they do every Turkish officer they see, of course. He was rather heavy limbed, and that decided it. ‘Oh he’s a bloody square-head – I’d shoot the beggar’ was the sort of remark one heard. Our men have a sort of kindliness for the Turk, but they’ve none whatever for the German.

May 22 1915 CEW Bean Diary.

Square Pushing see Tracking Square.

General military. From ca. 1885 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

B&P record that ‘To go square-pushing’ meant either to go out to court a particular girl or to go out in the hope of meeting a friendly female. See also Track Square.

Squeal  Cry for mercy or assistance to others.

General. Originally US. From 1846 (DAE).

This is more commonly used, and is well attested, in the figurative sense of ‘informing’.

*Squid  A German prisoner.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

The derivation of this term is unknown.

*Squirt  A revolver, any firearm.

General Australian. From 1899 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

*S.R.D.  The brand on a rum jar (State Rum Distilleries); ‘seldom reaches destination’, ‘Soldiers rum diluted’, and various other meanings were ascribed to these letters.

World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and Partridge.

B&P record this as ‘Service Rum Diluted’ and notes ‘The dilution must have been infinitesimal. A popular but unauthorized amplification of the initials was – ‘Soon Run Dry.’ Partridge also recordes ‘soon run dry’ as an occasional military catchphrase.

Stall  A hoax; disappointment.

General. From 1851 (OED).

This is usually used in the sense of ‘something used as a pretext for thieving or imposition’ (OED) or ‘to make excuses, allege pretexts, play for time’ (Partridge). It is also attested in this sense in F&G and Green.

Stalling

General Flying. From 1910 (OED).

Cutlack writes of ‘stalling’: ‘A machine is said to be stalled when its air speed is so reduced in the course of climbing that it ceases to be under control. The nose of the machine then naturally drops, and in order to recover forward speed the machine must dive.’

Star Artist  ‘One star artist’,  a second lieutenant.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

‘Star’ was ‘a badge of rank, authority or military service’, from 1890 (OED). ‘Star artist’ is derived from this. A second lieutenant has only one star.

*Steady Lapper  An inveterate drunkard.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Partridge records the variation ‘rare lapper’.

Stellenbosch   To transfer an officer to a less important command. A division in the S. Cape [of] Good Hope province, to which officers who had failed in the Kaffir War were sent by way of being superseded without formal disgrace.

General military. From 1900 (OED). Attested in F&G and Partridge.

F&G write of ‘to be stellenbosched’: ‘To be superseded; sent back, presumably “under a cloud”, from the Front. An expression originating in the South African War, from the place in Cape Colony where there was a large standing camp to which officers who had failed at the Front were sent to do duty, as a convenient method of shelving them.’

Steve  A casual acquaintance.

General. 20th century (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Partridge records this as mostly Australian.

Steves  Hearts (playing cards).

Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

 

*Sting  Make a request for a loan or gift; also ‘put in the stings’.

General. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

Stink  ‘To kick up a stink’, to cause a commotion or discussion.

General. From 1812 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Stonker  Exterminate; kill; strike.

General World War I. Australian. From 1918 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is possibly derived from the British dialect ‘stonk’ meaning ‘the stake in a game, especially of marbles’. ‘Stonkered’ meaning ‘put out of action’ is common.

Stoush  Fight; to strike; defeat.

General Australian. From 1893 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

The term derived from the British dialect ‘stashie’, ‘stushie’, meaning ‘an uproar, disturbance, quarrel’. It was adapted to apply to ‘a war’. In particular, World War I was known as ‘The Big Stoush’.

*Stoush Merchant  A fighter.

World War I Australian. From ca. 1918 (Partridge).

This was based on stoush. As Baker puts it, a ‘stoush merchant’ was ‘a dealer in stoush’.

Strafe  (1) To punish. (2) A heavy bombardment. (3) Abuse.

(1) General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(3) General. From 1918 (OED).

