Phrasebooks and dictionaries in public awareness

The appearance of soldiers’ letters in newspapers discussing the difficulties of conversing with the local people, as they travelled through northern France, no doubt added to both the speculations surrounding the value of phrasebooks, and to their frequent appearance in a range of articles. Performance entertainment was an environment in which the phrasebook was a generous prop for sketches involving a soldier and a French girl: in the ‘Moulin Rouge Revue’ at the King’s Theatre Edinburgh, reported in the Edinburgh Evening News 7 December 1915, ‘a particularly amusing item is the endeavour of a Highland soldier with an English accent, and a little French milliner, to express through the medium of an inadequate phrase-book, the thoughts that burned within them’. The trope continued through the war: in November 1916 the Western Daily Press reported on a public lecture given in Bristol by Ada Ward, which contained a ‘very funny … description of Tommy with his French phrase-book in his hand, which he rarely referred to, and of his rough-and-ready methods, by pantomime action, etc, to make himself understood by the natives., and especially when making himself “agreeable” to a pretty French girl’. Gaby Deslys, at the New Palace Theatre, as reported in The Manchester Guardian on 24 August 1915, presented a ‘pretty and witty flirtation with the aid of a phrase-book between an English soldier and a Belgian peasant girl’; a curiosity this, as Belgian phrasebooks were rare. They did appear early in the war, as seen in an advertisement in The Manchester Guardian on 12 December 1914, for a Flemish-English & English-Flemish Vest-pocket Dictionary with ‘conversations and idioms’. But communication, especially between young man and young woman, might have to be non-verbal, as laid out in a poem by ‘Bogey’ in London Life 2 January 1915:

 

In her presence I was overwhelmed with glee:

But perhaps it seems absurd

I could not express a word

In the language of that little refugee.

 

And she couldn’t speak a line

Of the language that was mine,

Which was very hard on both, you must agree;

But when hearts are fond and young,

Then love doesn’t need a tongue,

As I found out in my little refugee.

 

The Manchester Guardian advertisement is headlined ‘Converse with our allies the Belgians’. A second book advertised is a Shops and Shopping Phrase Book, in English, French and Flemish. Written by E V Bisschop, this last was possibly of more use to the refugee in Britain than the soldier shopping in Flanders, though the purposes of these and another title seem to be ambiguous. On 7 November 1914 the same paper had carried an advertisement for another English-Flemish Phrase-book (‘the only [English-Flemish Phrase-book] published in this country), which was headlined ‘To help the Belgian refugees you must be able to converse with them in their own language’. However, the book contained ‘a short list of Military Terms in English-Flemish and Flemish-English’, perhaps to enable discussions on the German advance through Belgium. Possibly an enterprising editor had suggested this expansion might make the book attractive to British officers about to head off to Flanders. A ‘companion volume’ is clearly aimed at refugees: Dagelyksche Hulp Voor Belgen in Engeland; the two books could be bought bound in one volume.

Bisschop cover

At least one newspaper, seeing the interest in phrasebooks and dictionaries, decided to publish their own dictionary, for the benefit of ‘many old students of [the French language who are] rubbing up their knowledge’ (Yorkshire Telegraph and Star 27 November 1914) – a comment that indicates that knowledge of some French might not be unusual. The Sheffield Weekly Telegraph in December 1914 advertised its French-English Pronouncing Dictionary, with a letter of approval from Mrs M Greene, who wrote that ‘I sent a “Dictionary” to my nephew (Lc-Corp __, King’s Liverpool Regiment) at the Front. I got a letter to-day. Here is an extract from it :-

“I think the Dictionary one of the most sensible presents that has been sent out. All the men are struck with it, and are writing home for one”.’ With a claim to be ‘the most famous [dictionary] in the army’, a new edition of the book was advertised in December 1916. But not all phrase-books were viewed with approbation at home. A review in the Manchester Courier in March 1915 of Richard Jashke’s English-French Conversational Dictionary stated that it was ‘so much superior to those phrase-books which spring up like mushrooms and as quickly disappear’.

 

An inevitable but certainly valuable role for a book carried in the vest-pocket of a soldier might be helping the soldier himself from ‘stopping one’; the Ormskirk Advertiser 16 March 1915 carried two such stories. In one case the chaplain of the Shoeburyness garrison told soldiers how an officer’s life had been saved by a Bible (the bullet ‘burned through to the Psalms, from which [the officer’s] father had taken and inscribed in the Bible three protecting texts’). On the same page is the story of ‘Private F Buswell, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who was wounded at the front, [who] owes his life to a French dictionary and case of letters he was carrying in his tunic pocket. A bullet penetrated the dictionary and a portion of the letter-case, but Buswell escaped with a slightly wounded chest’. Unfortunately the story does not relate which words in the dictionary impeded the passage of the bullet.

