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December 3, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Trench Talk now entrenched in the English Language - Military historian Peter Doyle and Julian Walker, an etymologist at the British Library, have written Trench Talk about how words from the first World War have become part of everyday English.

Walker also has a blog which may be of interest to those who enjoy the history of words and language.
posted by pointystick (22 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't think I've ever seen "bum" censored before. The Telegraph must have some very delicate sensibilities, or else a nicely tuned sense of absurdist humor (considering it's blanked out in the definition of "bumf," which they didn't render as "b--f").
posted by RogerB at 8:46 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry old man, we don't understand your banter.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:58 AM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the link to Peter Doyle in the FPP is to the wrong person (a mathematician at Dartmouth). Try this one instead: http://www.peterdoylemilitaryhistory.com/
posted by dhens at 9:18 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and “binge” - to describe overindulgence in alcohol - previously just used in Lancashire

Zing!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:24 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some of the examples are unsurprising, "Trench Coat," or "Dud," but I was surprised that "snapshot" was also in that company.

Though, I would be willing to bet money that a fair number of words will enter a language's lexicon following a large and immerse war. The Second World War did the same, "snafu" and "blitz" being two of the more common ones.

Yah, I'd read a book on this spread across numerous conflicts. Etymology is fun!
posted by Atreides at 9:50 AM on December 3, 2012


"Though, I would be willing to bet money that a fair number of words will enter a language's lexicon following a large and immerse war."

Even a relatively remote war may introduce a new phrase into common usage. For instance, "fifth column" traces its origin directly to an infamous propaganda broadcast in the Spanish Civil War. And, of course, we shouldn't forget a more recent coinage.
posted by Skeptic at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Top hole. Bally Jerry pranged his kite right in the how's your father. Hairy blighter, dicky-birdied, feathered back on his Sammy, took a waspy, flipped over on his Betty Harpers and caught his can in the Bertie.
posted by briank at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The important thing to bear in mind is not that this war made lots of words--although it made some--but it let already existing words mingle together and be spread. Many of the words listed were tens of years old at the time, but somehow restricted in speech.
posted by Jehan at 10:01 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


dhens - thanks; you are correct. I contacted the mods to change & flagged HTML error in post. I knew my first FPP would have an error!

Skeptic - I never would have guessed that about fifth column. That sounds so old, like Roman style old. Nifty!
posted by pointystick at 10:25 AM on December 3, 2012


[Fixed! Though I'm still looking through Math Peter Doyle's links anyway, heh.]
posted by cortex at 10:26 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Snapshot" is a lot older than WW1, even more so when used to describe a quick gunshot as it is here. Originally a hunting term for a hasty gunshot, then famously appropriated as a photographic term by John Herschel in 1860.
posted by w0mbat at 10:27 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Atreides, whilst it concentrates primarily on WWII you might enjoy FUBAR. Most of the slang has been appropriated since and was in use throughout Korea, Vietnam and up to the present day. Otherwise I might recommend spending time on the ARRSEPedia for up to date British military slang.
posted by longbaugh at 11:01 AM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting, thanks for this.
posted by Daddy-O at 12:06 PM on December 3, 2012


Came to confirm someone linked to the Monty Python sketch, was not disappointed.

...We have Canada to thank for today's "Swiper, no swiping"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2012


Other phrases to develop were “snapshot” (from a quickly aimed and taken rifle shot) . . .

I see what you did there.
posted by exlotuseater at 1:34 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Snapshot" is a lot older than WW1, even more so when used to describe a quick gunshot as it is here. Originally a hunting term for a hasty gunshot, then famously appropriated as a photographic term by John Herschel in 1860.

Yep - Google Ngram shows it emerging ca. 1866 and rising steadily, with no appreciable spike during WW1, over the following decades.

This isn't a result of OCR errors, either - here are a few pre-WW1 photographic and hunting uses of the term: 1, 2, 3.

I hope the book is more carefully researched than the Telegraph article.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:46 PM on December 3, 2012


This seems like it would have been much more interesting 80 years ago. wow, dozens of words remain in the english language from an experience shared by millions a century ago (I'm guessing lousy was first brought in to the language long before that btw).
dozens of words are part of the lexicon from any given year in the internet age too.
And this article, and the book it's pushing, seem to consider 'English' to be the same everywhere...somehow i can't see latinos learning esl in socal using chum or conked out in daily speech, so not so 'entrenched' beyond merry ol england.
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:46 PM on December 3, 2012


I've recently been re-reading most of Dashiell Hammett. His "hard boiled" language is a mixture of thieves argot and WWI trench talk.

You Can't Win by Jack Black is a trove of late-19th century hobo and thieves argot.

The Big Con by David Maurer is rich with both the language and MO's of con men.
posted by warbaby at 2:57 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm sure I read something recently that claimed "gone West" (a phrase I've always associated with Biggles, and assumed was coined for WWI) was actually a reference to the journey to Tyburn.
posted by pompomtom at 3:24 PM on December 3, 2012


Interesting article.

What struck me is the speed with which "Blighty" went from Anglo-Indian to mainstream culture. "Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty," familiar to Smiths fans and quite popular during WWI, was written in 1916 after its writers had seen the title of a show called Blighty.
posted by the sobsister at 4:39 PM on December 3, 2012


And apparently the colour magenta is named after the Battle of Magenta, and more specifically, of the colour of the bloodied, muddy ground.
posted by acb at 7:10 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, "FUBAR" is my buddy Gordo's book. It's great, go buy a copy!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:02 PM on December 3, 2012


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