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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Greetings Infomaniacs,

If you have ever used words like; cushy, snapshot, bloke, wash out, conk out, blind spot, binge drink or pushing up daisies, you can thank World War One. New research has shown how the conflict meant that hundreds of words and phrases came into common parlance thanks to the trenches.

Research has found that the war brought military slang into the mainstream, imported French and even German words to English and saw words from local dialects become part of national conversation.

The results of the research are included in a new book, Trench Talk: Words of the First World War, which documents how new words and phrases originated, while others were spread from an earlier, narrow context, to gain new, wider meanings.

Enjoy!

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WHO SAID IT?

QUOTE: "War is what happens when language fails."

HINT: A Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist, also a winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Prince of Asturias Award for Literature.

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RANDOM TIDBITS

"Lousy" and "crummy" both referred to being infested with lice, while "fed up" emerged as a widespread expression of weariness among the men.

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"Snapshot" came from a quickly aimed and taken rifle shot, and "wash out" described a process by which aspiring officers who failed their commissions and were sent back to their regiments, or "washed out".

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The French term souvenir replaced keepsake as the primary word for a memento, following exchanges with the locals, while officers being sacked were said to have "come ungummed" from the French "degommer", to dismiss. This quickly developed into "come unstuck".

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Several Hindi terms, picked up from Indian Army soldiers and already circulating in the regular, professional army, were also disseminated widely. One of those most used at the front was "cushy" from khush ('pleasure'). Soldiers would describe cushy, or comfortable billets, as well as cushy trenches, in quiet sectors.

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The most well known term derived from Hindi though was "Blighty", from bilati, meaning "foreign", which, when applied by Indians to Britons, came to be perceived by Indian Army servicemen as the term "British".

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Words even entered the lexicon from the trenches opposite. "Strafe" became an English word, from the German "to punish", via a prominent slogan used by the enemy: "Gott Strafe England", while prisoners of war returned with term "erzatz", literally "replacement", but used in English to mean "cheap substitute" and spelled ersatz.




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WHO SAID IT?

QUOTE: "War is what happens when language fails."

ANSWER: Margaret Atwood

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