 

While the environment of interest in words gave rise to observations and anecdotes, the word ‘phrase-book’ itself might be ambiguous. ‘Student’, writing to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in January 1917, pointed out that the pre-war origin of the phrase ‘fog of war’, twelve years before 1914, ‘should be of value to compilers of phrase-books’. Either the term ‘phrase-books’ here has been extended to dictionaries and books on words, of which many were published post-war, or the writer, who had been a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement, and who had previously noted the pre-war use of ‘manpower’, was suggesting that ‘fog of war’ might find its way into a French-English conversation manual; stranger phrases did appear in phrase-books, usually leftovers from pre-war travel aides. Equally, confusion may have arisen from time to time by the use of the word ‘phrasebook in the sense of ‘code-book’. The Aberdeen Evening Express in August 1915 carried a short article about a mysterious inscription, easily interpreted through re-arrangement of the letters, which could be done by ‘tak[ing] a leaf from the Hun phrase-book’.

 

A letter quoted in the Sunderland Daily Echo 28 January 1915 is noteworthy in how it details the experience of phrasebook use for shopping behind the Front. The letter, originally published in the Daily Mail, is introduced as being about a Royal Berkshire corporal’s ‘experiences of the “dug-out,” the night operations of sniping, and “Tommy’s” efforts to speak French by the aid of a phrase-book’. The soldier talks about shopping after receiving his pay (‘we were paid out’): ‘Every shop was crowded with lads in khaki, everyone talking a mixture of English, French and Hindu. Nearly everyone carries a book or pamphlet containing English and French sentences, and it is good to see the resigned look on the shopwoman’s face while a customer, red in the face, ties his tongue in a knot and feverishly turns the pages of his book in the vain hope of finding a sentence that will help him out.’ No doubt similar exasperation attended the users of the Flemish phrasebooks.

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Booking for the conference can be done for the two days separately via:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-london-leg-10-september-tickets-43555399372

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-brussels-leg-12-september-tickets-43602393934?aff=erelpanelorg

See below for the conference programme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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All clear / tenir à l’écart; and discs for soldiers to learn Italian

Here’s a business that requires a little unravelling. This cartoon appears in La Baïonette, 15 June 1916. It is an English joke, spoken in French, which depends on the incorrect use of a French word, which would be the correct word in English; it depends on the reader understanding both French and English, and the English priest’s misunderstanding of French; it is taken as understood that the French soldiers understand his misunderstanding. Originally in a magazine published in English, it is shown in a French magazine, which has helpfully explained how the English word might be confused with the French word.

All clear?

Bystander cartoon Juin 16 Baionette

…………….

 

Further to last week’s post, a note in the Yorkshire Evening Post, 21 July 1915, forwarded from Paris, states that the Italian newspaper Secoio ‘reports two facts which clearly demonstrate that the German headquarters staff is seriously preparing for a direct struggle against Italy. A printing establishment at Leipzig has just completed a manual in Italian, containing words and phrases essential to the use of an army on the march in in countries inhabited by Italian speaking people. Besides this, various German houses have been making gramophone records for reproducing the phrases and words indicated in the manual. These records are intended for the rapid instruction of soldiers now in barracks’.

While not be the earliest use of discs for language learning (Linguaphone was founded in 1901), this is the only instance we have found so far of their use for military language training during the war. More research needed.

 

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We have an update to the programme for 12th September: in place of Harun Buljina, Hillary Briffa will be presenting.

Booking can be done for the two days separately via:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-london-leg-10-september-tickets-43555399372

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-brussels-leg-12-september-tickets-43602393934?aff=erelpanelorg

 

Europe House, London, Mon 10 September

 
9 – 9.15 Introduction
9.15 – 10.30 Session 1 – (post-war considerations)

·       Mark Connelly, Professor of History, University of Kent – The language of memorials

·       Lucinda Borket-Jones, Open University – Warring tongues: ‘Kultur’ versus ‘culture’ in writing of the First World War (Ford Madox Ford)

·       Ugo Pavan Dala Torre, independent scholar – The language of the Italian disabled ex-servicemen

10.30 – 10.50 Coffee break
10.50 – 12.30 Session 2   (Language and identity)

·       Keynote Amanda Laugesen, Director, Australian National Dictionary Centre – War words and the evolution of Australian remembrance of the Great War, 1919-1939

·       Julia Ribeiro, Université Paris Nanterre – The choice of poetic language and the establishment of identities and communities in the First World War

