"Blighty" is a British English slang term for Britain, deriving from Persian velayat and ultimately from Arabic wilayah, originally meaning something like "province". In India the term vilayati came to be as an adjective meaning European, and specifically English or British: "blighty" is believed to be a corruption of vilayati by British soldiers stationed in India.
The term is commonly used as a term of endearment by the expatriate British community or those on holiday to refer to home. In their 1886 dictionary, Hobson-Jobson, Sir Henry Yule and Arthur C. Burnell explained that the word came to be used in British India for several things the British had brought into the country, such as the tomato and soda water.
During World War I, "Dear Old Blighty" was a common sentimental reference, suggesting a longing for home by soldiers in the trenches. The term was particularly used by World War I poets such as Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. During that war, a Blighty wound — a wound serious enough to require recuperation away from the trenches, but not serious enough to kill or maim the victim—was hoped for by many, and sometimes self-inflicted.
In his First World War autobiography Good-Bye to All That, the writer Robert Graves attributes the term "Blitey" to the Hindustani word for "home". He writes: "The men are pessimistic but cheerful. They all talk about getting a 'cushy' one to send them back to 'Blitey'."
The Music Hall artiste Vesta Tilley had a hit in 1916 with the song "I'm Glad I've Got a Bit of a Blighty One" (1916), in which she played a soldier delighted to have been wounded and in hospital. "When I think about my dugout," she sang, "where I dare not stick my mug out... I'm glad I've got a bit of a blighty one". Another Music Hall hit was "Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty" (1917), which was sampled at the beginning of "The Queen Is Dead" by The Smiths. The term was also referenced in the song "All American Alien Boy" by Ian Hunter ("I'm just a whitey from Blighty"), from the 1976 album of the same name.
- "Blighty". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
- Entry for Blighty. World Wide Words.
- "Blighty Wounds". Retrieved 2007-03-26.
- Good-Bye to All That. Penguin Modern Classics. 1929, 1957. p. 94.
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