What is it?

This is a dictionary of terms used by Australian troops in the First World War, compiled by W. H. Downing during 1919 and published in the same year. ‘Digger’ was a colloquial name applied to Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) personnel that developed during the war (although the term was already applied to miners back in Australia and New Zealand). The slang used by soldiers had developed in the field and so it is notable that the dictionary is published back in Australia; it perhaps represents a way of writing down and attempting to understand the experiences of those who fought in the war.

Digger dialects

Regarded as having started during the First World War, digger dialects, or digger slang, are a group of words developed and used by ANZAC forces. The language rapidly became complex, being used to make fun of the Diggers’ situation (an example being the term for soldiers, ‘six-bob-a-day tourists’) and drawing off words from locations Diggers found themselves in to produce a rich vocabulary. It has subsequently further developed in conflicts such as the Second World War and the Vietnam War.