·       Mādālina Serbov, Ovidius University of Constanţa, România – The Lipoveni community in the Danube Delta

·       Fiona Houston, University of Aberdeen– Lexical development of the word ‘propaganda’

12.30 – 13.15 lunch
13.15 – 14.45 Session 3  (Violent language)

·       Chris Kempshall, University of Sussex – Insults between the entente powers at the end of the war

·       Gegely Bodok, Clio Institute, Budapest – Laughed Death – Humour and jokes in Hungary during the First World War

·       Jonathon Green, independent scholar – Swearing in T E Lawrence’s The Mint

14.45 – 15.00 Coffee
15 – 16.30 Session 4  (Language and literature)

·       Cristina Rogojina, University Ovidius of Constanta, Romania – Romanian writers who fought in World War 1 and how the war influenced their writing

·       Dr Helen Brooks, University of Kent – Horror on the London Stage: The Grand Guignol Season of 1915

·       Professor Nevena Dakovic, Dept. of History and Theory, FDA/UoA, Belgrade  – Multimedia language of the great war: Stanislav Krakov

16.30 – 16.45 Coffee
16.45 – 18.15 Session 5 (Away from the trenches)

·       Dr Anne Samson, The Great War in Africa Association – Language in the East Africa Campaign, 1914-1918

·       Guido Latré, Professor of English Literature and Culture, Louvain-la-Neuve – Languages and cultures in Van Walleghem’s war diaries

·       Meic Birtwistle, independent scholar – Welsh impromptu songs for soldiers on leave

 

 

KU Leuven, Brussels Campus, Weds, 12 September

 
9.15 – 9.30 Introduction
9.30 – 10.25 Keynote

Marguerite Helmers, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh – Veiled Language from the Second Battlefield of First World War Nursing

10.30 -10.45 coffee
10.45 – 12.15 Session 1  (Language to language)

·       Gwendal Piégais, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest/University of Western Brittany – Russian interpreters operating in France during the Great War

·       Luc Vandeweyer, Belgian National Archives – The role of the language border in Belgium in the expansionist plans of the German occupier

·       Stefano Banno, University of Trento – Italian in the Berliner Lautarchiv

Lunch ·       Signalling in the First World War – Vintage signals team demonstration

·       Iaroslav Golubinov, independent scholar – Slang words for food in 1917 Russia – video presentation

1.15 – 2.10 Keynote

Alison Fell, Professor of French Cultural History, University of Leeds – Culture clashes: Belgian refugees in Yorkshire

2.10 – 3.40 Session 2  (Voices of calm)

·       Miguel Brandão, Faculty of Arts of Porto – Humour in Portuguese newspapers  (1914-1918) – what could war-related humour tell us about the Great War?

·       Dr Sarah Duncan, independent scholar – ‘Dear Little Scalliwag’:  Letters from a father to his children, 1915-16

·

3.45 – 4.00 coffee
4.00 – 5.00 Session 3 (Voices of contention)

·       Fabian van Samang, senior editor of the ‘Journal of the League for Human Rights’ – Armenia and the language of genocide

·       Hillary Briffa, Kings College London –  Melitensium Amor? An Analysis of Newspaper Reportage revealing the rise of Nationalist and anti-British Sentiment in Colonial Malta during the First World War

 

5.00 – 5.10 Final break
5.10 – 6.10 Session 4     (Hope and resolution)

·       Javier Alcalde, University of Barcelona – Esperanto during the First World War

·       Lucy Moore, Leeds Museums & Galleries – Museums, languages & commemoration: a case study from Leeds

 

 

 

 

Phrasebooks for the Eastern Front

We have over the years considered a number of phrasebooks for use on the Western Front, but for the German army the Eastern Front also required management of language. These German-Russian and German-Polish phrasebooks were published by Helios in Leipzig, a major centre for publishing in Germany, in 1914 and 1915 respectively. Professor Gustav Werhaupt taught Russian in the commercial high school in Leipzig, and had published Lectures russes avec exercices de conversation in 1902, while Josef Damianski, a court translator in Leipzig, and a knight, was responsible also for the Helios German-Italian phrasebook. Both of these are credited as editing a text prepared for the Helios German-French phrasebook for soldiers, by Franz Wolfson/Wolfsonschen, hence the following of a model.

Front cover

01, or 03

5

While many of the pages are typical of the direct questions in German soldiers’ phrasebooks, immediately useful to the pursuance of a military campaign, page 5 for instance, others are more informative. Pages 8-9 concern espionage, with a disarming directness – ‘Are you a spy?’, ‘Don’t lie or you will be shot’, … ‘Take your clothes off’.

