How the 8th said it
By BERT MUDGE
ex-prisoner of war in Malaya
now. No back-ups
Plenty of leggy." That is the Eighth Divvy's way of saying: "Plenty of food, now. No need to organise second helpings. There is plenty
Like its forefathers, the 2nd A.I.F. has coined many words. And the 8th's own local vocabulary was caused by peculiar circumstances, segre- gation from the world for 3½ years, and a too close associa- tion with monkeys.
"Tucsan" is Nip for plenty, and "muckin" is Malay for food. The spelling is pho- netic. "Backup" is Australian slang, and "leggy" is English slang.
People on the homefront were familiar enough with wartime queues. So were we.
The Pommies called them "leggy" queues. From this leggy finally came to mean anything left over after the queue had been through.
The leggy was then run out as a "back-up."
"Looking down the barrel" was a very happy position to
If the back-up finished on 53 one day, and my back-up number was 54, I was looking down the barrel next day if there was any leggy.
Food, or lack of it, dominated prisoner-of-war life in the ranks.
Pap was the breakfast dish-rice boiled into porridge. Hash for lunch -dry rice mixed with sweet potato leaves. On good days it was dry rice mixed with "sweetbuck" (root part of sweet potato) or with tapioca root. In either case the roots were served as chips.
Sludge was wet hash.
Rice was not a monotonous diet (not much). It just needed a little ingenuity.
A "doover" was rice in any other
guise. The Pommies called it an
Changi cooks reduced doovers to
a fine art.
The majority of prisoner-of-war cooks were not trained Army cooks. They trained in a tougher school, hence their imagination.
The war was always referred to as "the blue." And now any mis- take or blunder-minor or major is a blue or a bad blue.
"Going through" or "shooting through" meant anything from desertion in action to evading a fatigue in prisoner-of-war life.
"U.S.," the adaptation of U.F.S. (unfit for further service) was used originally in reference to clothing. It became applicable to anything.
Being "done over" meant anything from being killed in the blue to being bashed on a working-party.
"Koo-rah!" Most used word in Malaya. What unhappy things it recalls!
If anyone, at future convivial gatherings of ex-prisoners of war, is forgetful enough to shout "koo-rah," I fear he will be dealt with sum- marily.
There are some things even prisoners of war cannot joke about.
"Koo-rah" is Nipponese for "Hey, you," used by the so-called Sons of Heaven to underlings.
It usually preceded a bashing on the Thailand railway nightmare.
Guard knew Dickens
WHENEVER a Nip (or "poon," as
we called them) officer passed the guard-house the Nips jumped to their feet, giving an unearthly shout in Nipponese.
From the first to the last days of our captivity some prisoner of war would always make the inevitable re- joinder: "He's headed 'em again."
At evening parades the Nips used to chant something parodied by us as: "You are the cause of all this; oi." This was repeated three times.
It was surprising the number of Nips who had a smattering of Eng- lish, and some spoke it fluently. A guard at Orchard Road camp knew the works of Shakespeare and Dickens backwards.
One of the most notorious guards on the island revealed his knowledge of English in the following incident:
A boy on one of the trucks said: "I wonder if the b------ would pull up at the market?"
The truck stopped at the market. The guard walked round and said: "Not too much of the b-------. Now what do you want?"
The Nips were very proud of their English. They liked to engage us in conversation, so we lost no time in benefiting by their vanity.
One of us would get the Nip talk- ing, and everyone stopped working.
On the last working party on the island, when we were tunnelling
funkholes for our captors, the Nip in charge used an English word in the wrong sense.
One of our coves pointed this out to him.
Nip: "My accent is not good?"
Prisoner of war: "Your accent is very good. Australian accent no good. You have English accent, which is very good."
Nip: "Oxford accent is accent of English gentleman."
Prisoner of war: "Yes."
Nip (reverting to normal) : "But I am not a gentleman." Then he sprang up, brandished his bamboo, and jumping about like a monkey, indicated it was time for the prison- ers to do a bit more for the Im- perial Japanese Army.
"COPPING the crow" is as old as
the hills, but had a great re- vival in the Army.
I had to go to Malaya to learn its origin.
My authority was Barney Wood-
"Doover" or "effort" it makes no difference it's all good "muckin."
berry, from Wilcannia, a drover with a lifetime's experience of the outback.
When a new-chum joined the locals in the pub lt was decided who should pay for the round by placing slips of paper in a hat. Ostensibly only one slip was marked "crow," but actually all were.
The game lasteà as long as the new-chum fell for it. Finally he always woke up ard demanded to see his neighbor's slip, which, of course, was also marked "crow."
The innocent response was: "Oh, we always call crows magpies up this way."
Probably most of our prisoner-of war phrases will die as quickly as they were born.
A prisoner-of-war cobber of mine, no doubt contaminated by contact with civilisation, referred the other day to the war.
Perhaps the sole survivor of the Eighth Divvy's words will be muckin. It always meant so much. "Mishie'
was the Nip word for food; but it was never popular.
And now for a "yas-mee" (rest), sweetest of all Nip words.