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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F.A. (1) Field Artillery. (2) Fuck All, Fanny Adams: nothing, vacuity.

(1) World War I. Military abbreviation.

Not attested other than here, but probably a standard abbreviation.

(2) General World War I. From 1914 (Partridge).

The abbrevation ‘F.A.’ for ‘fuck all’ came into use in World War I and became quite common thereafter. ‘Fanny Adams’ was a common euphemism for ‘fuck all’ from the late nineteenth century (Partridge). It has a bizarre origin in a story about a murdered girl called Fanny Adams who was cut up and flung into a river. Her name was adopted to refer to hunks of salt meat by seamen, and later the term was transferred to the tinned meat given as rations (B&P, Partridge).

Fag  Cigarette.

General. From 1888 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is an abbreviation of ‘fag-end’, ‘the last part or remnant of anything, after the best has been used’(OED). Partridge notes that it referred to an inferior cigarette initially, but by the 20th century was applied to any cigarette.

Fagged out  Exhausted.

General. ‘Fagged’ from 1780 (OED); ‘fagged out’ US, from 1833 (DAE).

*Fair go  Equitable treatment, a fair field and no favour.

General Australian. From 1904 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

As ‘an equitable opportunity; a reasonable chance’ this dates from 1904; as ‘an equitable contest’ it dates from 1911 (AND).

Fake  False.

General. From 1827 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Fall to a Job  To be detailed to do a piece of work.

This specific phrase and sense attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is probably a variant of the general ‘fall to it’ meaning ‘to set to work’ which dates back to 1380, or ‘fall to’ meaning ‘to set to work, make a beginning’, from 1593 (OED).

*Fall to the Joke  (1) To be ordered to do something unpleasant. (2) To have a joke played on one.

(1) Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is presumably a variant of Fall to a Job.

(2) Australian. Attested here, in Digger Dialects, and in Lawson.

Lawson records this as meaning ‘to be taken in’.

Fangs  See ‘Put the Fangs in’.

Fanny Durak  The hanging virgin and child of Albert Basilica. Frequently referred to as Annette Kellerman, i.e. the champion lady diver.

World War I Australian. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

The Madonna and child of the Basilica in the French town of Albert were well known during the war. Partridge refers to the Madonna variously as ‘lady (or virgin) of the Limp’, ‘the Hanging Madonna’ and ‘the Leaning Virgin’. The legend, according to J. Maxwell, an Australian officer who wrote a memoir of his war experiences, Hell’s Bells and Mademoiselles (1932), was that when the statue of the Madonna located in the church-tower, already leaning precariously to one side, finally fell, it would signal the end of the war. The Australians dubbed this statue ‘Annette Kellerman’ and ‘Fanny Durak’ because of the visual resemblance of the leaning statue to someone about to dive. Fanny Durak (1894-1956) was an Australian swimmer who was the first Australian woman to win an Olympic gold medal (at the 1912 Olympics). Annette Kellerman was a champion Australian diver. An example of the use of ‘Annette Kellerman’ is provided below:

In passing, I was rather amused at the comment of an Australian, who first seeing the leaning statue of the virgin on a certain well-known church, remarked, ‘’Ullo, Annette Kellerman again’.

1918 Adrian Consett Stephen An Australian in the R.F.A.

Fed Up  Disgusted and weary, surfeited, sick or tired.

General. From 1900 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term was popular during the war for obvious reasons. Its origins may well be in the soldiers’ experiences in South Africa during the Boer War (Dickson, Partridge, and OED).

*Feed Bag  A variety of gas helmet used early in the war.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Fevvers  A Cockney woman.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This is a play on the Cockney pronunciation. Digger Dialects includes the phrase ‘Where d’jer get the fevvers, Liza?’ to explain this term.

F.F.F.  Completely miserable; ‘frigged, fucked, and far from home’; ‘forlorn, famished, and far from home’.

General  World War I (Partridge). Variants attested in numerous sources.

Another variation recorded by Lighter is ‘fed up, fucked up, and far from home’.

*Fill-an-Eye  To punch in the eye.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Filoosh  Money. From the Arabic.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest that this ‘had a limited currency in military slang’, but note the citation below.

I now come to a word which is among the first, if not the very first, that foreigners in Egypt learn – I mean filûs, which is the Arabic word for money, and, naturally, is used very often.

