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2 corrections, most recently by peter-macinnis - Show corrections

BRAVE NEW WORDS Army terminology as it stands at the end of the war is a dis- appointment to etymologist and writer alike. The etymologist re- gards neologisms as red corpuscles introduced into the life blood of language to combat anaemia; and neologisms usually commence their existence under the label of slang. The dialogue writer seeks vivid picturesque slang and colloquial isms for the development of situa- tions and characterisations. The new impulses and thoughts of Army life might be expected to produce new words; yet, in spite of his pungency of wit and quickness at repartee the Australian soldier of this war has done poor work in enlarging the national vocabu- lary of slang and colloquial idiom. Many new words and phrases have emerged; few (other than scienti- fic and technical ones) promises to endure. A few words from the Middle East campaigns may survive, as "buckshee" from the earlier war survived. Food in the Army is invariably "munga," from a kind of Arab bread called "mungaria." A person with a healthy appetite is a "Munga Man." "Feloosh" and "moir"--straight-out Arabic words -are money and water re- spectively everywhere in the A.I.F. Another Arabic word in "clifty" threatens the position of "scrounge," but is less expressive. An amazingly useful Arabic ac- quisition which defies adequate translation is "maleesh." It means "it doesn't matter," but is full of deep resignation and Oriental fatalism. Its merit is evaluated only after use on the right occasion. You will probably hear many returned soldiers say ing "maleesh to condy's" as an alternative; the derivation of this   phrase is shrouded in mystery. I had not heard "sort" used as a synonym for "sheilah" until I joined the Army. It still sur- vives, but is less popular than the equally ugly Arabic "bint" which, it is sad to think, because it has nothing to commend it, seems to have come to stay. "The Jack System." A phrase which was sweeping through the Army when the war ended was that contemptuous re- ference to selfishness: "the Jack system." The origin lies in the remark: "Damn you, Jack; I'm all right." It is a useful phrase terse, biting, meaningful--and should be spoken with quiet scorn. Just murmur "Jack system" when somebody fails to make room for you in a tram or bus, and results should be good. It is difficult to find a synonym which says so much in so apparently inoffensive a way. The Air Force, to the envy of the Army, invented the "gremlin" -a good bet as a future diction- ary word. The Army accepted the word as an alternative to the not inexpressive "drongo." There was a lamentable lack of originality and pungency in the overworked use of "joker" in the sense of the generic "one." The famous "doover" began as a synonym for "thingamebob," but is now used mainly for a dugout, sangar, or jungle shelter. Why do so many writers in search of atmospheric dialogue use "recco" for patrol? There is no such slang word: the correct term is "recce" (pronounced "recky") which, by the way, is an authorised military abbreviation. But "recce" is being pushed out of business by "shoofti," yet another Arabic word meaning "look." Neither "recce" nor "shoofti" should be confused with "bash," which is a fighting as distinct from a recon naissance patrol. The most popular Army gamble is the "swi game," from the Ger- man for two. Rugby is "organ- ised wrestling"; Australian rules football, "aerial pingpong." Any type of dessert is "pud- ding"; rice is "Ah Foo Ballast"; sausages are "snaggers"; tea is "chi" or "brew." None Received a "Blighty." Nobody received a "blighty" in this war: it was always a "homer" or a "B class" or-only if you served at Tobruk-an "Alex." To go absent without leave is "to go (or blow) through." An officer who is no longer required by the Army receives a "bowler