(3) is a figurative use of (2). ‘Strafe’ was widely used in World War I. It came from the German phrase ‘Gott strafe England’, ‘God punish England’, used from 1914. Its usage is outlined by F&G: ‘Used in the War with an infinity of meanings. ... An attack, heavy bombardment, etc., was always a “strafe”. A unit in action which had suffered serious casualties was said to have been “strafed”. To hit a thing hard was to “strafe” it. To put a candle out or to kill a flea was to “strafe” it. To be reprimanded was to be “strafed”. Also an expression of good humoured contempt, or impatience – e.g. “Oh, Strafe it!” – i.e., “Stop! Shut up!”’

Strength, to get the  To understand thoroughly.

General Australian. From 1904 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a specific use of ‘strength’ meaning ‘the demonstrative force of an argument’.

String-on  Deceive.

General Australian. From 1886 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Struth  An exclamation of surprise.

General. From 1892 (OED).

This was an abbreviation of ‘God’s truth’, commonly used as an oath.

*Stuff to give ’em  A popular catchword expressing superlative excellence. Supposed to have originated with Scottish troops.

World War I. From 1917 (Partridge).

This was possibly a variant of ‘that’s the stuff to give the troops’, also sometimes ‘that’s the stuff to give ’em’. See also Material to Administer.

*Stung  (1) Drunk. (2) Having been induced to lend.

(1) General Australian. From 1913 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This relates to ‘sting’ meaning ‘strong drink’ current in Australian English, and deriving from the British slang ‘stingo’ meaning ‘strong beer’.

(2) See Sting.

Stunned  Drunk.

General. Australian and New Zealand. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Stunt  (1) A battle. (2) An eccentric action. (3) An idea. (4) Any form of activity.

(1) General World War I. From 1916 (OED). Attested in F&G and Partridge.

(2) General. From 1878 (OED).

This seems to be the standard sense of ‘stunt’ as ‘an event’, ‘a feat’.

(3) General. From 1920 (Partridge).

This was used in the sense of ‘a trick, a novel idea’.

(4) General. This is the basic sense, see (2).

B&P write of ‘stunt’ and its use in World War I: ‘Any performance of outstanding skill or effectiveness, e.g. an acrobatic performance or a clever ruse at football; a trick or means of benefiting oneself, e.g. “It’s a good stunt to fall out before the fatigue party’s picked.” In time the quality of cleverness became inessential : all that was needed was the unusual element, the break in routine, and ‘stunt’ was applied especially to a big attack or series of attacks, e.g. “The Somme stunt,” “The March 1918 stunt”; or to a smaller, localized raid, e.g. “a bombing stunt at night.” Also verb, especially of airmen.’

*Suck-in  Sharp practice;  a cunning scheme; deceit.

General. Originally US. From 1849 (DAE).

This was usually used in the sense of ‘a trick, a deception’.

*Sudden  Quick, thick and heavy. ‘You’re sudden, aren’t you’, a protesting question applied to a man who walks away with something belonging to someone else.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects write of the definition provided as ‘thick’ as in ‘a bit thick’, meaning ‘hard to put up with’, and ‘heavy’, ‘heavy-handed’.

Sugar  Money.

General. From 1862 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This has its origins in rhyming slang: ‘sugar and honey’ for ‘money’.

Suicide Club  (1) Light trench mortar batteries. So called because when first introduced the mortars were unreliable and frequently caused casualties among the battery personnel. (2) Also applied to bombers or other soldiers who were believed to be exposed to more than the barrage risks.

(1) This specific sense not otherwise recorded.

(2) General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

F&G write that this was a term ‘applied usually, more or less in jest, to various “specialist” formations whose duties were, or seemed to be, of an exceptionally risky or dangerous nature, such as bombers, Machine-Gunners, Stretcher-Bearers.’

*Swank  (1) Vanity. (2) Elegance. (3) Blatherskite.

(1) General. From 1854 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is usually used in the sense of ‘showy, vulgar, arrogant’. The OED records that the etymology of this term is uncertain, but it may derive from the idea of swinging the body. It was first a dialect word which was taken up into general British slang.

(2) General. From 1913 (OED).

(3) See (1).

Sweat On  Eagerly awaiting.

General. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

B&P and F&G record the phrase ‘to sweat on the top line’ as current during World War I.

