Monday, November 12, 2012

Veterans Day: The Language Of War, Part 2

Whilst Americans remember their veterans (for the same reason the British remembered theirs yesterday), we continue with even more words that came into common usage during WWI.


Cold feet
A possible reference to trench foot or just perhaps the horrible conditions of the trenches. The origin of the expression is disputed. The meaning not so much.

Conk out
Conk out came from the noise airplanes would make before failing. It's almost onomatopoeic.

Cootie
The British Army brought this word back with them from Malaya. It referred to a body louse often found on yucky girls.

Crummy
Crummy, meaning like crumbs or having the quality of crumbs, came from the eggs of the aforementioned lice looking like breadcrumbs. It's disgusting, but hey! War's no picnic!

Cushy
Kushi comes from the Urdu word for pleasure. It was brought over by more of the British Army. Colonisation sure did bring a lot of linguistic diversity with it.

Dig oneself in
Another word coming from reference to trenches. What do you do to make a trench? You dig yourself in. Simple...

Draftee
Obviously a person who gets drafted is known as a draftee. We're not sure if the person drafting is known as a drafter though.

Eleventh hour
The eleventh hour was the time that the armistice was signed. On the eleventh of the eleventh at eleven. That's 11th November at 11:00 for those who like numbers.

Fed up
The word was brought back from the Boer War in South Africa. See our post on the linguistic diversity of the rainbow nation here.

Gassed
A slang term for being hammered. It came from the effects of being gassed. Don't try it at home.

Hush-hush
This term was first used in WWI to refer to top-secret operations... now we just use it for anything we want to keep quiet.

Joystick
Invented in England in the early 1900s, joystick originally referred to the hand-operated control device used in planes, but during the war it came to mean any handle or lever used to control machinery. Nowadays the word conjures up thoughts of video games and its use as a slang term for a certain similarly-shaped part of the male anatomy...

If you're male and your anatomy looks like this see a doctor.

Kaput
From the German kaputt meaning "done for", kaput made its way into English usage during the war as a slang term for something that was broken or didn't work.

No man's land
This term was first used in the 1300s to refer to unoccupied disputed land between two kingdoms. During WWI, it came to mean the territory between Allied and German trenches.

Nose dive
This word described the fighter pilot tactic of coming at the enemy from above, since the front bit of a plane is called the nose. It eventually came to mean a sharp descent or decline in anything.

Taxi
We're referring to the verb form of taxi, which likely came about from the idea that the motion of an airplane on the ground is similar to that of a taxicab.

Trip wire
There were often wires along enemy lines which would set off an alarm or trap if touched or "tripped". Eventually, the word came to mean anything that might trigger a response or catch a person unaware.

We hope you've taken a moment during the past two days to honor military veterans who have given their lives and best efforts to protect your country.