8, 09

14,15

Pages 14 and 15 carry questions relating to franktireurs, a source of worry for the German army in the early days of the war in Belgium and France, a folk memory from the Franco-Prussian war, and probably a major contributor to many of the atrocity narratives, which we see here as if scripted;

Are there franktireurs here?

If the village has franktireurs it will be destroyed.

The village will be spared if it shows goodwill.

Houses where franktireurs shoot from will be burnt down.

This is your responsibility.

They will answer for it with their heads.

They are answerable for it.

Contribution.

I will have them shot and the place destroyed.

 

The idea that this script of invasion derives from the experience of the Franco-Prussian War indicates that there may be here some phrases, questions, statements, which are entirely irrelevant to operations and the experience of the war on the Eastern Front. Russian- and Polish-speakers may be able to help here.

 

Pages 24 and 25 give an intriguing glimpse, beyond the ubiquitous exclamation marks – this was a phrasebook to be shouted it seems – of the common medicines of the time: Baldriantinktur (valerian), opium as a treatment for diarrhoea, Essigsaure Thonerde (acetic acid powder), Englisches Plaster (presumably a mustard plaster).

24,25

 

Page 32 is perhaps friendlier, offering the possibility of conversation.

 

32

 

The back covers differ, the German-Polish booklet showing adverts for the German-French phrasebook and the German-Russian phrasebook, while the German-Russian phrasebook carries an advert for a booklet carrying the soldier’s last will and testament (‘reminder and advice for my family in the case of my death’).

back covers

 

Pointless translation, perhaps

On most occasions during the war accurate translation between the Allies was useful, necessary, often vital. On other occasions, not. Here we present useful and maybe not so useful examples.

Acorns prog 1

The programme from February 1919 was printed for a cabaret-style performance for the Officers Club at the YMCA in Roubaix, and involved members of two concert-party troupes, one French, one from the BEF. Given that this was composited and printed in France, there are few typos and mistranslations – ‘shradowgraph’, and ‘concerted item’, in place of which would usually be ‘The Company’. ‘Special cars’ is applied to the tram system, rather than cabs.  ‘Scotch’ was a standard alternative for ‘Scottish’ at the time, and ‘lady Impersonator’ might be used in place of ‘female impersonator’ to convey a higher social status for the performance.

Acorns prog 2,3

 

On the other hand the translations on these postcards of a contorted pun and a tongue-twister require some mental contortion in themselves. Why on earth do this? It doesn’t work. Puns do not translate; tongue-twisters cease to twist tongues when translated. Or were these explaining the joke to people who already realised they were jokes? Both cards were printed in Britain, though the first was sent within France in July 1919. The translator of the second card seems to have given up trying to do anything with it.

Answers on a postcard please.

Granny Dears pc copy

 

Sister Susie

 

‘What a British Soldier wants to say in French and how to pronounce it’

Delepine front covers x 2

What can be learned from the comparison between two editions of the same soldiers’ phrasebook from the early part of the war? Abbé H Delépine (possibly Abbé Henri Delépine, the composer, any information anyone?) wrote a small booklet titled What a British Soldier wants to say in French and how to pronounce it. This was published in 1914 with both Way, Agent de Journaux Anglais, 52 bis, Rue Thiers, Boulogne-sur-mer, and Simpkin, Marshall Hamilton, Kent & Co, 4 Stationers Hall Court, London, credited as publishers. The latter were a prolific publishing house whose products encompassed official publications, novels, manuals, history and religious books, and poetry. The booklet was subtitled as ‘An English-French booklet for the use of The Expeditionary Forces’, was priced at 3d, and contained the usual lists of words for food, clothing, parts of the body, objects and relationships, and the military, including the word ‘trench’, with their French equivalents, advice to be nice to horses (‘Be good to them. Remember that, being unable to speak, they cannot let you know their needs’), and the usual pronunciation guides, which allow a recreation of the accents to be heard at the time on the streets of Bermondsey and Bethnal Green rather than Boulogne-sur-mer: lah tran-chay (see above), lays arm (les armes), lay dwah (les doigts), ler moosh (war) der posh (le mouchoir de poche), oh rer-voar.

Delepine food list

A further edition, priced 4d, retained the same information on the title page, but now announced the editor, H Delépine, Rue Lépine, Wimereux (Pas-de-Calais), and printed still in Boulogne-sur-mer. Indicative of differences between the two editions is the cover miss-spelling of ‘booklet’, with an intrusive ‘c’ in the second edition.

