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

Annotated edition


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).

This section contains a selection of AIF slangs annotated edition, their meanings, and their etymologies.

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*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

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