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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Indian Army Phrases


ianw

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Richard Holmes in "Sahib" suggests this phrase derives from the system of rationing rum in the 19th century but the phrase seems to have earlier usage back to the 16th century - although again associated with the measurement of drink. Has anyone any ideas about this or access to the OED?

Holmes also comments on "cutting it a bit fine" as being derived from the danger of too short a fuse in a shell. Amazing how I have gone through life without knowing that!

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The Victoria and Albert Museum have a 'peg tankard' (a communal pewter pot with regular peg holes inside to indicate each drinker's portion) which they claim is the origin of the term 'to take down a peg or two'.

The pot is crtainly not Indian, and certainly predates the 19th Century.

There is no mention of 'taking down a peg' in Hobson-Jobson.

Tom the Walrus

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Talking of saying with military origins I was told thet "going the whole nine yards" originated from Vickers Guns as the canvas belt was nine yards long. Is this true or an urban myth?

Jon

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The Hindustan word for a louse was a "chat", and men would often sit round together delousing themselves, and it became the opportunity for social interaction, hence the expression "having a chat with someone" or "chatting".

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Talking of saying with military origins I was told thet "going the whole nine yards" originated from Vickers Guns as the canvas belt was nine yards long. Is this true or an urban myth?

Jon

I believe it's true.

I was told recently that the expression "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" has military connections. Back in Nelson's time, cannon balls were stored on a brass rack known as a monkey. When it got extremely cold the brass would contract and cause the balls to fall out of it. Urban myth or not, I think it's still a good story!

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The Victoria and Albert Museum have a 'peg tankard' (a communal pewter pot with regular peg holes inside to indicate each drinker's portion) which they claim is the origin of the term 'to take down a peg or two'.

The pot is crtainly not Indian, and certainly predates the 19th Century.

There is no mention of 'taking down a peg' in Hobson-Jobson.

Tom the Walrus

I agree with this, the phrase 'taking down a peg' pre-dates India.

I believe that the confusion has arisen because the word "peg" seemed to have a meaning to do with drink in India. Thus, burra-peg and chota-peg for large and small whisky.

Burra India Big. Gave rise to many uses, for example; 'burra bungalow' - manager's bungalow; 'burra din' - big day or Christmas Day; 'burra khana' - big dinner or celebration; 'burra mem' - senior lady; 'burra-peg' - double whisky; 'burra sahib' - important man.

Chota India Small. Used as an adjective eg: chota bungalow, chota peg, chota Sahib.

Source: British Empire Glossary: http://www.britishempire.co.uk/glossary/glossary.htm

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The Hindustan word for a louse was a "chat", and men would often sit round together delousing themselves, and it became the opportunity for social interaction, hence the expression "having a chat with someone" or "chatting".

Matt

I'm pretty sure this supposed connection has been discussed a time or two on Forum, and disproved. 'Chat' with its current meaning was around long before the Raj. IIRC of course! :)

Jim

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Quite possibly, I didn't make the expression up!

Matt :D

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Another naval one

"son of a gun"

sometimes women would be on board naval/pirate ships and of course some would get pregnent.

the only area on the ship that would have space when the child was being delivered was on the gun decks between the guns. as father of the child was unknown he was the "son of a gun"

true or false ? just heard it and remembered it

ken

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Has the expression "stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea" got some kind of naval connection?

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Matt

I had a look at the previously quoted site and found this:

CANOE, the Committee to Ascribe a Nautical Origin to Everything, would have us believe that it has a nautical origin (well, they would wouldn't they?). In her book, 'When a loose cannon flogs a dead horse there's the devil to pay', Olivia Isil unambiguously attributes a nautical origin to the phrase.
:lol:

Have a look at the article here.

Jim

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Why is it called a "Bungalow"?

Cause you bung a low roof on it.

(I'll get me coat).

Kath.

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Jim,

Interesting I thought it had something to do with the hulls of ships...you learn something new every day!

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Talking of saying with military origins I was told thet "going the whole nine yards" originated from Vickers Guns as the canvas belt was nine yards long. Is this true or an urban myth?

Jon

I think that through a previous thread this explanation was discounted. As far as I can remember from that thread a belt for the Vickars is not 9 yards long.

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I think that through a previous thread this explanation was discounted. As far as I can remember from that thread a belt for the Vickars is not 9 yards long.

Vickers aircraft ammunition belts were 9 yards long - however, it seems that the phrase "the whole nine yards" (meaning "to give everything") or a variation of it was in use at least during the Napoleonic War, with reference to ships sails (ie using the full sail, or giving everything again). So if this is correct, not so much a creation of WW1, but a reinvention of an earlier concept.

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The devil and the deep blue sea as explained to me was that the devil was part of the mast at the pointy end of the ship, the one that isnt vertical but more like at about 30 degrees and sticks out at the front. (Please stop me if I'm losing you in the jargon!) As a punishment as sailor was sent halfway along it and had to cling on. Hence the expression. I wish I hadnt started this reply now. :o

Keith

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A masterly description and easily understood. Was Bowsprit the word you were looking for?

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Yes, Squirrel. I believe it is! How true it is may be another story though.

Getting back on track, is it not the case that 'chokey' (prison) is derived from India? I also heard that 'Blighty' is from an urdu word meaning foreign.

Keith

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Tom the Walrus (no "I am the Walrus"..."No, I am the Walrus"...Beatles and Python fans will forgive me) mentions Hobson Jobson.

An invaluable guide, I bought a Wordsworth Library edition a few years ago. Great fun and highly recommended.

Blighty comes from - in a roundabout way - "Bilayut" (meaning, generally, Europe), and "Bilayutee" as an adjective.

Bungalow - "Bangla" and Hindi and Mahratta word, an adjective meaning belonging to Bengal, or "Bengali-style", and used to describe the sort of huts common in that area.

Choky - Hindin "Chauki", probably connected witht he Sikh "Chatur", means a (at first) shed reasting on four posts used as a lock-up.

Hobson Jobson - buy it...you know it makes sense.

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From the Box of Lions Imphal WW2.. Lt.Col Cunningham and his officers were then having themselves a well earned "peg" in their mess tent when all hell broke loose, causing them to dive for cover leaving their drinks, though one officer's hand was seen to grope for his glass on the table under which he was lying.

Lionboxer

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Talking of saying with military origins I was told thet "going the whole nine yards" originated from Vickers Guns as the canvas belt was nine yards long. Is this true or an urban myth?

Jon

belt.jpgThis is missing 25/30 rounds but,it could be about right!

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