 

Errors were one difference between the editions, corrected or committed as the booklet was partially reset. Thus on page 8 of the 3d edition, concerning clothes, we see ‘The Thousers’ and ‘The Handherchief’, both corrected in the 4d edition, which in turn omits the hyphen from ‘The Looking-glass’, present in the 3d edition, and changes the pronunciation ‘sah-vong’ to ‘sa-vong’.

Delepine p8 x 2

Occasionally an error is repeated – page 29 in both editions has ‘senenty-one’ (soixante et onze). Of more interest are inconsistencies in the pronunciation guide, which would be probably the most useful practical part of the book. Thus page 22 of the both editions gives the pronunciation of the French infanterie as ‘infaun-tree’, while two pages later a question using the word shows it transcribed as ‘in-fan-tree’. The first form is in brackets, following the practice laid out on the first page of the booklet, which states ‘it is impossible with some French words to express in English the exact sound. In such cases, the word is placed between parentheses, and the pronunciation given as nearly as possible’.

Delepine 4d infauntree

 

Perhaps the use of parenthesis here was related to the naval gunnery practice of bracketing, placing a shot beyond and before the target to establish the range. Parentheses appear again in pages 9 and 14 in two attempts to transcribe the French un, as ‘üng’ or ‘eung’ (both editions).

 

Delepine p9 ungDelepine eung

 

However, it is the back covers which show the greatest difference. The 3d edition addresses the home buyer, with exhortations to send copies ‘to your soldier friend’, or ‘to an Officer’, who will distribute them ‘at the Front or at the Camp’; or they may be sent to the Red Cross Society to be sent out in kit bags. It is good marketing, with scenarios to make the purchase seem more real and worthy.

Delepine back covers x 2

The 4d edition directs itself to the soldier wanting ‘that confident touch’ that will only come with knowing colloquial French; it is an advertisement for a further book, Familiar French, ‘an indispensable supplement to any ordinary French phrase book’ – even one that advises you, as do both these editions, to ‘always keep this Boocklet in your pocket’. Though there is a typo – ‘The price in 4d only’ – prospective buyers are told to ‘ask for the yellow booklet’, not ‘boocklet’. The possibility of acquiring colloquial French is advertised by the use of colloquial English: ‘When you are puzzled as to the meaning of a French word you can’t find in the dictionary, it’s probably because it’s an idiom, or slang.’ ‘Can’t’ and ‘it’s’ create the intimacy of speech, rather than the muddle of what appears on the first page of each edition, under the heading ‘Most Important Notice About The Right Pronunciation’: ‘if you pronounce the syllable as if you were going to say “ang” but prevent the back of the tongue from touching the roof of the mouth, which makes the “g” sound, you will have a correct pronunciation’.

 

How familiar was Familiar French? Did it actually contain current Army slang, as claimed, and if so how did the author/editor, presumably Abbé Delépine, acquire this? Certainly more work was put into getting a colloquial tone for the advertisement than into proof-reading the rest of the book – though even here typos remained, perhaps the sign of a rushed publication hoping to exploit the New Armies’ language concerns.

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Here again is the programme for this year’s LFWW conference:

 

Europe House, London, Mon 10 September

9 – 9.15 Introduction
9.15 – 10.45 Session 1 – (post-war considerations)

·       Mark Connelly, Professor of History, University of Kent – The language of memorials

·       Lucinda Borket-Jones, Open University – Warring tongues: ‘Kultur’ versus ‘culture’ in writing of the First World War (Ford Madox Ford)

·       Ugo Pavan Dala Torre, independent scholar – The language of the Italian disabled ex-servicemen

10.45 – 11 Coffee break
11.00 – 12.30 Session 2   (Language and identity)

·      Keynote     Amanda Laugesen, Director, Australian National Dictionary Centre – War words and the evolution of Australian remembrance of the Great War, 1919-1939

·       Julia Ribeiro, Université Paris Nanterre – The choice of poetic language and the establishment of identities and communities in the First World War

·       Mādālina Serbov, Ovidius University of Constanţa, Romania – The Lipoveni community in the Danube Delta

·       Fiona Houston, University of Aberdeen– Lexical development of the word ‘propaganda’

12.30 – 13.15 lunch
13.15 – 14.45 Session 3  (Violent language)

·       Chris Kempshall, University of Sussex – Insults between the entente powers at the end of the war

·       Gegely Bodok, Clio Institute, Budapest – Laughed Death – Humour and jokes in Hungary during the First World War

·       Jonathon Green, independent scholar – Swearing in T E Lawrence’s The Mint 

14.45 – 15.00 Coffee
15 – 16.30 Session 4  (Language and literature)