*Swing the lead  Scheme; malinger. See ‘Lead swinger’.

General. Originally military. From 1917 (OED).  Attested in numerous sources.

B&P write the following: ‘Malingering: or otherwise evading duty. A great source of pride with some soldiers – and in some circumstances – with all soldiers. A lead-swinger who let other men do work he was able to do, or who practised his craft when danger was threatened, was beloved of no one. But the man who swung it skilfully on experts, such as doctors, in England or behind the line, received genuine admiration and kept up no pretence before his comrades.’

Tabbie  Girl.

General Australian. From 1918 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge records that this was current from 1874 for ‘a woman’; the Australian sense is more ‘a girlfriend, sweetheart’.

*Tailie  A man who backs tails in a game of ‘two up’.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this term.

Take a Pull  To reform.

General. From 1890 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a phrase that is chiefly Australian and usually means ‘to stop or check (oneself); to pull oneself together’ (OED).

*Take a Tumble  Arrive at a sudden understanding.

General. Originally US. From 1877 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge records this as an Australian expression, but the OED evidence does not support this.

Take the Count  To be knocked out or killed.

General. From 1902 (OED). Attested in Green and Partridge.

This term originates in boxing.

*Take to the Tall Timber  To abscond.

General. Originally US. From 1845 (OED).

Tanked Up  Intoxicated.

General. From 1902 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The ‘intoxicated’ sense emerged from ‘tanked up’ meaning ‘having drunk heavily’. By World War I, ‘tanked’ was in use meaning ‘drunk’ (F&G).

*Tap  Demand; interrogate; borrow.

General. From the 18th century (OED).

These are figurative uses of ‘tap’ in the sense of ‘to open up’, ‘elicit from’. ‘Tap’ is often used in the sense of ‘exacting information or money (from)’.

*Tarp  A tarpaulin.

General. Originally US. From 1906 (OED). Attested in Green and Partridge.

This abbreviation is often used in a military context.

Tart  A girl. Apparently a corruption of sweetheart.

General Australian. From 1892 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

The standard sense of ‘tart’ is ‘a promiscuous woman, a prostitute’. OED sees this as a figurative use of ‘tart’. In Australia, from the 1890s to the 1930s (and sparingly until the 1970s), it was used positively in the sense ‘girlfriend, sweetheart’. This may reflect the continuation of an earlier sense, in which the figurative use of ‘tart’ was positive, or it is perhaps a new coinage, based on ‘jam tart’, rhyming slang for ‘sweetheart’ (AND).

Tats  Teeth.

General. Originally New Zealand from 1906; 1919 in Australia (AND).

Digger Dialects is the first Australian evidence of this term. The OED and Partridge suggest that this is often used to refer to ‘false teeth’.

Taxi, To

General Flying. From 1911 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Cutlack provides the following definition: ‘To run on wheels over the ground, or to move on floats over the surface of the water, with the engine running at a number of revolutions insufficient to produce flying-speed’.

Teapot  Term commonly applied to the Fullerphone in the forward area when there was a possibility of being overheard by the enemy.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

The Fullerphone was a portable DC line Morse telegraph devised in 1915 by Captain (later Major General) AC Fuller of the British Signal Service. It was used extensively for communication in forward areas because its transmissions were almost immune from being overheard.

*Tear Off a Lump  To accomplish.

General. Originally Australian. From 1919 (Digger Dialects).

According to Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects, this is probably a variant of ‘to tear off a bit (or piece)’ meaning ‘to copulate with a woman’, first recorded in 1941 (OED). Partridge records ‘tear off a piece’ in this sense. However, we cannot be sure that this is what is meant here or in Digger Dialects as no additional context for the term is provided.

*Tell Off  To apply a verbal castigation; abuse; tell home truths to.

General Services. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

The OED records this term from 1919, possibly making it a World War I term, but Partridge believes that it was current amongst the Services from the late 19th century, and by 1919 it was in general use.

Thieving Irons  Hands.

From the late 19th century (Partridge).

This is not a well attested term. Partridge records it as meaning ‘fingers’, otherwise it is only attested here and in Digger Dialects. ‘Thieving irons’ more often has meant ‘scissors’.

