Sunday 9 November 2014

French trench slang

On Armistice Day there's a tendency to concentrate on the Great war as a specifically British catastrophe. Here (from the excellent website is a short list of French slang from the period, what's known as  l’argot des tranchées.

Une abeille : a bee was a bullet.

L’antidérapant :  “non-slip“ is the word for wine.

Une auge : a trough was the nickname of the soldier’s plate.

Le Boche : origin obscure but a “ boche “ was the vulgar nickname given to a German.

La Bochie : Literally the Boche’s country,  la Bochie was the term for Germany.

Une boite de singe : literally “ a monkey’s box “ it designated both an artillery shell and canned food.

Les Bouchers Noirs : “ The Black Butchers “ were the soldiers in the artillery. This expression came from the colour of their uniforms and the devastating effect they had.

Un Boyau : “ A gut “ was the entrance of a trench.

Boyauter :  From “ boyau“ , it meant to walk/patrol in the trenches.

Un cabot : a corporal but also a dog.

Un Cerf : a deer was an accomplished cavalryman and a horse.

Chien de quartier : Literally the “ Quarter dog “ was the adjutant.

Cleb : The “ cleb “ meant the dog. It was  brought by the Algerian soldiers.

Un Crapouillot : literally a “ little toad “, it designated a small mortar.

( Gagner la ) Croix de Bois : Earning the Wooden Cross meant to be killed in action.

La gnôle : nickname for a strong alcohol, still used today by the elders.

Le groin de cochon : the pig’s snout was a gas mask.

Un moineau : a sparrow was a shell, because of the sound it made when flying over the soldiers.

Moulin à café : The coffee grinder was a machine-gun.

Un Nouveau-Né : A Newborn referred to a bomb shell that did not explode.

P.C.D.F : “ Pauvre Couillons du Front “ or “ Poor Mugs at the Front “ was a nickname the Poilus gave themselves in the trenches.

Le Pinard : Low quality wine, this slang word is still used today.

Le Poilu : Certainly the best known World War One word. “The Hairy“ was the French soldier, more particularly the one who had survived his first fight.

Les Pompes : the “ pumps “ were the soldier’s boots because they often ended “ pumping “ water.

Rosalie : Rosalie was one of the many nicknames for a bayonet.

La Rosalie de Mademoisellee Lebel : “ Miss Lebel’s Rosalie “ was an expression used to designate a bayonet on a rifle. The Lebel rifle was used by the French army and Rosalie was one of the many nicknames for a bayonet.

Le séchoir : “ the clothes line “ is barbed wire, this slang started because the soldiers who were “killed“ would fall and be tangled in the wire, as if they were hung out to dry.

Une taupe : a mole, was the nickname given to the German soldiers digging tunnels.

Des totos : lice and fleas.

Un toubib : a “ doc “ was the nickname given to the doctors. The word comes from the arabic “ tebib “. It is still used today.

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