·       Cristina Rogojina, University Ovidius of Constanta, Romania – Romanian writers who fought in World War 1 and how the war influenced their writing

·       Dr Helen Brooks, University of Kent – Horror on the London Stage: The Grand Guignol Season of 1915

·       Professor Nevena Dakovic, Dept. of History and Theory, FDA/UoA, Belgrade  – Multimedia language of the great war: Stanislav Krakov

16.30 – 16.45 Coffee
16.45 – 18.15 Session 5 (Away from the trenches)

·       Dr Anne Samson, The Great War in Africa Association – Language in the East Africa Campaign, 1914-1918

·       Guido Latré, Professor of English Literature and Culture, Louvain-la-Neuve – Languages and cultures in Van Walleghem’s war diaries

·       Meic Birtwistle, independent scholar – Welsh impromptu songs for soldiers on leave

 

 

KU Leuven, Brussels Campus, Weds, 12 September

9.15 – 9.30 Introduction
9.30 – 10.25 Keynote

Marguerite Helmers, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh – The rhetoric of avoidance

10.30 -10.45 coffee
10.45 – 12.15 Session 1  (Language to language)

·       Gwendal Piégais, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest/University of Western Brittany – Russian interpreters operating in France during the Great War

·       Luc Vandeweyer, Belgian National Archives – The role of the language border in Belgium in the expansionist plans of the German occupier

·       Stefano Banno, University of Trento – Italian in the Berliner Lautarchiv

Lunch ·       Signalling in the First World War – Vintage signals team demonstration

·       Iaroslav Golubinov, independent scholar – Slang words for food in 1917 Russia – video presentation

1.15 – 2.10 Keynote 

Alison Fell, Professor of French Cultural History, University of Leeds – Culture clashes: Belgian refugees in Yorkshire

2.10 – 3.40 Session 2  (Voices of calm)

·       Miguel Brandão, Faculty of Arts of Porto – Humour in Portuguese newspapers  (1914-1918) – what could war-related humour tell us about the Great War?

·       Dr Sarah Duncan, independent scholar – ‘Dear Little Scalliwag’:  Letters from a father to his children, 1915-16

3.45 – 4.00 coffee
4.00 – 5.00 Session 3 (Voices of contention)

·       Fabian van Samang, senior editor of the ‘Journal of the League for Human Rights’ – Armenia and the language of genocide

·       Harun Buljina, Columbia University – Bosnia’s Polyglot Pan-Islamists between Empire and Nation State, 1914-1920

·

5.00 – 5.10 Final break
5.10 – 6.10 Session 4     (Hope and resolution)

·       Javier Alcalde, University of Barcelona – Esperanto during the First World War

·       Lucy Moore, Leeds Museums & Galleries – Museums, languages & commemoration: a case study from Leeds

 

 

 

Booking can now be done for the two days separately via:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-london-leg-10-september-tickets-43555399372

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-brussels-leg-12-september-tickets-43602393934?aff=erelpanelorg

Narpoo again

Certain French terms appear again and again in soldiers’ phrasebooks: beaucoups, du pain, jambon, and so on reflect what the pre-war traveller encountered a need for, and which it was supposed would be the core concepts of the soldiers’ conversations with locals in France. Their transcriptions tell us as much about the accents of urban England, notably the assumption of ubiquity of the London accent that by 1914 had spread along railway lines to influence much of spoken English: buckoo, ler pang, ler jam-bong.

 

Two transcriptions which to date have not been found in any soldiers’ dictionary are deeply illustrative of the soldiers’ experience in France – sanfairyann and napoo/narpoo. Fraser and Gibbons refer to ‘sanfairyann’ as a ‘wilful perversion’ of ça ne fait rien, and napoo as ‘applied universally to anybody or anything’, deriving from il n’y a plus [or il n’y en a plus]. Their absence from the phrasebook record indicates that they were soldier inventions, drawn from experience – a little imagination produces the sigh of recognition and the shrugged shoulders. Yet there is a difference between them: napoo/narpoo changes its meaning and is applied to situations beyond the estaminet-keeper’s response, and shows how embedded the term became in the experience of the war, to both soldiers and civilians; while sanfairyann stays pretty constant. The spellings of ‘napoo’ and ‘narpoo’ show different pronunciations, the second nearer to the French; there is a rare variant ‘nah poo’ (found so far in The Comet, a troopship magazine, in January 1917), but the form remains pretty constant. ‘Sanfairyann’, though on paper looking bewildering, is a rather good transcription of the French, allowing for some latitude in the middle vowel; but its developments are indicative of how wordplay uses rhyme and alliteration – Fraser and Gibbons give ‘Sometimes also Aunt Mary Ann!’ and Brophy and Partridge transcribe it as three separate words with an abbreviation and an extension:

