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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Erk - where does the name come from?


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Grateful if Pals would eduaate an ignorant Pongo

where does the name ERK come from?

and was there any other early RFC slang


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According to the online OED, the word 'erk' is possibly the shortened pronunciation of air mechanic, a corruption of A.C. (the abbreviation for aircraftsman), or it might (but less convincingly) come from its use in the navy to refer to a rating, especially a lower-deck hand. It seems to have been around since the mid 1920s. If there's an earlier documented use of the word it would be worth forwarding to the OED for inclusion in the next online revision.


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Here are some which I've had for some time, not quite sure where I got them from, but can llok it up if you're interested:

A.A. = Archie or "hate"

Student pilot = Hun

R.E.8 = Harry Tate

B.E.2 = Quirk

Sopwith Triplane = Tripehound

F.E.2 = Fee

More than one Albatros = Albatri

Air Mechanic = ack emma

A.M. and P.M. = ack emma and pip emma

Balloon = sausage

Split-S turn = split ****/split arsing

Distant Offensive Patrol = D.O.P.

Hostile Aircraft = H.A.

Shot down in flames = a flamer

Combat = scrap, dogfight

Hispano-Suiza = Hisso

Hisso made by Hispano-Suiza = a Hisso Hisso

RFC tunic = maternity jacket

Bought the farm = K.I.A.

Pranged =crashed

'gone west' for airmen not expected to return.

He washed out = did not make the grade as a pilot.

Wrote himself off=made a mistake that cost him his life

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