The Tomb of the Ten Thousand Dead Glossary
Stories from the Golden Age reflect the words and expressions used in the 1930s and 1940s, adding unique flavor and authenticity to the tales. While a character’s speech may often reflect regional origins, it also can convey attitudes common in the day. So that readers can better grasp such cultural and historical terms, uncommon words or expressions of the era, the following glossary has been provided.
ace of, within an: within a narrow margin of; close to.
Alexander the Great: king of Macedonia (an ancient kingdom, now a region in northern Greece, southwestern Bulgaria and the Republic of Macedonia) 336–323 BC, and conqueror of Greece and the Persian Empire (an ancient empire in western and southwestern Asia).
AWOLoose: AWOL; absent without leave, used to designate those who were gone for a relatively short time, as opposed to permanent deserters. At first AWOL was pronounced letter by letter. This is evident in the humorous World War I variant AWOLoose, meaning the same thing as AWOL. By the start of World War II, however, the pronunciation had changed to AY-wall, as if the initials constituted one word rather than an abbreviation. Humorously contrived attributions of the letters in World War II included “A Wolf On the Loose” and “After Women Or Liquor.”
baleful: threatening (or seeming to threaten) harm or misfortune.
Baluchi: an eastern Iranian language spoken in Baluchistan.
Baluchistan: former territory of west British India, now the largest province in Pakistan. It is a mountainous region bordering on the Arabian Sea.
bobtail to a buck rear-rank: reduce to the lowest rank of private and to the rear or last in order of a body of troops.
bonjour, blanc: (French) hello, white man.
boot: a Marine or Navy recruit in basic training.
brawny: having physical strength and weight; rugged and powerful.
brigand: one who lives by plunder; a bandit.
burnoose: a long hooded cloak worn by some Arabs.
cabin job: an airplane that has an enclosed section where passengers can sit or cargo is stored.
caco: (French) a member of loosely knit bandit organizations who hired out to the highest bidder. Transfer of power in Haiti traditionally occurred when a political contender raised a caco army and marched on the capital. Transfer of power was completed when the incumbent fled the country with part of the treasury.
campaign hat: a felt hat with a broad stiff brim and four dents in the crown, formerly worn by personnel in the US Army and Marine Corps.
Cape: Cap-Haïtien; a city on the north coast of Haiti facing the Atlantic Ocean.
Colt: an automatic pistol manufactured by the Colt Firearms Company, founded in 1847 by Samuel Colt (1814–1862) who revolutionized the firearms industry with his inventions.
Cossack: a member of a people of southern European Russia and adjacent parts of Asia, noted as cavalrymen, especially during tsarist times.
crate: an airplane.
Cyrus the Great: the King of Persia (an ancient empire in western and southwestern Asia) and founder of the Persian Empire.
Czech: people of Czechoslovakia, a country in Central Europe (now called the Czech Republic). The Czech lands were under Habsburg rule (Austrian Empire) from 1526, later becoming part of the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary. The independent republic of Czechoslovakia was created in 1918, following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I.
Dehwar: a member of a tribe in the Baluchistan province of Pakistan.
Derringer: a pocket-sized, short-barreled, large-caliber pistol. Named for the US gunsmith Henry Deringer (1786–1868), who designed it.
devil-may-care: wildly reckless.
dickens: a severe reprimand.
drop on, got the: have achieved a distinct advantage over.
dry: indifferent, cold, unemotional.
Ekaterinburg: a city in the Russian Federation of Asia, in the Ural Mountains.
en avant: (French) forward.
flags or flagstone: a flat stone or stones used especially for paving.
Fort-de-France: the capital and largest city of Martinique, on the western coast of the island.
forty-five or .45: a handgun chambered to fire a .45-caliber cartridge.
French Guiana: a French colony of northeast South America on the Atlantic Ocean, established in the nineteenth century and known for its penal colonies (now closed). Cayenne is the capital and the largest city.
Gajda: Radola Gajda (1892–1948); a Czech military commander and politician.
gat: a gun.
gendarmerie: (French) a military body charged with police duties among civilian populations. The Haitian gendarmerie, organized in 1916, initially consisted of 250 officers and 2,500 men, to provide police services throughout the country. The gendarmerie was officered by Marine Corps personnel, most of whom were sergeants with officer rank in the Haitian service. The gendarmerie fought alongside Marine occupying forces during the caco wars.
Genghis Khan: (1162?–1227) Mongol conqueror who founded the largest land empire in history and whose armies, known for their use of terror, conquered many territories and slaughtered the populations of entire cities.
glacial: extremely cold.
G-men: government men; agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Great Bear Lake: freshwater lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories, lying astride the Arctic Circle.
hein?: (French) eh?
helldiver: an American aircraft carrier-based dive bomber produced for the US Navy during World War II by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, once a leading aircraft manufacturer of the United States.
highwayman: a person who robs on a public road; a thief.
Hopi: a Pueblo Indian people of northeast Arizona noted for their craftsmanship in basketry, pottery, silverwork and weaving.
hoplite: a heavily armored foot soldier.
house of Ipatiev: Ipatiev House; a merchant’s house in Ekaterinburg where the former Emperor Nicholas II of Russia and several members of his family and household were executed. The house was demolished in 1977 and the magnificent “Church on the Blood,” with many auxiliary chapels and belfries, was built there after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Imperial Seal: Imperial Seal of China; a seal carved out of a historically famous piece of jade.
Iskander of the Two Horns: Alexander the Great. He is also known in Eastern traditions as Dhul-Qarnayn (the two-horned one) because an image minted during his rule seemed to depict him with the two ram’s horns of the Egyptian god Ammon.