 

Sanfairyann

 

Some of the applications of ‘napoo’ can be found in Words and the First World War, but its etymology is neatly summed up in a footnote to A Day of Peace, one of the war stories of ‘Sapper’ (H C McNeile):

 

Sapper napoo

 

The current programme for this year’s LFWW conference is as follows:

 

Europe House, London, Mon 10 September

 
9 – 9.15 Introduction
9.15 – 10.45 Session 1 – (post-war considerations)

·       Mark Connelly, Professor of History, University of Kent – The language of memorials

·       Lucinda Borket-Jones, Open University – Warring tongues: ‘Kultur’ versus ‘culture’ in writing of the First World War (Ford Madox Ford)

·       Ugo Pavan Dala Torre, independent scholar – The language of the Italian disabled ex-servicemen

10.45 – 11 Coffee break
11.00 – 12.30 Session 2   (Language and identity)

·      Keynote     Amanda Laugesen, Director, Australian National Dictionary Centre – War words and the evolution of Australian remembrance of the Great War, 1919-1939

·       Julia Ribeiro, Université Paris Nanterre – The choice of poetic language and the establishment of identities and communities in the First World War

·       Mādālina Serbov – The Lipoveni community in the Danube Delta

·       Fiona Houston, University of Aberdeen– Lexical development of the word ‘propaganda’

12.30 – 13.15 lunch
13.15 – 14.45 Session 3  (Violent language)

·       Chris Kempshall, University of Sussex – Insults between the entente powers at the end of the war

·       Gegely Bodok, Clio Institute, Budapest – Laughed Death – Humour and jokes in Hungary during the First World War

·       Jonathon Green, independent scholar – Swearing in T E Lawrence’s The Mint

14.45 – 15.00 Coffee
15 – 16.30 Session 4  (Language and literature)

·       Cristina Rogojina, University Ovidius of Constanta, Romania – Romanian writers who fought in World War 1 and how the war influenced their writing

·       Dr Helen Brooks, University of Kent – Horror on the London Stage: The Grand Guignol Season of 1915

·       Professor Nevena Dakovic, Dept. of History and Theory, FDA/UoA, Belgrade  – Multimedia language of the great war: Stanislav Krakov

16.30 – 16.45 Coffee
16.45 – 18.15 Session 5 (Away from the trenches)

·       Dr Anne Samson, The Great War in Africa Association – Language in the East Africa Campaign, 1914-1918

·       Guido Latré, Professor of English Literature and Culture, Louvain-la-Neuve – Languages and cultures in Van Walleghem’s war diaries

·       Meic Birtwistle, independent scholar – Welsh impromptu songs for soldiers on leave

 

 

KU Leuven, Brussels Campus, Weds, 12 September

 
9.15 – 9.30 Introduction
9.30 – 10.25 Keynote

Marguerite Helmers, Professor of English, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh – The rhetoric of avoidance

10.30 -10.45 coffee
10.45 – 12.15 Session 1  (Language to language)

·       Gwendal Piégais – Russian interpreters operating in France during the war

·       Luc Vandeweyer, Belgian National Archives – The role of the language border in Belgium in the expansionist plans of the German occupier

·       Stefano Banno, University of Trento – Italian in the Berliner Lautarchiv

Lunch ·       Signalling in the First World War – Vintage signals team demonstration

·       Iaroslav Golubinov, independent scholar – Slang words for food in 1917 Russia – video presentation

1.15 – 2.10 Keynote

Alison Fell, Professor of French Cultural History, University of Leeds – Culture clashes: Belgian refugees in Yorkshire

2.10 – 3.40 Session 2  (Voices of calm)

·       Miguel Brandão, Faculty of Arts of Porto – Humour in Portuguese newspapers  (1914-1918) – what could war-related humour tell us about the Great War?

