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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*Hairy-belly  A sycophant.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Hairy Mob  A platoon.

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

Hanging To  Resulting from. ‘Anything hanging to it’. Any result likely to arise from it.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

This probably derives, Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects suggest, from ‘hang’ in the sense of ‘to be attached as a connected circumstance’.

Hard Case  An inveterate humorist, one who defies convention and etiquette.

General Australian. From 1892 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is an Australian sense of ‘hard case’ meaning ‘a character; someone who does not conform’ (AND). The term is originally US, from 1836, meaning ‘a rough or hard-bitten individual’ (Lighter), ‘a person that cannot be reclaimed, a criminal’ (OED).

Hard Word  An outrageous demand. A request for a favor vigorously expressed.

General Australian. From 1918 (AND).

This is a transferred use of a 19th century British dialect sense meaning ‘a password’, ‘a scandal’.

*Hashmagandy  An insipid and monotonous army dish.

General Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Digger Dialects provides the first recorded evidence for this term meaning ‘stew’. It possibly had its origins in World War I as a reaction to army food, but was also applied to stew served on stations (Green and Partridge). It perhaps derived from ‘hash’, ‘a dish of chopped, cooked meat’ and ‘salmagundi’, ‘a mixture of meats’ (Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects).

Hate  The daily artillery bombardment by the Germans.

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

The term derived from the ‘Hymn of Hate’, an anti-British song popular with the Germans which was ridiculed in the British magazine Punch in 1915. The cartoon bore the legend ‘Study of a Prussian household having its morning hate’. F&G observe: ‘The word “Hate” became the war-word of the hour everywhere, with derisive applications.’

Hate Stuff  Ammunition fired by the enemy.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

See Hate.

*Head  A person of high rank or standing.

General. From 897 (OED).

The general sense of ‘head’ as a ‘a captain, leader’ etc. dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. This may be the more specific sense recorded by Partridge of ‘the heads’ being ‘those in authority’, which was current from ca. 1895 and ‘very common in the AIF’.

*Head-em  To toss the pennies used in the game of ‘two up’ in such a way that both heads are uppermost when the coins reach the ground.

General Australian. From 1902 (AND).

The verb ‘head’ found in the phrase ‘to head them (or ’em)’ dates back to 1902; ‘heading them’ referring to ‘the playing of two-up; the spinning of two coins so that they fall head side upwards’ dates back to 1871.

Heads are Right  A ‘two up’ term indicating that the heads of both pennies are uppermost.

Australian. Not otherwise recorded.

Heavies  Heavy guns.

General army. From the late 19th century (Partridge). Attested in Dickson and Partridge.

While ‘heavies’for ‘heavy artillery’ was in use from the late 19th century, it was, Partridge notes, especially popular in World War I.

Heavy-stuff  Heavy projectiles.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Presumably this is similar, and possibly related, to Heavies.

Horse Valet  A groom.

World War I. Not otherwise recorded.

Hot-stuff  An energetic, clever, unscrupulous or otherwise formidable person.

General. Originally US. From 1889 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

House, Housey  A legalised game of chance.

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

This was a popular game of chance in the Army, similar to lotto. There were numerous variants of the term: ‘housie-housie’, ‘housy-housy’, ‘housie’, ‘housey’, etc.

Hughesilier  Name applied to men compulsorily placed in camp for so-called home defence purposes after the failure of the 1916 conscription referendum for service overseas in Australia. The idea being that once in camp, [a] number of the men would volunteer for the A.I.F. The scheme was only partially successful.

World War I. Attested here but not otherwise recorded.

This  is probably a jocular play on ‘fuselier’, a type of soldier in particular regiments who were originally armed with fusils (a light musket) and Billy Hughes (1862-1952), the Prime Minister who introduced and pushed for the conscription referendum of 1916 in Australia.

Hum  To cadge.

General Australian. From 1913 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a transferred use of a specific use of ‘hum’, ‘to impose upon, hoax’, an abbreviation of ‘humbug’.

Hun  A German, applied to the Germans in allusion to the ex-Kaiser’s exhortation to his troops sent to China during the Boxer rising to emulate the merciless conduct of the Huns.

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

This term, which meant ‘a person of brutal conduct or character’ was applied to the Germans during World War I. The application of ‘Hun’ to the Germans derived from a speech made by the Kaiser, quoted in the Times 30 July 1900: ‘No quarter will be given, no prisoners will be taken. Let all who fall into your hands be at your mercy. Just as the Huns a thousand years ago, under the leadership of Etzel (Attila) gained a reputation in virtue of which they still live in historical tradition, so may the name of Germany become known in such a manner in China that no Chinaman will ever again even dare to look askance at a German.’ F&G provide the following on its usage: ‘“Hun” during the War first came in as a generic name for a German through the newspapers, as an epithet of disgust, expressive of the universal anger aroused by the accounts of the German outrages in Belgium and Northern France. The Services, however, did not adopt the name to any extent; except the Air Force, with whom it was always the usual name for the enemy.’ Many propaganda posters in World War I characterized the Germans as the malevolent ‘Hun’.

Hung on the wire  Absent; missing.

General World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and Partridge.

Partridge records this as ‘hanging on the (old barbed) wire’.

Hurry Up  (1) Vigorous banter. (2) Forced to travel with greater rapidity than was intended.

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

This may be related to the Australian ‘hurry-up’, ‘a spur to action’.

(2) General. From 1590 (OED).

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