Monday, November 18, 2013

World War One Glossary

Lou Nirenberg has suggested I include a World War I glossary here. Below is my initial effort at this:

[see also]


Back-door furlough = "absent without leave"

Deep sea turkey =  canned salmon, as referred to by World War I troops (Synonyms: goldfish, sewer carp, submarine chicken)
Farmerette = young woman who worked on a farm in place of a man during World War I

Flying bathtub = cumbersome or otherwise inferior airplane (Synonyms: flying boxcar, flying chicken coop, flying bedstead, galloping goose, orange crate)
Liberty cabbage and liberty steaks = sauerkraut, hamburgers (Note: The word liberty was used to replace common words of German origin during World War 1)

Ticket west = fatal wound

Attrition, War of = A war in which each side seeks to wear the other out.

Big Bertha = Huge Krupp 42cm siege guns used to attack the Belgian forts at Liege in the opening of the war; generally applied to large German artillery pieces. Named for the daughter of Alfred Krupp, German arms manufacturer.

Big Push = The British reference to 1916 Battle of the Somme. Later the battle also was know as the Great Cock-Up [standard British term for SNAFU]

Big Show = The Americanism for the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Largest American battle of the World War

Black Hand = A nationalistic organization in Serbia. Believed responsible for the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Blotto = strong liquor

Blue Max = Nickname for German medal awarded to Rommel, Richthophen, Boelcke among others. (there is some dispute whether the expression Blue Max was actually used during the war)

Boelcke’s Dicta = Rules for successful fighter pilots developed by German ace & aviation pioneer Oswald Boelcke. boelcke died in a collision with a colleague while flying his sixth mission of the day, 15 October 1916

Chat = Nickname for body louse.

Devil Dogs = Nickname given to the US Marines by Germans who faced them at Belleau Wood.

Diggers = Name for Australian troops in World War I

Dixie (from the Hindi "degci") = an army cooking pot

Duckboard = A board laid down as a track or floor over wet or muddy ground. Used for both trench floors and trails across flooded fieldsred Karno’s Army

Dum Dum Bullet = A rifle bullet that explodes or expands on impact with flesh, thus creating even more serious injury

Fred Karno's Army = Nickname given to the British Army raised after the start of WW1, in allusion to Fred Karno, a comedian and producer of burlesque. Also known as Kitchener’s Army.

Frontschwein = Literally, frontline pigs. Implied is the imminence of being slaughtered. How German soldiers referred to themselves.

Hedge-hop = Flying near the ground.

Irredentism = any position of a state advocating annexation of territories administered by another state, such asthe states of post-World War I Central Europe, created from the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Balkans, and the Near East had borders carved out by the Allies that left many of the new states in those regions unsatisfied. There were minority populations and conflicting historical claims to territory in each case. Similarly, many territories and nations in Africa had borders determined by power struggles among the European colonial powers, rather than reflecting historical ethnic and language groupings. The result split ethnic groups between different countries, such as the Yoruba who are divided between Nigeria and Benin. In some cases, the irredentist arguments have continued past the Second World War and on to the present day.

Jack Johnson = Large artillery shell. The power and large amount of dark smoke given off by big shell explosions were reminiscent of black Heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson.

Jerry = Sympathetic nickname for German soldiers by Allies

No-Man’s-Land = The desolate territory between the hundreds of miles of opposing Allied and German trenches.

Pals battalions = the Kitchener armies, men from the same town or trade were allowed to enlist and serve together.

Paris Gun = Krupp artillery piece designed to fire over 75 miles to bombard Paris. Sometimes confused with Big Bertha.

Pikelhaube = German spiked helmet used in first half of the war.

Pillbox = Low structure for of reinforced concrete usually enclosing a machine gun

Poilu = Front line French soldier, literally, hairy-one.

Pop = the Tommy’s nickname for Poperinghe, a town 8 miles due west of Ypres.

Potato Masher = Nickname for standard German hand grenade, based on resemblance to the kitchen tool. Also a nickname for club used in trench raids.

Q-Ship = Antisubmarine armed vessel disguised as common steamer.

Red cap = British military policeman.

Red Tabs = Slang, British staff officers.

Slum =  Slang for a thin stew eaten by the American soldiers.  Abbreviation of slumgullion.

Tin Hat = Slang for British and American model helmet.

Tommy = Tommy Atkins, British frontline soldier.

Trench Fever =  A louse borne relapsing febrile disease which struck soldiers of the Great War; characterized by fever, weakness, dizziness, headache, severe back and leg pains and a rash.
Trench Fever  A louse borne relapsing febrile disease which struck soldiers of the Great War; characterized by fever, weakness, dizziness, headache, severe back and leg pains and a rash.

Trench Rabbit = Slang, rat.

Wastage = Used as euphemism for killed and wounded by politicians and generals; sometimes used to differentiate casualties in the presumably less productive interim periods from the major battles.

Whiz-bangs = A high speed shell whose sound as it flies through the air arrives almost at the same instant as its explosion; later synonymous with excellent or topnotch.

Willie = Canned corn beef.

Wipers = The Tommy’s nickname for Ypres and the Salient.

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