Three Ones, The  A reference to the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar Square. The square was known to Australians as a favorite meeting place; and called the Three Ones Hotel. The ‘ones’ are Nelson’s one arm, one eye, and one posterior orifice.

General. From ca. 1860 (Partridge). Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Partridge records this as a ‘popular expression amongst Londoners’; it was obviously adopted by visiting soldiers during World War I. Digger Dialects cleans this up by referring to the three ones was ‘one arm, one eye and one pedestal.’

*Throw a Seven  To die. Probably arose from dicing. It was impossible to throw a seven spot: it is humorously called a shooting case to do so if it were possible.

General Australian. From 1915 (AND). Attested in AND, Digger Dialects, and Partridge.

See also Chuck a Seven.

*Throw a Six and a half  Almost to die.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Adapted from Throw a Seven.

Thud  See ‘Gutzer’.

General. From 1919 (Digger Dialects).

Given that there are several senses of ‘gutzer’, it is unclear exactly what this refers to. Digger Dialects defines ‘thud’ as ‘misfortune’, suggesting the figurative use ‘ thud’. Partridge records ‘thud’ as used figuratively for ‘a fall’, Australian from ca. 1930.

Ticket  (1) A Discharge from the Army. (2) A Pilot’s certificate (Airmans).

(1) General. From before 1914 (PWWII). Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and F&G.

This was certainly in use during World War I. PWWII suggests that this was ‘current since before 1914’. The sense of ticket as a ‘discharge warrant in which the amount of pay due to a soldier or sailor is certified’ dates back to the 16th century (OED).

(2) General Flying. From ca. 1919 (Partridge). Attested in F&G, Partridge, and PWWII.

Tick Off  See ‘Tell off’.

General military. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

See also Tell Off.

*Tig  (1) Extract a loan. (2) Wound.

(1) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that this is ‘probably a punning use of tig ‘touch’, as in the game’, defined by the OED as ‘a children’s game, in which one of the players – usually designated tig or it – pursues the others until he overtakes and touches or “tigs” one, who in his turn becomes “tig”’.

(2) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Tin  Money.

General. From 1836 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

OED explains: ‘Said to have been first applied to the small silver coins of the 18th c., which before their recall in 1817 were often worn quite smooth without trace of any device, so as to resemble pieces of tin.’

Tin Box  Magazine of rifle.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Tin Hat  A flat steel helmet for protecting the head against shrapnel bullets.

General military. From 1903 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Tinkle-Tinkle  An effeminate man.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Tinned Dog  The preserved meat issued to the troops.

General Australian. From 1895 (AND).

Tinned Pot  Contemptible.

‘Tin-pot’, general. From 1838 (OED).

Digger Dialects records this term in the standard sense, ‘tin pot’. OED provides a definition: ‘Resembling or suggesting a tin pot in quality or sound; hence contemptuously, without solid worth, of inferior quality, shabby, poor, cheap.’

*Tip the Wink  Inform.

General. From 1676 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

OED define ‘tip the wink’ thus: ‘to give a wink to a person as a private signal or warning.’

Tired Theodore  A long distance shell.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is one of the many nicknames given to shells and guns during World War I.

Tock-Emma  Trench mortar. Signal pronunciation of the initial letters.

General World War I. From 1916 (OED).

This is another term based on ‘signalese’, see Ack.

*Togged to the Knocker  Well dressed.

This expression is attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Togged’ meaning ‘dressed’ dates from the early 19th century; ‘up to the knocker’ meaning ‘in good condition; in the height of fashion’ dates from 1844 (OED).

Tommy  An English soldier.

General. From 1893 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was short for ‘Tommy Atkins’ which was in use from 1883 (OED). F&G explain that it originated in 1815, ‘when the War Office issued the first “Soldier’s Account Book”, which every soldier was provided with. The specimen form sent out with the book to show how details should be filled in, bore at the place where a man’s signature was required the hypothetical name “Thomas Atkins”, (or, alternatively, for illiterate men “Thomas Atkins X his mark”). “Thomas Atkins” continued to appear in later editions of the Soldier’s Account Book until comparatively recent times.’ The term was made popular by Rudyard Kipling in his 1892 Barrack Room Ballads. It was in wide use in World War I.

