100 years ago today, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was shot in Sarajevo, triggering what H.G. Wells called the “war that will end war”; it wasn’t long before the irony of that phrase was felt.
The Oxford English Dictionary has published 100 words that define the First World War to mark this centenary, including zig-zag (as in ‘drunk’), shrapnel and dora.
Strangely, this list doesn’t include one of the dictionary’s own new words of 1914: pacifism.
In 1914 the first addenda to the three-year-old Concise Oxford Dictionary was published, giving us words like cinema, movies and Zeppelin, and – pacifism. It came from the French term pacifisme, coined in 1901 by Émile Arnaud, founder of the Ligue Internationale de la Paix et de la Liberté, and was first used in The Times in 1905 (See Martin Ceadel’s entry on Pacifism in the Cambridge History of the First World War).
A fascinating conference on languages and the First World War just covered everything from censorship of Welsh soldiers’ letters home to communication across no man’s land. As the commemorations gather pace, and as always in story-telling, it’s a question of what you choose to remember, and what words you choose to use.