Australian English and the words of war

10 November 2017

The First and Second World Wars in particular were very influential in terms of Australian language because there was such a large civilian population involved

A symposium at The Australian National University (ANU) on Monday will take a close look at how language in Australia and around the world has been influenced by wars.

Dr Amanda Laugesen, Director of the ANU Australian National Dictionary Centre which is hosting the event, said wars have always had a strong influence on Australian English, particularly slang.

"The First and Second World Wars in particular were very influential in terms of Australian language because there was such a large civilian population involved," Dr Laugesen said.

"For many soldiers it was their first time outside of Australia, so the war saw them interacting with a lot of different people from different places, and that had an impact.

"The letters home from soldiers were also important in informing the home population about their experiences and so making them familiar with the new vocabulary of war.

"Words like 'furphy' and 'Aussie' came about as a result of WWI and have become a part of our everyday vocabulary."

The event will also focus on how more recent conflicts, such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, have shaped Australian language.

"We're seeing language change through the politics of being involved in a war, more than what the soldiers are doing on the ground."

Researchers will also look at issues such as attitudes towards foreign languages, the experiences of interpreters, and communication in wartime.

More information and the full program are available here - http://slll.cass.anu.edu.au/centres/andc/events/language-times-war-and-conflict.

Australian English words that originated from or popularised by war

Word

Origin

Furphy

WWI

Aussie

WWI

Possie

WWI

King-hit

WWI

Ear-bash

WWII

Doover

WWII

Go troppo

WWII