Kolchak: Aleksandr Kolchak (1874–1920); a Russian naval commander and later head of part of the anti-Bolshevik forces during the Russian Civil War.
kubanka: a hat worn by Imperial Russian soldiers consisting of a wide band of black sheep wool with a flat top.
leatherneck: a member of the US Marine Corps. The phrase comes from the early days of the Marine Corps when enlisted men were given strips of leather to wear around their necks. The popular concept was that the leather protected the neck from a saber slash, though it was actually used to keep the Marines from slouching in uniform by forcing them to keep their heads up.
le capitaine de la gendarmerie: (French) the captain of the gendarmerie.
le général du cacos: (French) the general of the cacos.
legionnaire: a member of a legion; in Roman history a military division varying at times from 3,000 to 6,000 foot soldiers, with additional cavalrymen.
leg-of-mutton sleeves: sleeves that are extremely wide over the upper arm and narrow from the elbow to the wrist.
Light Browning, 1917: a light machine gun weighing fifteen pounds. It looks like and can be fired like an ordinary rifle, either from the shoulder or the hip. It was invented by John M. Browning (1855–1926), an American firearms designer.
Macedonian: someone from an ancient kingdom in northern Greece, where Alexander the Great created a vast empire.
mags: magnetos; small ignition system devices that use permanent magnets to generate a spark in internal combustion engines, especially in marine and aircraft engines.
Makran: the southern region of Baluchistan in Iran and Pakistan along the coast of the Arabian Sea.
mestizo: a racially mixed person, especially in Latin America, of American Indian and European (usually Spanish or Portuguese) ancestry.
Montezuma: an Aztec emperor of the sixteenth century.
mujik: (Russian) in tsarist Russia, a peasant.
nailing (me) down: variation of “pin down,” meaning to prevent somebody from going anywhere.
Nicholas II: Nicholas II of Russia (1868–1918); last Emperor of Russia, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland. He ruled from 1894 until his forced abdication in 1917. Nicholas proved unable to manage a country in political turmoil and command its army in World War I. His rule ended with the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which he and his family were executed by Bolsheviks in July 1918.
Paramaribo: the capital and largest city of Dutch Guiana (now Suriname) in northern South America on the Atlantic Ocean.
Pasni: a fishing village on the coast of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan.
patois: a regional form of a language, especially of French, differing from the standard, literary form of the language.
percolate: to show activity, movement or life.
Port: Port-au-Prince; the capital and largest city of Haiti.
Punjab: a former province in northwest British India, now divided between India and Pakistan.
quarter: mercy or indulgence, especially as shown in sparing a life and accepting the surrender of a vanquished enemy.
Ras el Kuh: a town located on the southern coast of Iran.
Ras Malan: a mountain in Baluchistan (southwestern Pakistan), which slopes into the Arabian Sea.
Reds: Communists; also political radicals or revolutionaries.
rhum vieux: (French) aged rum; rum that has aged at least three years.
Scheherazade: the female narrator of The Arabian Nights, who during one thousand and one adventurous nights saved her life by entertaining her husband, the king, with stories.
scourge: somebody or something that is perceived as an agent of punishment, destruction or severe criticism.
Semiramis: a mythical queen of Assyria (an ancient empire and civilization in western Asia) who is reputed to have conquered many lands.
shoot landings: pilot’s lingo for the process of preparing a landing.
Siberia: an extensive region in what is now the Russian Federation in northern Asia, extending from the Ural Mountains to the Pacific.
soldats: (French) soldiers.
Sverdlovsk: a city in the Luhansk Oblast province of southeastern Ukraine.
swiper: groom; clothing man.
Tajik: someone living mainly in Tajikistan (a republic in central Asia), as well as parts of Afghanistan and China.
Teheran: the capital of Iran.
Tommies: common soldiers in the British Army; the term was most popularly used during World War I where German, French and Commonwealth soldiers referred to the British soldiers as Tommies.
tout de suite: (French) right away.
tsar: (Russian, also tzar) shortened form of tsesar, from Latin, Caesar; a male monarch or emperor, especially one of the emperors who ruled Russia until the revolution of 1917.
tsarevich: (Russian) son of a tsar. Nicholas II had a son, Alexei (1904–1918).
tsarist: an adherent of a tsar, a male monarch or emperor.
Urals: Ural Mountains; a mountain range in what is now the Russian Federation, extending north and south from the Arctic Ocean to near the Caspian Sea, forming a natural boundary between Europe and Asia.
USMC: United States Marine Corps.
Webley: Webley and Scott handgun; an arms manufacturer based in England that produced handguns from 1834. Webley is famous for the revolvers and automatic pistols it supplied to the British Empire’s military, particularly the British Army, from 1887 through both World War I and World War II.
Western Front: term used during World War I and II to describe the “contested armed frontier” (otherwise known as “the front”) between lands controlled by the Germans to the East and the Allies to the West. In World War I, both sides dug in along a meandering line of fortified trenches stretching from the coast of the North Sea, southward to the Swiss border that was the Western Front. This line remained essentially unchanged for most of the war. In 1918 the relentless advance of the Allied armies persuaded the German commanders that defeat was inevitable and the government was forced to request armistice.
West Indies: a group of islands in the North Atlantic between North and South America, comprising the Greater Antilles, the Lesser Antilles and the Bahamas.
White Russian or White: a Russian who fought against the Bolsheviks (Russian Communist Party) in the Russian Revolution and fought against the Red Army during the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1921.
Yanks: Yankees; term used to refer to Americans in general.