Songs and slang of the British Soldier

Selected by Diana Manipud, Archives Assistant

The increased contact between soldiers from different countries and social classes in the war zones saw the exchange of language and words encourage a growth of slang expressions that were created. Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918 edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, provides a collection of songs and slang that were prevalent during the First World War.

I like the inventiveness of some of the words such as ‘whizz bang’ and ‘pip-squeak’ which were used by soldiers to describe sounds of shells either approaching or exploding. I also find it really interesting that some words take their root from other languages, for example, ‘Blighty’ (derived from ‘the Hindustani bilaik, meaning foreign country, especially England’) and ‘Buckshee’ used as an adjective applied to anything that was surplus or free (‘A development of the Persian bucksheesh’: a gratuity, a tip’).

 Ref: Songs and Slang of the British Soldier: 1914-1918 edited by John Brophy and Eric Partridge, London, 1930.

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