Centuries-Old Sayings Still in Use Today

This year marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the beginning of World War I. As many remember the fallen, the Oxford English Dictionary has appealed to people to reveal words and phrases used during the war.

It was the merging of countries and camps, and the union of allies, that led to many new phrases being conceived during this harrowing time. Some have already been reported, but the dictionary is appealing for help to prove that these words were encountered for the first time one hundred years ago.

Examples that have already been announced include:


This term was invented by the Daily Mail back in 1917. A slang term for a “conscientious objector”, it is still used today.


Although this word, meaning ‘disguise’ in French, has been used since the 1800s, it was only during the First World War that it was used in conjunction with military uniform. Its first known military usage was to quickly direct officers to hide their weapons from enemies.


This originated as a short form of ‘demobilisation’ and is now used in a variety of ways, most commonly on television programmes about the mafia.

Shell Shock

The inventor of this term actually regretted coining it from his psychiatry notes examining the mental disposition of a fallen soldier. Charles Samuel Myers said later that it was a “singularly ill-chosen term”.

Trench Foot

It is fitting that this term came about during World War I, as conditions were horrific. A related term was ‘Trench Mouth’; both described disease and infection resulting from lack of hygiene and dry conditions in the trenches.

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