OT: gen

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Sun Nov 23 08:48:40 EST 2003

Otter asked:

>For those of us who grew up on the other side of various
>ponds, why is 'gen' information?  I've run into the
>expression before -- mostly places like British movies
>about WWII.

In British service slang to "gen up" is to read and/or memorise those
orders which are circulated under the heading "For the /gen/eral
information of all ranks", or to impart the information found in them.  Not
always a very serious phrase, though apparently "gen" did at one point
officially mean "information for operational use" or "correct information".

(Which led to "Is that the real/true gen?" meaning "Is that from an
official bit of bumph, or did our commanding officer just dream it up in
his bath this morning?" ie "Am I going to get jumped on from a great height
if I ignore that?")

"He's really genned up" = "he's a right little barrack-room lawyer."

"Gen me up on this" = "what am I meant to know about this?"

"I genned up on that" = "oh, I read that one once."

Source: my Venerable Papa, who says it was current in the Indian Army
during WWII.

Secondary source, a Tall Naval Youth who says they still use the word
occasionally in a jocular and self-conscious way.  (The phrase "gen me up,
Scotty" has apparently been heard addressed to a Caledonian gentleman who
knows just a bit too much about the precise wording of the regs...)

The dictionary is rather more po-faced about it than the people who have
used it, I suspect, having had a quick look in the S.O.D. addendum of 1972,
which doesn't convey that slightly deprecatory flavour at all.


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