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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Kadi  Hat.

General. From 1846 (OED).

Variant spellings of this exist, most commonly ‘cady’. It is possibly of British dialect origin, specifically noted in Lancashire (OED).

Kamarad  Friend, comrade (the German cry for quarter).

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

Germans, when surrendering, tended to use this term for ‘friend’ or ‘comrade’.

Kangaroo Feathers  (1) An impossible thing. (2) A tall feather, emu plumes of the Aust. Light Horse.

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

This may be a figurative use of (2), as kangaroos having feathers is an impossibility.

(2) World War I Australian (AND).

*Kennel Up  Stop talking.

General. From 1919 (OED).

Digger Dialects is the first recorded evidence of this sense.

*Kerensky  ‘To come a Kerensky’. See ‘Gutzer’.

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

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects note: ‘The reference is to Aleksandr Feodorovich Kerenski (1881-1970), a Russian who led the democratic revolution of 1905 and who was Premier of the Duma when the Bolsheviks took power in November 1917.’ It was used much in the same way as Gutzer.

Kid Stakes  Insincere flattery, bluff, joking.

General Australian. From 1912 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This is a jocular formation on British slang ‘kid’ meaning ‘humbug’ and ‘stakes’ as in racing (AND, Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects).

She’ll tell you she is lovely, she loves Aussies too,

She hasn’t had a sweetheart since the last boat passed through.

But, get me digger, it’s kid stakes and rotten to the core,

The same old yarn is spoken to soldiers by the score.

Bak-Ara No. 3 August-September 1919.

Kimberly  Nickname for Diamond in the game of ‘Crown & Anchor’.

Attested in Partridge.

This was one of several nicknames used in the popular World War I card game, ‘Crown and Anchor’. It probably derived from the famous South African diamond, the Kimberly Diamond. Crown and Anchor, according to F&G was: ‘The popular, although officially prohibited, gambling game in the Services, played with dice and a coloured cloth marked out in squares. The Ace, a Crown, is usually referred to as “The Lucky old Sergeant Major”, and the anchor called the “Mud-hook”. (Navy slang for an anchor). The players put their stake on the squares. Usually, two or three partners run a Crown and Anchor board, one man financing the board, a second acting as a sort of umpire, and the third “minding out” or keeping watch for the approach of a military policeman. Luck invariably favours the board, and in the War, when the game was constantly played on out of the way places, it was sometimes said that men in some cases “made hundreds of pounds” at Crown and Anchor, particularly the holders of the Board.’

*King o’ the Nits  Provost Sergeant.

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

‘King’ was often combined with other terms, resulting in terms such as this, and others like Brasso king, Dug-out king, Flare king, Furphy king and Kiwi-king.

Kip  The short flat piece of wood on which the pennies are placed in ‘two-up’ preparatory to tossing.

General Australian. From 1887 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Two-up’ was a popular gambling game amongst Australian and New Zealand troops during World War I. ‘Kip’ probably derived from the widespread British dialect word ‘kep’, meaning ‘to catch, to throw up in the air’.

*Kippsie  Lean-to, shelter, house, dugout.

General Australian. From 1905 (AND).

Other spellings recorded in AND are ‘kipsy’ and ‘kipsie’. It derives from ‘kip’, meaning ‘a lodging house’.

Kiwi-King  A Military Policeman or anyone who is very particular to keep his boots and the leather portions of his equipment brightly polished. So called because the most popular brand of leather polish was ‘Kiwi’.

General World War I. Attested in Elting and Partridge.

This was a short-lived expression for an ‘officer fussy about polish’. Although it is recorded in AND, it was widely used throughout the forces.

Knock  To be exhausted, to give in.

General. From 1737 (OED).

In standard usage, it is often construed with ‘up’.

Knock-back  A refusal.

General Australian. From 1915 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

This was originally a British dialect term from Warwickshire, and became current during World War I. After the war, its use was primarily Australian and New Zealand.

*Knock One’s Can In  To surprise, to completely disconcert, to confound.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

Knut  Important person, swanker.

General. From 1911 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This was possibly derived from a popular music hall song from 1914 by Arthur Wimperis, Gilbert the Filbert, the Colonel of the Knuts. F&G write that a ‘crude parody of the song was much used as a marching song’. A ‘knut’ was generally ‘a dandy, a fashionable or showy young man’ (OED, Partridge) and a jocular variant of ‘nut’.

Kybosh  To put ‘the kybosh’ on to anything is to put a stop to, or frustrate, an attempted action.

General. From 1836 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

This term, popular since the 19th century, enjoyed some popularity in World War I, according to F&G, in the expression ‘To put the Kybosh on the Kaiser’. The word is of uncertain origin. Paul Beale, editor of the 8th edition of Partridge, provides a number of different explanations for the origin of this term, the most plausible being that it derives from the Yiddish ‘kabas, kabbasten’, meaning ‘to suppress’.

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