Tony  A Portuguese Soldier (Private).

General World War I. Attested in F&G and Partridge.

F&G explain that this was an abbreviated form of ‘Antonio’.

Too Right, Too True  Most certainly.

‘Too right’, general Australian. From 1919 (AND). ‘Too true’, general. From the late 19th century (Partridge).

Tooth Brush  A small moustache.

General. From 1915 (Partridge).

Toot-Sweet  Quickly; immediately. ‘At the toot’, at once. Corruption of the French ‘tout de suite’.

General. Corruption of the French. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Top  (1) ‘To go over the top’, to go over the parapet of the trench, to take part in an attack. (2) ‘Top Hole’, First Class; excellent, the very best, ‘top stroke’. (3) The highest section of plating on the body of a submarine.

(1) General World War I. From 1916 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This originated in World War I, but has been used more generally subsequently.

(2) General. From 1899 (OED).

This is used in a similar way to expressions such as ‘top-notch’.

(3) Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Top Off  To kill.

‘Top’, general. From 1718 (OED).

‘Top’ originally meant to ‘to execute, especially by hanging’; it was later used more generally in the sense of ‘to kill’. ‘Top off’ is sometimes used in the sense of ‘to knock down (Dennis, Partridge) and in the sense of ‘to finish off’ (Lawson, Partridge).

Top of the House  Number 99 in a game of ‘House’.

General. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, Green, and Partridge.

‘House’ is defined by the OED as ‘lotto played (orig. in the Army) as a gambling game with special cards and checks’ and dates back to at least 1900.

Touch  (1) To touch with death, to have a close shave; a near shave. (2) To touch lucky, to have a stroke of luck.

(1) General World War I. From 1915 (Partridge). Attested in F&G and Partridge.

(2) General World War I. Attested in F&G.

Tourists  6/– a day tourists used as a term of derision for the privates of the A.I.F., particularly to the volunteers of 1914, because it was alleged by some that they expected the war to end before they could be fit to take the field, and therefore enlisted merely for the pay and opportunity to travel.

General World War I. Australian. From 1916 (AND).

C.E.W. Bean provides further explanation: ‘The sort of Australian who used to talk about our ‘tinpot navy’ labelled the Australians who rushed at the chance of adventure the moment the recruiting lists were opened “the six bob a day tourists”. Well – the “Tourists” made a name for Australia such as no other Australians can ever have the privilege of making.’ (Bean, Letters from France, 1916, quoted in AND).

Towelled Up  Severely punished.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Towel’ meaning ‘to beat, cudgel, thrash’ dated back to 1795. The ‘towel up’ combination is Australian. It also relates to the ‘oaken towel’, sometimes just ‘towel’, meaning ‘stick, cudgel’ which dates back to 1739.

Tracer Bullets

World War I. Attested in B&P, Cutlack, and Dickson.

These were incendiary bullets, devised to set fire to the object struck. ‘Tracer bullets’ were filled with a magnesium compound, ‘which left a trail of light or smoke and was intended solely as a guide in aiming the gun. It was very effective for igniting petrol tanks’ (Cutlack).

*Track Square  To partake an amorous enterprise with honorable intentions.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This relates to the Australian figurative use of ‘track’, ‘to track with’, meaning ‘to keep company with (a person of opposite sex), to court’, from 1910. ‘To track square’ is presumably an elaboration of this, with ‘square’ meaning ‘straight, honorable’.

Tray Beans  Very well; good. From the French ‘tres bien’.

General World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and Partridge.

B&P and Partridge record this as being spelt ‘trez beans’. See trez beans.

*Treacle Miner  A man who boasts of his wealth in Australia or his position in private life.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Trez Beans  See ‘tray beans’.

See Tray Beans.

*Trick the Books  Deceive; defeat by a scheme.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Digger Dialects provides the obvious context for this term as relating to bookmaking.

Tripe  Rubbish; worthless.

