OED release notes: the language of World War I | OxfordWords blog

via OED: OxfordWords blog.

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…

via OED release notes: the language of World War I | OxfordWords blog.

Letter to an Unknown Soldier

Originally posted on About | Letter to an Unknown Soldier.


2014 is already proving to be a year jammed-full of WW1 commemoration, but for us, it is important to move away from cenotaphs, poppies, and the imagery we associate with war memorials.

Our project invites everyone to step back, take a few private moments to think, and make their own contribution. If you could say what you want to say about that war, with all we’ve learned since 1914, with all your own experience of life and death to hand, what would you say? If you were now able to write to the unknown soldier, a man who served and was killed during World War One, what would you write?


We’ve asked some well-known writers to contribute, and we’re delighted that people like Stephen Fry and Malorie Blackman, Andrew Motion and Val McDermid have agreed to join in. And we’re equally pleased that school children, pensioners, students, nurses and firemen are planning to lend their voices to this UK-wide artwork.


Letters can be submitted now and will be published here starting on 28 June – a hundred years to the day since the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand which marked the beginning of Europe’s descent into war. The website will remain open until the night of 4 August, the centenary of the outbreak of war. Eventually the British Library will archive all the letters in their collection. Please add your voice. What you write will help provide a snapshot of what people in this country are thinking and feeling in this centenary year. Your letter will help us create a new kind of war memorial – one made entirely of words, and created by everyone.

Neil Bartlett and Kate Pullinger

via About | Letter to an Unknown Soldier.