In All Quiet on the Western Front, the narrator says,

In the meantime we receive visitors, a couple of wireless-men, who are generously invited to the feed. They sit in the living-room where there is a piano.

Could someone please explain to me what "Wireless-men" means? I've looked on google, and I can't find anything remotely useful. It might just be because I'm bad at using it though :P.

I'd greatly appreciate any help!

  • 1
    Radio operators?
    – muru
    Jan 25, 2018 at 3:41
  • Okay thanks :) is there any website with this definition?
    – NL628
    Jan 25, 2018 at 3:42
  • Not sure if it's explicitly given anywhere, but that's the meaning strongly implied by, for example, earlyradiohistory.us/1917send.htm
    – muru
    Jan 25, 2018 at 3:47
  • earlyradiohistory.us/1909men.htm (written in 1909) uses the phrase "wireless men" three times, obviously as synonym for "wireless operator" (which it uses about a dozen times). Jan 25, 2018 at 4:25
  • 1
    @muru Want to post an answer? :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 25, 2018 at 16:10

1 Answer 1


The original German text reads, on page 232 in the linked edition:

Inzwischen ist Besuch gekommen, zwei Funker, die freigebig zum Essen eingeladen werden. Sie sitzen im Wohnzimmer, wo ein Klavier steht.

The German word "Funker" means radio operator. (From the German word Funke for spark, funkeln = "to sparkle", etc. The funk morpheme was used in the vocabulary of the early 20th century development of radio, when the "spark gap radio" was the hot technology. It lives on in modern German in the words Funk = "radio", Rundfunk = "broadcast", funken = "to communicate by radio", etc. Cf. the English slang "Sparks" for a radio-man at sea.)

As several of the comments indicate, "wireless man" was used as an informal equivalent of "wireless operator" in the early part of the last century.

  • 1
    I've also seen the (possibly archaic?) German word "Funkmeister", which sounds like the stage name of a musician but is actually a radio operator :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 26, 2018 at 0:17
  • "Funkmeister" sounds to me like a military rank/specialization, like "Master Chief Radioman" Jan 26, 2018 at 0:23
  • Yeah, probably something like that. I saw it in the context of WWII paraphernalia; not sure whether the term is still in use.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 26, 2018 at 0:28

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