Saturday, June 12, 2010

Fly Boys

Wartime is the mothership of invention. So many words and phrases were created by soldiers and sailors during World War II; figures of speech that we've long since forgotten the origin of (not just the immortal FUBAR) but more obscure "slanguage", such as....

Tin fish (an aerial torpedo), flak (Abbreviation of "Fleiger abwehr Kanone", a German phrase meaning anti-aircraft cannon fire), grease monkey (any member of a aircraft ground crew), lame duck (a crippled airplane) and....

V-Mail (Mail for World War II military, where the original was written on a specially printed form, then photographed on 16mm microfilm, sent to its destination by air, where it was enlarged and delivered to its recipient. V-Mail forms were available at any post office, and could be dropped into any mail box. 200,000 microfilm letters fit into one mailbag.

In 1942, it was also necessary for pilots to know how to dock and pilot airships, a skill now sadly lost.

There were several sorts of airships: non-rigid, pressure-rigid, rigid, and semi- rigid. There were airship stations, airship hulls, airship gangplanks, airship cabins, bumper bags, an aerostat center of buoyancy, bridles, axial cables, and bow-weighing devices. All of those long-lost definitions are described and illustrated in exquisite detail, straight from 1942 and those who lived it.

Jordanoff's Illustrated Aviation Dictionary, (1942). Offered for sale by Chewybooks, as of June 12, 2010.

No comments: