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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Jack Johnson  A large German or Austrian low-velocity shell. Facetious use of personal name.

General World War I. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was a famous American boxer whose nickname was ‘The Big Smoke’. Shells that gave off a dense black smoke when they exploded thus were dubbed ‘Jack Johnsons’.

Jacko  Nickname for the Turks used by the A.I.F. on Gallipoli and in Palestine.

General World War I. Australian (AND). Attested in AND, F&G, and Partridge.

Although AND suggests this was an Australian army term, F&G and Partridge suggest that this might have been used more widely by the forces fighting in WWI.

Jacks  Military Police.

General. From 1889 (OED).

‘Jack’ was in general usage as slang for ‘a policeman’, but in World War I was adapted to ‘a military policeman’. The ‘military police’ sense is attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, and F&G.

Jag  A drinking bout.

General. Originally British dialect (‘jag’ meaning a ‘fill of drink’ EDD) and US. From 1678 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Jakerloo, Jake  ‘Jake’ was in use before the war in Australia by drivers & others to indicate that the load and harness were secure and everything ready for a start. It was also used to indicate that all was well with the speaker. The addition of the last two syllables appear to have been made in the A.I.F. abroad; perhaps the outcome of the observation by certain members of the ‘force’ of the opportunity to [rhyme] with ‘Bakerloo’, the name of the underground railway that connected Waterloo station with Baker Street, both in London. Some contend that the term was introduced on the Western Front by the Canadians and that it is a relic of the French Revolution when the plotters were known as ‘Jaques 1’, ‘Jaques 2’, etc., in order to avoid detection.

‘Jake’, general. Originally US of obscure origin. From 1914 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Jakealoo’, general Australian. From 1919 (AND).

Jane  A Girl.

General. Originally US. From 1906 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term, originally from the US, was also popular in Australia, and, according to Partridge, current from before 1916.

Jericho Jane A Turkish gun which fired on the Light Horse in Palestine.

World War I Australian. Attested in F&G and Partridge.

F&G provide the following explanation:‘The name given by the Australians in Palestine to a long range Turkish gun in the Jordan Valley in July, 1918, which caused considerable trouble till finally destroyed by airmen.’ Partridge adds that this gun fired into Jericho from the Shunet Nimrin hills.

Jerks  Physical exercise.

General. Originally military. From 1905 (Partridge).

Jerry  (1) A nickname for the German soldiers and aeroplanes. It was more commonly used amongst the English troops than Australians. (2) Also used as a question, ‘Do you jerry’, do you understand. (3) To ‘take a jerry’, change (for the better) one’s course of conduct.

(1) General World War I (OED).

F&G record: ‘In the later stages of the War the universal name for the enemy.’ Elting and Partridge suggest that this was transferred from the sense of ‘jerry’ meaning ‘a chamberpot’ which the German army’s steel helmets resembled, but might also relate to German, as it was sometimes spelt ‘Gerry’.

(2) General Australian. From 1894 (AND).

This derives from the US slang ‘jerry’ often found in the phrase ‘to be jerry to’ meaning ‘to be wise to’ (OED).

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

‘Take a jerry to’ was used in the same sense as (2). The sense recorded here may follow from this –  ‘change one’s course of action’ based on a sudden realization, understanding.

Jit  A cigarette.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not recorded otherwise.

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects note: ‘A shortening of Gitane, the proprietary name of a French cigarette since 1910’.

Job  (1) Employment. (2) A hit or punch.

(1) General. From 1694 (OED).

(2) General Australian. Attested in Baker, Dennis and Lawson.

‘To job’ meaning ‘to hit, strike’ possibly derives from ‘to do a job for him’ meaning ‘to ruin him, to knock him out, or even kill him’, a colloquial phrase current since 1860 (Partridge).

Jock  A Scotch soldier.

General. From 1788 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Jock’ was current for ‘a Scottish sailor, soldier’ and then for a Scotsman generally from the late 18th century.

*Joey  A Military Policeman. (Also ‘Pretty Joey’)

General Australian. From 1869 (AND).

‘Joe’ was a general term for a policeman, first used on the Victorian goldfields, and deriving from the nickname ‘Charley Joe’ for Victorian governor Joseph LaTrobe (1851-4). It was first recorded in 1854, while ‘joey’ came into use in 1869 (AND). Its use for a military policeman is probably a World War I development.

Joint  Any place, anywhere, but principally a place of amusement or restaurant.

General. Originally US. From 1821 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This originated in reference to a place where illicit activities took place, but later came to be adapted to any place.

Jonah  One who brings misfortune to a party.

General. From 1612 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Joy-juice  Rum, whisky, etc. Chiefly rum.

General. Originally US. From 1913 (Lighter).

*Joy-stick  See ‘Beer-pull’.

General Flying. From 1910 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was the most common slang term for the control lever of an aeroplane, and continued to be used after World War I. Dickson writes: ‘The nickname for the main control lever of an aircraft; clearly, a play on the phallic nature of the instrument’.

*Joy Water  Champagne.

General. Originally US. From 1907 (Lighter).

This was less common than ‘joy-juice’ but had the same meaning.

Jug  Military Prison.

General. Originally US. From 1815 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was first used of a prison, but was adapted to mean a military prison in World War I. It was more fully ‘stone-jug’. Partridge suggests that it derives from the French ‘joug’, ‘a yoke’ from the Scots ‘joug(s)’, ‘a pillory’.

*Junker  A superior officer.

World War I. Transferred use of ‘junker’, from 1865 (OED).

‘Junker’, a name for a ‘young German nobleman’ was often used in a transferred sense to imply an overbearing, reactionary character. It was obviously transferred to refer to superior officers in World War I.

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