WW2 slang: Does it still make sense ?

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts.' started by Ron Goldstein, Jan 5, 2016.

  1. TriciaF

    TriciaF Junior Member Patron

    I've heard a few of the above, plus "doolally" which is used quite a lot these days (with all the talk about dementia and Altzheimers.) Explanation:
    "Early 20th century: originally doolally tap, Indian army slang, from Deolali (the name of a town with a military sanatorium and a transit camp) + Urdu tap ‘fever’."
    Where servicemen went to recuperate but went mad with boredom.
  2. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I think it was also the location of the RA depot in It Ain't 'Alf Hot, Mum.
  3. toki2

    toki2 Junior Member

    My dad was in Hamburg after the war and so I learnt a few everyday day phrases. He often used the saying ziggy zaggy to denote someone who was a bit loopy. Oddly enough, he would tell us the story of Goldilocks and the three bears in German.
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Regarding shufti, "to have a look at or observe".....in my working life, it was often used in process system monitoring communication....if a plant alarm was received or there was some concern regarding the situation or status of plant....a field operator might be asked to have a shufti at a particular concern....had an engineer in the section whose response was "I'll have a shufti" if a problem was brought to his attention.

    This meaning is also supported by the OED and has its origin in 1943.
  5. SMLE

    SMLE Junior Member

    I think it's interesting how these phrases survive the test of time.

    When I was in the RAF in the 80s and 90s we regularly used words that I have since learned were from the days of the empire. Ones I can remember off the top of my head:

    Dohbi - Washing
    Dohbi Dust - Washing Powder
    Scran - Food
    Bundook - Rifle
    Dekko and Shufti - to have a look
    Pukka Gen - Good information
    Duff Gen - Bad information

    I remember reading a WW1 memoir and the writer was remembering the problems caused by his old sweat comrades trying to negotiate billets with French landladies and the confusion caused by their mixture of Hindi and French when admiring the 'cushy' billets (the landladies seemed to think they wanted to sleep with them!).

    I still stick 'U/S' on broken kit at work and have to explain that it means unservicable!
    dbf likes this.
  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I've heard scran, but I can't think of the etymological/linguistic origin.
    Anybody enlighten me?
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2017
  7. toki2

    toki2 Junior Member

    Good luck with that. The Slang Dictionary ranges from a naval scurvy prevention mix to a part of the male anatomy. Oxford Dictionary gives the bill at an inn but no further information.
  8. David Mawer

    David Mawer Member

    We still use the phrase 'to be genned-up' meaning to have all the info.

    'Crack on' is still used, meaning to get on with it. Maybe it comes from the 'crack' of the whip?
  9. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    Acha is a Hindi/Urdu all purpose word, a bit like O.K. and is usually accompanied by a side to side movement of the head. If when travelling in India, you ask a question of a local that he hasn't quite understood, you usually get an acha in reply.
  10. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    I'm ex-RN.
    I understand all the above except 'griff'.
    Scran - food, I believe is of scottish origin.
    Funnily enough, though I've no idea why, scran-bag was used to describe an untidy or unkempt person.
    I'll also throw in 'punkah wallah' to describe a ventilation vent and, where it came from I've no idea, 'I'm Harry Skinters' meaning I'm broke. On a ship in Canada a chap came to the ship looking for a sailor who he had lent money to in a bar. When asked what the sailor's name was he said Harry Skinters. Poor chap couldn't understand why everyone fell about laughing.
    Seroster and dbf like this.
  11. Seroster

    Seroster Canadian researcher Patron

    I know "skint" only from having listened to (MANY episodes of) The Goon Show. (Of course the cast were WW2 vets)

    At that time clearly they expected everyone to know the word. There was one joke that went like this:

    "My associate had just provided me with an update of our financial position."
    "We're skint, mate!"
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2017

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