This week marked the centenary of the start of the First World War on 4th August 1914. Although none of the brave soldiers who took part are with us any more, their legacy lives on in countless ways, including social changes, our literature and our language.
You might not realise it, but numerous English words and phrases – many of which we use every day – hark back to that time.
So, for my own personal salute to all those who gave their lives for us, here’s a selection of WW1 trench lingo.
A-Z examples of trench lingo
Anglische (what the average Belgian spoke to a Tommy in response to his Frahnsay)
Babbler (a cook, from rhyming slang ‘babbling brook’)
Cakehole (the mouth)
Drink (the English Channel)
Egg (a hand grenade or bomb)
Frahnsay (Tommy’s French, from Français)
Ginger (any man called Jones, whether or not he was a redhead)
Hot cross bun (an ambulance, from the red cross on its side)
Ink slinger (a clerk in uniform, also a pen pusher or quill driver)
Jaw (to talk)
Kip (sleep, to sleep)
Lingo (language, especially as spoken by a foreigner – from Latin ‘lingua’)
Mess (the place where soldiers ate)
Nous (knowledge, cunning, shrewdness – from Greek ‘nous’ for mind)
Ooja-cum-pivvy (a gadget or box of tricks, any military thingama-jig)
Plinkity plonk (white wine)
Queer (unwell, indisposed)
Red ink (red wine)
Sausage (observation balloon shaped like a bloated sausage)
Tommy (a private soldier in the British army)
Ubique (everywhere, from Latin)
Vesta (a match)
Whippet (a small, light tank with a top speed of 8mph)
X-day (two days to go until Zero hour)
Yank (an American)
Zig zag (to walk unsteadily when drunk)
This is just a brief insight into the wealth of trench lingo invented or borrowed during WW1 (extracted from ‘Roger, Sausage & Whippet’ by Christopher Moore).