General. From 1676 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This sense of ‘tripe’ is a transferred and figurative use of ‘tripe’, meaning ‘the intestines, bowels, guts, as members of the body’.

Tripe Roared Out  Severely reprimanded.

Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

See tripe.

*Trot  An experience, e.g. ‘a rough trot’, a bad time.

General Australian. From 1911 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was usually used in the context of sport or playing a game of chance, and was particularly used in relation to the popular game of two-up. It is now also used in a broader sense to refer to a run of good or bad luck.

*Tug  A rude or disorderly person.

General. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in Dennis, Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

Partridge suggests that this sense of ‘tug’ might have derived from an adjectival use of the term meaning ‘stale, vapid; common, ordinary’. The origin of this term is according to Partridge ‘mysterious’ but may relate to a dialect term ‘tug-meat’, a name for bad mutton.

Tumble, Take a  To suddenly become aware of a joke against oneself or a mistake that one is making.

See Take a Tumble, To

*Turn Dog  Betray.

General Australian. ‘Dog’, from 1848, ‘turn dog’, from 1863 (AND). Attested in Digger Dialects, Green, and Partridge.

‘Dog’ meaning ‘an informer, a traitor’ is of US origin, and in Australian English is generally found in the phrase ‘to turn dog (on)’.

*Turn Down  Refuse; reject; ignore.

General. Originally US. From 1891 (DAE, OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Turn Sour  Become angry.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The phrase ‘to turn sour (on)’ is recorded by OED, meaning to become embittered, disenchanted. It is possible that the definition given here is simply a poor definition for a common and general phrase which dates back to the 14th century.

Turn-up  A lucky event.

General. From 1873 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This originated in horse racing slang, by the 20th century it was used generally as ‘an unexpected turn of fortune’.

Twentyone Guns  A salute. In the slang sense, used in reference to the personal salute.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This derives from, and is a jocular use of, the military ‘twenty-one gun salute’, provided at official occasions.

*Twist  To change one’s course of conduct.

This exact sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Two Eyes Right  Certainly. See ‘Too Right’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

An elaboration of Too Right.

Two Up  The most popular game in the A.I.F. The betting was on whether the spinner would toss the pennies on the ‘kip’ in such a way that upon striking the ground their heads or tails would be uppermost. Large sums of money were won and lost in this way.

General Australian. From 1884 (AND).

This game of chance has been associated with the ‘Diggers’ of World War I, and continues to be played on Anzac Day and at other selected places and times.

Typewriter  Machine gun.

General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This derived from the sound machine guns made when being fired.

Umpteen  Any number of.

General. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge argues that was originally signallers’ slang (see Ack), and ‘umpteen’ was used to disguise the number of a brigade or division. Dennis records the variation ‘umpty’ as early as 1916.

*Unexpected Portion  An ironic perversion of the familiar official phrase ‘unexpended portion of the day’s rations’. It originated in times when owing to avoidable or unavoidable causes no rations arrived for the troops.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Up Jump  Upstart; interloper.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this term (as 'upjump').

*Up the Line  In action. ‘Up the line with the best of luck’, a satirical phrase applied to men who after being in safe occupations, were returned to the fighting units.

General World War I. From 1916 (OED).

*Up to Putty  Bad; useless; ineffectual.

General World War I. Australian. From 1916 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a play on putty’s flexible consistency and softness (Green).

Up to Us  Our turn or responsibility.

Attested here, in Dennis, and in Lawson.

This was probably a short-lived catchphrase, referring to the duty of Australians to fight in the war.

Vaseline  Butter or vaseline.

General. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

As a slang term for ‘butter’, this was current from the late 19th century into the early 20th century. Digger Dialects records this as a term for ‘margarine’ as well.

*Vent a Tair  Quickly; to the limit of one’s ability: at full speed. From the French ‘Ventre à Terre’.

World War I. Corruption of the French. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

In French this is ‘(courir) ventre à terre’, meaning ‘to run at top speed’.

Vertical Atmosphere  See ‘Wind Up’ [no entry].

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Hargrave records the variation ‘vertical breeze’ as the equivalent to ‘wind up’.