1918 Kia Ora Coo-ee October 15 p. 13

Finance  Lover, corruption of ‘fiancée’.

General. Possibly from the US, from ca. 1905 (Partridge).

Partridge and Green suggest that this originated as ‘society slang’ for a rich fiancée, but its use during World War I may have been an independent development.

Finny  Finish. From the French ‘Finis’.

World War I. Corruption of the French ‘finis’. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Fixed bayonet Vin Rouge (red wine).

World War I. This sense attested here but not recorded otherwise.

F&G and Partridge record ‘fixed bayonet’ as an army name for a powerful brand of Bermuda rum, dating back to the late 19th century.

Flag, think of the  An exhortion to do one’s job. Mostly used jocularly.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Flag Wagger  A signaller.

World War I. Attested by Dickson and Hargrave.

‘Flag wagging’ is recorded by F&H in 1890 as ‘flag-signal drill’; F&G also record ‘flag-wagging’ and note that it was a Navy term adopted into the Army.

Flaker Synonymous with ‘gutzer’.

Not otherwise recorded.

See Gutzer.

Flaming Onions

World War I. From 1918 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Cutlack provides the following definition: ‘A form of incendiary and illuminating shell much used by the Germans. In appearance it was a string of fire-balls. This shell was used both in order to point out the location of a machine to German anti-aircraft batteries and also against the machines themselves as a means of setting them on fire’. Partridge notes that they got their name from their resemblance to the strings of onions sold by hawkers.

Flare King  A soldier who fires rockets from the front line. Germans were frequently referred to collectively as ‘flare kings’.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Flat-footed  To go flat-footed, is spoken of an airman without an aeroplane, or a member of the tank corps travelling on foot.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This possibly comes from the appellation ‘flat-foot’ for an infantryman (from 1889, OED).

*Flat Spin  To be in difficulties. (Only applied to airmen).

World War I. Originally FlyingDigger Dialects is the first evidence of the figurative sense.

OED records this in the sense of ‘an aeroplane in difficulty’ from 1917, but it is not recorded in the figurative sense until Digger Dialects. Dickson and PWWII suggest it was more common by World War II.

Flattening out

General Flying. From 1913 (OED).

Cutlack defines this as: The gradual decrease of a gliding or diving angle of an aeroplane in flight until the machine resumes the horizontal, either from a manoeuvre in the air or prepatory to landing’.

*Flea Bag  An officer’s valise.

General military. From 1909 (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

According to Partridge, ‘flea-bag’ for ‘bed’ existed as a slang term from ca. 1835, but was adopted in the military as slang for an officer’s sleeping-bag or bed-roll from 1909. The definition provided here however suggests that ‘flea-bag’ was used to refer to the whole kit-bag or valise that officers carried.

*Flip  An aeroplane flight.

General Flying. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

*Floating Kidney  A soldier unattached to any unit, or without definite duties.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Flog (1) To express chagrin. (2) To sell an article.

(1) This sense attested here but not recorded otherwise.

This is possibly an abbreviation of the term ‘flog the cat’ (see whip the cat), an expression indicating remorse.

(2) General. Originally military. From 1919 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Partridge believes this is a military term that dates back to the late 19th century, but the OED evidence does not support this. The initial connotation was that something was sold illicitly, but was later broadly applied to legitimate sales as well.

Flop  To hit or strike. ‘To flop him one’.

General. Originally US. From 1846 (Lighter). Attested in numerous sources.

This was largely a boxing term, used in the sense to ‘to knock down’.

Flowers on his Grave  Fastidious; hard to please. See also ‘port holes in his coffin’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not recorded otherwise.

Flutter  An attempt, ‘give it a flutter’.

General. From 1874 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This is commonly used in the sense of gambling and betting.

Fly  (1) ‘To be fly’, to be no fool, to know a thing or two.  (2) To give it a fly, to make an attempt.

(1) General. From 1724 (OED).

(2) General Australian. From 1915 (AND).

Fly Bog  Jam.

General World War I. Australian. From 1918 (AND).

*Flying Incinerator  An incendiary shell.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Flying-pig  A heavy trench-mortar shell.

General World War I. Attested in numerous sources.

