By 1914 military involvement overseas had long been leaving its mark on the English language. We can go back to the Elizabethan age, for example, to England’s deep engagement in the Eighty Years’ War in the Netherlands and find loanwords entering English from both Spanish, the language of the enemy, and Dutch, the language of the ally on whose territory the conflict played out. From Spanish we get tercio (an infantry formation that might be described as the tank of its day), major, and reformado (a term which became common during the English Civil War). From Dutch there is freebooter, roiter, beleaguer (originally with the literal meaning ‘besiege’), and Moff. In this context, it comes as no surprise to find French, the language of the ally on whose territory the conflict played out, and German, the language of the enemy, having a similar influence on English during World War I.
German was the source of a quite different set of loans, mainly words referring to German weapons and vehicles, such as minenwerfer (and the diminutive Minnie) and U-boat. But perhaps the most significant German loanword of the First World War – one which outlasted the war, has been fully naturalized in English, and is no longer perceived as markedly German – is strafe.
Gott strafe England! (‘May God punish England!’) was a German slogan of the First World War, widely used in propaganda. By summer 1915…