*Very Nice, Very Good, Very Sweet, Very Clean, Mister Mackenzie  A street phrase of the Egyptian hawkers and shopkeepers in extolling their wares to an Australian.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Vin Blank  White wine, see ‘Point Blank’.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge suggests this variant was used by the Australian soldiers, while the New Zealanders used the term ‘vin blink’, and the British ‘ving blong’. Arthur and Ramson make the point that ‘Vin blanc has been used in English since 1814, but was borrowed freshly by Service personnel in WWI. Vin blank, point blank and von blink exemplify the word-play which led finally, via plinketty plonk (rhyming slang), to plonk.’

Vin Roush  Red wine.

General. From 1917 (OED).

The OED and B&P record this as ‘vin rouge’.

Von Blinked  Drunk.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not recorded otherwise.

Wagger  A signaller.

Attested here and in Baker but not otherwise recorded.

Baker records this as RAAF slang, making it a post World War I term (the RAAF was formed in 1921). The term’s presence here suggests an earlier currency.

Wangle  To manipulate; to manage or employing a skilful, cunning or unscrupulous way; to cook (accounts, reports, etc.).

General. From 1888 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

According to Partridge, this was originally printers’ slang, but was made popular through extensive use during World War I. As F&G note, in World War I, the word was ‘[a]pplicable to anything and everything in any circumstances.’

War Baby  A very rough soldier; foals, pups, etc., born of animals on the strength of the units.

These senses are attested here but not otherwise recorded.

‘War baby’ is well attested as meaning ‘a (usually) illegitimate child born during the war (usually) fathered by a soldier’. OED records a slang sense, ‘a young or inexperienced officer’, while F&G extends it to mean ‘any young subaltern or soldier’, as well as ‘a child born during the War.’

*War Lord  An officious officer.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is a transferred sense, from the standard meaning of warlord, ‘a military commander or commander-in-chief’, current from 1856 (OED).

Washers  To ‘cut washers from one’s ring’. An expression denoting extreme weariness on the march.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

*Washout  (1) A failure. (2) An empty, useless or ineffectual thing. (3) A miss in shooting at a target.

(1) General. From 1902 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

(2) General. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This sense is usually used of a person.

(3) General military. Attested in Elting, F&G, and Partridge.

These are figurative uses of the standard sense of ‘washout’ meaning ‘the removal by flood of part of a hillside, road, etc’ (OED).

Wazzeh  One of the native quarters of Cairo in which the majority of the houses were brothels.

General World War I. Australian. Attested in B&P, F&G, and Partridge.

In 1915, there were encounters in this area of Cairo (the street Haret el Wasser) between Australian soldiers and the police, known as the ‘Battles of the Wazza’. CJ Dennis included a poem ‘The Battle of the Wazzir’ in his bestselling World War I book, The Moods of Ginger Mick, but it was cut by military censors.

*Welter  ‘To make it a welter’, to exceed the limit.

General Australian. From 1918 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

AND explains that ‘welter’ derives from the British dialect ‘welter’ meaning ‘something exceptionally big or heavy of its kind’.

*We’re Winning  An ironical expression for bad luck. When used satirically applies to bad conditions. Otherwise applied to good.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Partridge includes the ‘good luck’ sense as a catchphrase current from 1942.

*West of Hell  Death; dead.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

See Gone West.

*Whackle Out  Consider deeply.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Wheels  ‘To have wheels (in the head)’ indicates a lack of sense.

Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

This is possibly related to Cog-wheels.

Whippet  A light and fast tank.

General World War I. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

F&G provide the following description of the ‘Whippet’: ‘a type of small, light Tank, designed to act with cavalry, first used in April, 1918, in the action at Villers Bretonneux. Whippets carried four Hotchkiss guns, with a crew of one Officer and two Other Ranks, and has a speed of about eight miles an hour’.

*Whip the Cat  Experience chagrin.

General Australian. From 1847 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge says this comes from the sense of ‘to whip the cat that has spilt the milk’ = ‘to cry over split milk’.

White Haired Boy  A favourite.

