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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Office  A hint; information.

General. From 1803 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

Offsider  Assistant. The term applies to a bullock driver’s assistant who when his services are required works on the off or right hand side of the team.

General Australian. From 1879 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

Oil  News; information.

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

This was often used in the phrase ‘dinkum oil’, meaning ‘correct information’, and was popularly used by the Australian services. It is a figurative use of ‘oil’, ‘a substance essential to the running of a machine’.

Oiled  Drunk.

General. Originally US. From 1737 (Lighter and OED). Attested in numerous sources.

To be ‘oiled up’ was an Australian variant of this, current from 1898 (AND). It is a figurative use of ‘oiled’, ‘to lubricate’.

Old & Bold, The The name applied to the British Labour Corps serving at Anzac. The personnel of these units were all above military age, or had been rejected for active service in fighting units.

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

See the Daddies. ‘The Old and Bolds’ is recorded by Partridge as referring to a specific British regiment, quite different to the ones described here. The two are probably unrelated, as ‘old and bold’ is more likely to be a description of the attributes of the soldiers described here.

*Old Man Gains Experience  A phrase applied to cases where a man who runs a gambling game loses in the betting.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

*Old Slippery  See ‘Rubber-heeled Jack’.

Attested here and in Digger Dialects but not otherwise recorded.

See Rubber-heeled Jack.

*Olive Branch  A reinforcement who arrived in a fighting unit after the Armistice.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

See also Noah’s Doves, Rainbow. All make reference to the biblical passage of finding land after the Great Flood.

Oncks  Francs.

World War I. Attested in Digger Dialects and F&G.

This is presumably a corruption of ‘franc’.

*On One’s Pink Ear  Down and out. Frequently used without the ‘pink’.

‘On one’s ear’, general. Originally US. From the late 19th century (Green).

One Pip,  One Dot  A Second Lieutenant.

General military. From 1919 (OED). Attested in Digger Dialects, F&G, and Partridge.

A Second Lieutenant only had one pip to denote his rank.

Oojah  Any article; one of the names given to a Fullerphone, when in the forward area, when it was devised to keep its presence unknown to the enemy.

General. From 1917 (OED). Attested in numerous sources.

The term is of uncertain origin but the OED provides the following definition: ‘A substitute expression used to indicate vaguely a thing of which the speaker cannot at the moment recall the name, or which he does not care to specify precisely’. In full, it was often ‘ooja-cum-pivvy’ or a similar variant.

*Open Go  See ‘Fair Go’.

General Australian. From 1918 (AND).

Arthur and Ramson in Digger Dialects make the following observation: ‘Perhaps subtly different from fair go “an equitable opportunity”, in that this means more “an unimpeded opportunity”’.

Oscar  Money. An abbreviation of the rhyming slang ‘Oscar Asche’,  ‘cash’.

General Australian. From 1917 (AND). Attested in numerous sources.

‘Oscar Asche’, the name of an actor (1871-1936), is rhyming slang for ‘cash’, and was current in Australia from 1905. The abbreviation was first recorded in 1917.

Outed  Hit with such force as to be killed or rendered temporarily senseless.

General in the sense of ‘to knock out’ from the middle of the 19th century (Partridge). Attested in numerous sources.

In the sense of ‘to disable, knock out’, this was current from the middle of the 19th century. Digger Dialects provides the first recorded instance of the sense of ‘to kill’ (OED).

Over the Bags  An attack by Infantry.

General World War I. Attested in B&P, Digger Dialects, Hargrave, F&G, and Partridge.

This was synonymous with ‘over the top’, that is, to go over the sandbags that lines the top of the trenches on the front. F&G records the popular phrase ‘Over the bags and the best of luck!’

*Over the Odds  Unconscionable.

General. From 1919 (OED).

Digger Dialects provides the first recorded instance of this phrase.

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