F&G provide the following explanation: ‘A name given to a type of large (9.45 inch) heavy trench-mortar shell. From its corpulent elongated form (2 feet long) and tail with steadying vanes which suggested the appearance of a pig in the air.’ Hargrave similarly suggests that name derived from the shell’s appearance when flying through the air. Elting suggests, however, that the name may have derived from the noise it made, which resembled a pig’s squeal.

*Foch’s Reserves  A humourous reference to the Chinese Labor Corps.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects provide the following information: ‘Ferdinand Foch (1851–1929) was a French military leader, by April 1918 Allied Commander-in-Chief. Chinese, largely from Hong Kong and Wei-hai-wei, made up one of a number of “Labour Corps” recruited from Britain’s imperial possessions. Some were employed only in the Middle East but the Chinese served in France.’

Fooker  An English Private.

 ‘Fucker’, general, from 1893 (OED).

Like Choom this is a jocular pronunication, playing on British dialect pronunciation. It was used to refer generally to a person, and was sometimes a term of abuse.

Foot Sloggers  Infantry.

General military. From 1894 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

F.O.Q.  Fly off quickly; fuck off quickly. See P.O.Q.

This abbreviation attested here but not otherwise recorded.

Frame-up  A scheme; a conspiracy.

General. Originally US. From 1900 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Fray Bentos  (1) A brand of preserved meat. (2) Very good. The phonetic similarity between the first words of this name and the French ‘tres bien’ caused its frequent use in place of the latter.

(1) A brand name.

Fray Bentos is the name of a company that produces tinned meat products, and was located in Argentina. Soldiers were fed tinned bully beef as part of their rations.

(2) General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects and Partridge.

This was adapted from (1).

*Freeze-A  A catch word satirically applied to a popularity-hunter. Corruption of ‘For he is a jolly good fellow’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Fresh Faces in Hell  Phrase used after a successful attack to indicate that many Germans had been killed.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Frill  Flashness, ceremonial.

General. Originally US. From 1845 (OED).

A general term for ‘affectation of dress, manners, speech’, possibly applied here to military ceremony and ritual.

Fritz  The German, individually or collectively.

General World War I. From 1915 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Fritz’ was a diminutive of the popular German name ‘Friedrich’ and was used as a name for Germans during World War I. Jerry was more popular, especially later in the war. See also Hun.

*Frog, Froggie  (1) A Franc, see also ‘onck’. (2) A Frenchman.

(1) World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

(2) ‘Frog’, general from 1778; ‘froggy’, general from 1872 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

As a term of contempt for a French person, this term had a long history, but found a new popularity during World War I.

Fronk  A Franc.

World War I. Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Funk  High degree of fright.

General. From 1743 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

A general term that dates back to the 18th century, this was widely used during World War I, for obvious reasons.

Funk Hole  (1) A government job or similar refuge used by a shirker, especially one anxious to avoid Military Service. (2) Recess in a trench, or embankment into which a man could get for partial shelter from shell fire.

(1) General. A figurative use of (2). Attested in F&G and OED.

(2) General military. From 1900 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

First used in the Boer War in South Africa, funk-holes were small shelters or dug-outs. They were used in the trenches of World War I as a place to shelter from firing.

Furphy  This term originated in some of the camps of Australians, where the vehicles used for scavenging and water supply purposes were made by Mr. Furphy of Shepparton, Victoria, whose name was prominently painted thereon. This and the fact of the unfounded rumors seeming, as a rule, to originate among the sanitary squad, or from conversation among men visiting latrines, caused the word to be used in this way.

General World War I. Australian. From 1915 (AND).

First used in World War I by the Australians, ‘furphy’ became a popular term for ‘rumours’. Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects add, ‘It is a coincidence that Joseph Furphy, author of Such is Life, wrote under the pseudonym Tom Collins, itself a synonym for “rumour”’.

They evidently have their gossip in the German trenches just as we have it in ours – and as we had it in Sydney and Melbourne – absurd rumours which run all around the line for a week and which no amount of experience prevents some people from believing. ‘After all – they make life worth living in the trenches, those Furphies,’ as one of our men said to me the other day.

1916 CEW Bean in Anzac Bulletin 26 July p. 2

Furphy-Monger, King  One who eagerly circulates ‘furphys’.

World War I Australian. Attested here, in Digger Dialects, and in Partridge.

See Furphy.

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