Zeppelins in a cloud n. earlier than 1925

Bryn provided evidence from 1909.

Zeppelins, which were widely used for reconnaissance and bombing in the First World War, must have captured the imagination of soldiers, and one of the more colourful phrases originating in the war is Zeppelins (or Zepps) in a cloud (with variants such as Zepps in a fog/smokescreen, etc.) meaning ‘sausage and mash’. However, the earliest example we have for the phrase is from a 1925 dictionary, and the first contextual example is from 1931:

Zeppelin in a cloud, sausage and mashed potatoes.

1925 Edward Fraser & John Gibbons Soldier & Sailor Words, p  313

I’ll bring yer a spot o’ coffee and a couple o’ Zepps in a smoke screen.

1931 Margery Allingham Look to Lady i. p.  22

Is there any earlier written evidence of this phrase (or any of its variants)?

* * *

To commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War (1914–18), the OED is revising a set of vocabulary related to or coined during the war. Part of the revision process involves searching for earlier or additional evidence, and for this we need your help. Our first quotations are often from newspapers and magazines, and we know that there may well be earlier evidence in less-easily-accessible sources such as letters, diaries, and government records, many of which are now being made available in digital form for the first time.

Posted by OED_Editor on 31 January 2014 13.00
Comments: 9

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  • hugooooo

    Here’s a navy use from The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 23 June 1916, a reprinting from the Daily Mail, where you may find a slightly earlier date.

    JELICOE’S MEN.
    A DAY WITH THEM.

    And they apply to the various dishes such quaint names as ‘schooner on a rock,’ ‘a straight rush,’ or ‘Zeppelins in a cloud’ (sausages in gravy).

    J.J. in the “Daily Mail.”

    Several other terms are defined in there too.

  • Stephen Goranson

    With “Zepps”: March 13, 1918 The Boston Herald p. 8 col. 4. “Sausages and mashed” are now known as “two Zepps in a cloud” in certain London eating-houses.

  • Bryn_Wordhunt

    GoogleBooks attributes the “Zepps on a cloud” variant:

    Overheard on the Aviation Field
    “What on earth are two Zepps on a cloud ?” she asked. “That’s the order I’ve just taken from the last soldier to come in, and I won’t tell him to translate.” Whereupon she proudly served him with two sausages and a poached egg – Weekly Dispatch

    To Aerial Age Weekly, Volume 3, 1916, `page 248’

    The same text [also, referenced to the Weekly Dispatch] is, also, to be found in The Daily Republican, 15th April, 1916, page 3

    • Bryn_Wordhunt

      Kitchen, K.K. (1916) After Dark In The War Capitals, Broadway Publishing, New York, page 117, has the variant:

      They make many jokes at the kaiser’s expense and one of the most popular dishes in the restaurants is “Two Zepps and a stack of clouds” – sausages and mashed potatoes

      The preface – dated 20th March, 1916 – indicates that the book’s content is drawn from material “written during a two months’ trip abroad“, that appeared in the New York World “during the early part of 1916.

      • Bryn_Wordhunt

        Several sources seem to refer to Two Zepps and a cloud appearing in “The Tatler”, during 1915 – e.g.:

        A WAR TIME LUNCHEON
        Aircraft Expert (whose fancy dictates sausages and mashed potatoes, to waiter) – Now then, Charlie, come on, pop about! Two Zepps and a cloud! – London Tatler

        Charleston Daily Mail, 6th April, 1915, page 4
        Also, seeming to appear in Army-Navy-Air Force Register and Defense Times , Volume 57

  • hugooooo

    Leader (Orange, NSW, Australia, Tuesday 13 April 1915, 25 February 1915

    Our London Letter.

    (From our London Correspondent.)
    February 25.


    If you happened to be a waiter ora waitress, and a customer asked for “two Zeppelins on a snow-cloud,” I wonder what you would get for him. Perhaps, remembering the shape of Zeppelins, you might guess what is menat [sic], and provide him with the homely sausages and mashed. But not everybody would be so smart. I heard the order given tho other day to an elderly Italian waiter who was very much puzzled by it, and not until after the order had been translated into Fleet street English did tho customer succeed in getting what he desired.

  • hugooooo

    Not quite the same thing, but “In A Spirit Of Humor” from the Evening Public Ledger, October 12, 1914, Night Extra, Page 8, Image 8:

    Song of the French Poodle
    Little Zeppelin, up so high,
    Like a sausage In the sky,
    I would eat you If I durst,
    You look so much like wienerwurst.

    • hb1616

      1918 reference to an English source: Anaconda Standard, July 2, 1918

  • Bryn_Wordhunt

    The Arrow, Sydney, 18th September, 1909, page 16 [col.4], has a usage that appears to antedate WWI:

    UP-TO-DATE
    Our Friend, Jerry Tompkins, leisurely took a seat in the Signor’s refreshment house.
    “Yessair ?” inquired the waiter hurrying up.
    “H’m !” grunted Jerry glancing down the bill of fare. “Let me see – toad-’n-hole. bubble-’n-squeak; let me see. H’m ! give me two sausages and mashed, waiter, and plenty of gravy.”
    “Ver’ good sair !”
    The polite waiter applied himself to the speaking tube: “Two Zeppelin airships on a cloud !” he bellowed down, and make zem rainy !” – W. R. AMES, Essex-street.
    Gordon.