Review: Don’t You Know There’s A War On? (Rees)


Illustration similar to book cover.

Don’t You Know There’s A War On?

A printed reference book like this is my preferred format for looking up vocabulary. It’s too bad that this one is as skimpy as it us: it has only about 100 entries related to the First World War (the rest have to do with WWII). Furthermore, the book is padded with several items which are not vocabulary, but are recruiting poster titles or slogans – hardly the kind of verbiage that would have been heard in daily conversation on the battleground or on the home front.

The book presents nicely, on good quality paper within a sturdy clothbound hard cover, but there is quite a lot of white space for such small pages: further evidence of the scantiness of the text. The pages are illustrated by vignettes so tiny that there’s no hope of seeing details, and many of them are repeated. The list is strictly alphabetical, with both wars mingled (not a good idea), and while there is an index, the list could have used a topical guide, for cross-referencing.

There are more comprehensive vocabularies online. A good one is at Griffith University:


Battlefield Colloquialisms of the Great War (WW1) by Paul Hinckley

This list contains 366 items, and it’s even illustrated with about 20 photographs. Whether you’re a novelist with a need for authentic period vocabulary in dialogue, or a reader who’s interested in the language of the period, Hinckley’s list is a better choice than the Rees book.


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