Fritz and Tommy

Across the Barbed Wire
  • Peter Doyle
  • Robin Schäfer
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Languages at War book series (PASLW)


The war between ‘Fritz’ and ‘Tommy’ — respectively German and British soldiers1 — commenced once the British Expeditionary Force, landing in France in early August 1914, took up its pre-determined position in the line in support of the French. From this point on, the armies of both nations would develop their own soldiers’ speech — Soldatensprache or ‘trench slang’ — which would be continuously shaped through four years of war. It is interesting to compare the natures of these languages, of their differences, their similarities and their emergence through the shared experience of the war. In this essay, we examine aspects of the languages of the two foes, considering both their commonality and their differences. This paper represents, as far as we know, the first attempt to compare the development of ‘war slang’ in the two armies. As such it very much represents a first step in the wider comparative exploration of two distinct ‘trench languages’. In writing this essay, we draw upon our work exploring the shared experience of the British and German troops on the Western Front (Doyle and Schäfer 2015).


Shared Experience Private Collection British Army German Army British Troop 
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Copyright information

© The Editor(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Doyle
  • Robin Schäfer

There are no affiliations available

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