Words from the First World War Australian Home Front

by Amanda Laugesen

During the First World War, soldiers who served overseas used and developed a great deal of slang. Much attention has been devoted to studying this slang (see for example, A.G. Pretty’s ‘Glossary of Slang and Peculiar Terms used in the A.I.F.’), but we know far less of the words of the home front. While those on the home front knew the words of war to some extent, as this language was reported on in the press and found in letters sent home from soldiers, there was also a vocabulary distinctive to the Australian home front experience.

Anzac Day procession 1917, Brisbane

Anzac Day procession 1917, Brisbane

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What is an Anzac button?

by Amanda Laugesen

Nested in an entry for Anzac in the Australian National Dictionary (AND, 1988) is a list of terms such as Anzac biscuit, Anzac march, and Anzac overcoat. Included in this set of terms is Anzac button. As I am currently researching Australian words from the First World War, this was one of the more intriguing terms to research.

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The Digger: the image of the Australian soldier in his own writings

by Georgia Appleby*

Although the official birth of the Australian nation occurred in 1901 at Federation, a national identity remained dormant until the Anzacs stepped onto the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915. Despite the abysmal failure of the campaign, the Australian forces came to be known as some of the fiercest and most courageous fighters, and the men themselves were not afraid to brag about it.

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‘Materiel’? Really?

by Julia Robinson

Early this year in a cabinet reshuffle the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard appointed Mike Kelly, the federal member for Eden–Monaro, as the Minister for Defence Materiel. It is a relatively new Ministry, created in 2010, responsible for military equipment and supply. Minister Kelly is in charge of the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), part of the Department of Defence. The DMO currently lists among its ‘acquisition projects’ such things as armoured vehicles, communications and missile defence systems, aircraft, amphibious vehicles, and helicopters.

Mike Kelly is sworn in as Minister for Defence Materiel, February 2013.

‘Defence Materiel’—really? —asked one of our correspondents. Isn’t this just a pretentious French way to spell material? Well, apparently not, we discovered; it has a particular meaning in a military context. Continue reading

Anzac: Words from Gallipoli

by Amanda Laugesen

April 25 marks one of Australia’s most important national days, Anzac Day. Last year, we looked at the phrase ‘One Day of the Year’. This year, we take a look at a number of terms that were first used during the Gallipoli campaign by the soldiers who served there in the First World War. Continue reading

Nevil Shute and A Town Like Alice

by Amanda Laugesen

Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice was published in 1950, and remains a classic tale of romance and war. As a novel written by an Englishman who had just moved to Australia, the novel reflects Shute’s attempts to capture the Australian vernacular as he depicts the heroic Jean Paget, Joe Harman, and the life and people of the Queensland Gulf Country.

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Australian National Dictionary Centre’s Word of the Year 2012

Each year the ANDC selects a WORD OF THE YEAR. This year, we have selected:

green-on-blue(used in a military context) an attack made on one’s own side by a force regarded as neutral’.

This term has gained prominence in the Australian and international media due to the ongoing military involvement in Afghanistan.

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C.E.W. Bean and Australian English – Part II

by Amanda Laugesen

Last week, I looked at the ways in which Charles Bean’s writings from before the First World War not only provide a vivid portrait of life in rural New South Wales in the first decades of the twentieth century, but also provide valuable evidence for a number of Australian English terms. This week I will take a look at his writings about the First World War.

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The Fatal Shore

The wreck of the Loch Ard in 1878 near Cape Otway, Victoria. Image source: State Library of Victoria

by Mark Gwynn

Last week on 6 August renowned art critic, historian, and man of letters Robert Hughes, AO, died in New York at the age of 74. Hughes, who left Australia in the 1960s to pursue opportunities overseas, is one of a group of expatriate Australian trailblazers and intellectuals that includes Clive James and Germaine Greer.  Hughes had a successful career as a writer and critic before undertaking his major historical work The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787–1868. This international bestseller, published in the year before Australia’s 1988 bicentenary, sought to re-examine the foundation of modern Australia and the role that transported criminals from Britain had in this story.

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The one day of the year

Procession of the 41st Battalion through Brisbane on Anzac Day, 1916. Image source: State Library of Queensland.

by Mark Gwynn

Not forgotten nor forsaken
Are the lads no longer here, I shall call — and you will waken
On this one day of the year.
   Argus (Melbourne) 29 April 1916

The one day of the year in Australia is Anzac Day, April 25, a national public holiday commemorating all those who have served and died in war. April 25 is the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) troops in 1915. It was the start of a gruelling eight-month long campaign by allied forces during the First World War to capture the Turkish peninsula.

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