Believe it or not, they're all slang terms for 'shells' (the explosive kind) and were coined during WWI. And if you knew that already then the Oxford English Dictionary Needs YOU!
|Photo: Uncle Sam by AJ Cann. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence|
At the moment, they're particularly interested in World War One words and phrases. Kate Wild, an assistant editor at the OED explains:
"As part of the First World War centenary commemorations, the OED has launched a special set of appeals relating to some of the WWI words and phrases it is currently revising. In each case, we believe that there is earlier evidence out there - perhaps in a private letter, a personal diary, a local newspaper, or a government record." Lexicon Valley blog (SLATE magazine) 27 Feb 2014So if you fancy a challenge or always wondered what was in those old papers in that box in the attic, perhaps now is the time to dust off your research skills, dust off the boxes and get digging.
If you're on campus you can access the OED online for free - you'll get logged in automatically. If you're not on campus, you can go to our e-resources guide: from there you just need to scroll down and select Oxford English Dictionaries Online - again, you'll be automatically logged in with your University account.