Napoleonic Words, Phrases & Expressions

Contains Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and general information on the 95thRLHS, Re-enactment and the Napoleonic Period. This is a read-only, reference section and only Forum Officials can post topics.
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Napoleonic Words, Phrases & Expressions

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Baggage - Women & children accompanying the army

Bitch Booby - A country wench

To be in his Black Books - To have been convicted of crime or misdemeanour and entered into the Regimental punishment books which had black covers

Black Guard - A low, or shabby person/beggar who hung around Horse Guards and offered to black the boots of troopers for a small fee

Brim or Brimstone - An abandoned woman

Butcher's Bill - Medical Officer's casualty returns

Chosen Man - Man ready for promotion to NCO rank of Corporal when a vacancy arises

Crapaud - Nickname for a French soldier

Croaker - A complainer or pessimist

Dutch Courage - The practice acquired in the Low Countries of drinking strong liquor before going into battle to bring out the soldiers irrational aggressive tendencies

Feather in his cap - Regiments that particularly distinguished themselves in battle were allowed to wear white feathers in their hats. Most notable for this during the Napoleonic period were the 5th (Northumberland) Foot

Firelock - Flintlock musket

Flash in the pan - If the touchhole of a musket became blocked then the powder in the priming pan would ignite without setting off the main charge, i.e. the weapon would misfire

Forlorn Hope - Advance storming party, most of whom were expected to die especially in the attack on a breach

Fugelman - Trained soldier who stood in front of the ranks during drill

Gentlemen’s Sons - Nickname given to the Footguard Regiments

Goddams - French nickname for British Soldiers in view of their Protestant beliefs

Going off half cocked - The safety position on a musket is known as ‘half cock’. If the hammer slips from this position the bullet may well be fired prematurely and before the weapon can be properly aimed

Grog - A mixture of rum and water

Gruel - Mixture of flour, water and ground beef

Haversack - Fabric bag used for carrying provisions; sometimes referred to as the bread bag

Jack (tar) - A sailor

Jonathan - Nickname for the Americans

Knapsack - Infantry backpack; sometimes referred to as a Trotter

Light Bobs - Light Infantry

Lobster - Redcoat infantryman

Mohair - Contemptuous slang expression for a civilian

Necessaries - Items of personal kit provided at the soldier's own expense

Nightingale - A soldier who cried out whilst being flogged

Old Trousers - Derisory British nickname for the French drum-call "Pas de Charge"

Patlander - Slang for an Irishman

Pong - Slang for bread

Punk - Soldiers female companion or commonly a prostitute

Ruffler - Beggar who pretended to be a wounded soldier or sailor

Scotch Greys - Lice

Skilly - Thin, watery soup

Skulker - Someone who feined illness to avoid duty

Stirabout - Stew or stock-pot

Sutler - Purveyor of food and drink to soldiers

Toad eater - Flatterer who sort to ingratiate himself with his superiors

Trull - A soldier's female companion

Whiskers - Facial hair

Worn out - A soldier no longer fit for active service

Article by:
Chsm Brian James
1 Coy No. 7, 2/44 (East Essex) Regiment of Foot
95thRLHS Official Communication