General. Originally US. From 1910 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was a variant of the Irish ‘white-headed boy’ current from 1820 (OED). Partridge suggests ‘white haired boy’ was a predominantly Australian variant.

*Whiz Bang  (1) The shell fire from a German 77 m.m. gun. So called on account of its extremely high velocity. (2) The name was also applied to the Field Service Post Card issued to the troops, on account of the speed with which they could be completed and despatched.

(1) General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

OED define this: ‘the shell of a small-calibre high-velocity German gun, so called from the noise it made’. B&P add: ‘[o]wing to their short range and low trajectory, whizz-bangs, arrived as soon, if not sooner, than you heard them’.

(2) General World War I. Attested in B&P, F&G, and Partridge.

Windy  See ‘wind-up’ [no entry].

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

This is derived from ‘get the wind up’ meaning to ‘get into a state of alarm’ (From 1916, OED).

‘Windy’ meant ‘nervous, cowardly’.

*Wise-Head  A cunning or intelligent person.

General. From 1756 (OED).

This is almost always used in an ironical sense.

*With the Pin Out  Quickly; headlong. (A metaphor from bombing. Before throwing the Mills bomb, a pin which holds down the lever is withdrawn. In the act of throwing the finger releases the lever which flies upwards, bringing the striker into contact with the detonator, and exploding the bomb within 5 seconds).

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Woodbine  A cheap brand of cigarettes so popular amongst English troops that the name became a commonly used nickname for English troops.

General World War I. Australian. From 1919 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

*Woolly Dog  A term of abuse.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Workable  Good.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Work a Passage  To scheme, with the object of being sent to Australia.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

This is a special use of ‘work’ in the sense of ‘to arrange, engineer, or bring about’ (from 1889, OED). It is also an adaptation of ‘work one’s passage’ in the sense of ‘working to pay for one’s journey’, current from 1727 (OED).

*Work the Nut  Act cunningly; scheme.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Nut’ is often used for ‘the head’; ‘nut’ is also used as a verb, ‘to think, to use one’s head’.

*Work the Ticket  Feign madness. See ‘Work a passage’.

General military. From the late 1890s (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

Feigning madness or illness was a popular way of trying to obtain a discharge from the Army.

Would to Godder  A civilian who ‘would to God that he could go to the war’. Probably first used by the Sydney Bulletin in a cartoon.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Wrens  The members of the Women’s Royal Naval Service.

General World War I. From 1918 (OED).

The Wrens existed from 1917 to 1919, and also in World War II.

*Write Off  (1) A badly crashed aeroplane. (2) Anything completely spoiled or broken. (3) A man who is killed.

(1) General. From 1918 (OED).

This was first used of a crashed aeroplane, but was later applied to any other piece of machinery smashed beyond repair.

(2) A transferred use of (1). Attested in OED.

(3) A transferred use of (1). Attested in Partridge.

Yank  An American.

General. From 1778 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was an abbreviated form of ‘Yankee’. Used initially within the US to refer to an inhabitant of New England, it was picked up and used widely of any inhabitant of the US.

Y Emma  Y.M.C.A.

World War I. Attested in B&P, F&G, and Partridge.

This was based on signalman’s pronunciation. See Ack. The YMCA provided vital services for the soldiers, setting up huts for the provision of items like tea and biscuits, and providing entertainment and recreation.

*Zero Time  The hour at which the battle commences.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

This is a variant of ‘zero’ and ‘zero hour’ which, as F&G explain, was ‘the time officially appointed for the opening of an attack, kept secret at headquarters and meanwhile referred to as “zero”, the actual time being finally made known to the troops to be employed only at the latest possible moment before the attack.’

Ziff  A beard.

General Australian. From 1917 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Zig-Zag  Drunk.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

‘Zigzag’ originally entered English through French in the 18th century. Its ultimate origin is unknown, but it is ‘partly symbolic, suggesting the two different directions’ (OED). It appears to have picked up by the soldiers during World War I, in the sense of ‘drunk’, although OED does suggest it was chiefly US.

*Zubrich-Farmer   See ‘Treacle-miner’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

‘Zubric(k)’ is a Services’ term for a penis, based on Arabic.

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