·       Dr Sarah Duncan, independent scholar – ‘Dear Little Scalliwag’:  Letters from a father to his children, 1915-16

3.45 – 4.00 coffee
4.00 – 5.00 Session 3 (Voices of contention)

·       Fabian van Samang, senior editor of the ‘Journal of the League for Human Rights’ – Armenia and the language of genocide

·       Harun Buljina, Columbia University – Bosnia’s Polyglot Pan-Islamists between Empire and Nation State, 1914-1920

·

5.00 – 5.10 Final break
5.10 – 6.10 Session 4     (Hope and resolution)

·       Javier Alcalde, University of Barcelona – Esperanto during the First World War

·       Lucy Moore, Leeds Museums & Galleries – Museums, languages & commemoration: a case study from Leeds

 

 

 

Booking can now be done for the two days separately via:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-london-leg-10-september-tickets-43555399372

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/languages-and-the-first-world-ii-brussels-leg-12-september-tickets-43602393934?aff=erelpanelorg

Class and Leaf

Rebecca West’s The Return of the Soldier, published in 1918, is a book that could be read at one sitting, admittedly a long one; reading it this way would maximise the wrench, the hardness, the loss of the rural paradise that is the loss of youth, which itself is only afterwards realised as a loss more inevitable and more perennial than that which the war brought. Thoroughly recommended, particularly as a reading of class. In February 1916 Stephen Hewett wrote home that in his battalion ‘the officers happen to be gentlemen, which robs the life out here of the only terrors it ever had for me’, an indication of the strength of class distinction at the time; Victoria Glendinning, in her preface to the 1980 edition of The Return of the Soldier, writes that ‘social snobbery is too flimsy a term for what they [the Baldry family] feel. Sexual jealousy and tribal instinct combine into hatred.’ Hatred driven by fear, a fear of contamination, as Jenny shrinks from Margaret’s ‘clothes so coarse against the fine upholstery’ of the Baldrys’ car (p101), and ‘the rubbed surface of her’ (p118); ‘it would have been such agony to the finger tips to touch any part of her apparel’ (p99). Difficult to find any empathy there, but Jenny comes to be embraced within the gentle physicality of Margaret’s simple contact with Chris. A good read, one undertaken originally to see whether West had employed any slang terms in the speech of the very wealthy, to which the answer is fairly negative. Chris talks about the fighting at the Front as a ‘scrim’, from ‘scrimmage’, now ‘scrummage’ or ‘scrum’, and only under the extreme stress of granting her husband permission to see his former love, shell-shock having rendered him amnesiac, does Chris’s wife Kitty snap and say ‘He’s well enough to remember her all right’ (p65) – ‘all right’ working both as meaning ‘well enough’ and as an emphatic. Elsewhere her ambiguity easily slips unnoticed:

“How do you do, Mrs Grey?” she said suddenly, shaking out her cordiality as one shakes out a fan. “It’s very kind of you to come. Won’t you go upstairs and take off your things?”

“No, thank you,” answered Margaret shyly, “I shall have to go away so soon.”

“Ah, do!” begged Margaret prettily.       (p155)

 

West’s portrayal of the tightly controlled speech of the wealthy, like their geographical boundaries and their clothes, repays a multi-layered reading.

 

The weather playing its part in making this the reading season, The Return of the Soldier sped fast after Taffrail’s A Little Ship, in which there was one usage be further explored: ‘leaf’ for ‘leave’ (p227, 1918 edn).

leaf

This term appears at first to be more navy than army slang (Rick Jolly’s Jackspeak describes it as ‘once the common pronunciation for leave used by Jack’); Taffrail uses it also in Pincher Martin (1916), though Bartimeus is less enthusiastic – this from The Long Trick (1917), in a colloquial context:

Standish nodded. “Thanks—whoa! Yes, I got a couple of ‘cushy’ wounds and three months’ leave.”

The OED’s first citation, from Punch in 1846, is army – ‘The shabby Capting (who seames to git leaf from his ridgmint whenhever he likes)’, and mock-posh. And Henry Williamson in The Patriot’s Progress (1930, p20) has ‘leave (or its remoteness) which they now called “leaf”.’ (Included here one of William Kermode’s wonderful linocuts from that book.)

Kermode Williams linocut

Partridge gives it as ‘naval (late C. 19-20), by 1914, military’, and quotes Fraser and Gibbons, who claim it as ‘universal in the navy and taken up also in the other Services’. H Lonsdale, in a letter published in The Athenaeum 25 July 1919, wrote that ‘“leaf” is not much used by men of the New Armies’, this being included in a list of terms labelled as ‘The legacy of the old Regular Army’. Later that year (29 August) he extended the usage ‘“Sweating” for “leaf”, looking forward to, anticipating going on leave. “Leaf” has nothing to do with “leave”. The origin of the word is the “leaf” or “page” of the leave-book – the “leaf” (page) being torn at the perforation and given to the soldier granted his pass or furlough.’  Fraser and Gibbons nod to this in their entry (‘it has been suggested that …’).

 

The OED proposes the etymology as ‘a colloquial or nonstandard pronunciation’; but the transcription of mock-posh developing into general usage is an attractive conjecture, and mock-posh English, with regimental sergeant-major and music hall compere connotations, is an under-researched area (hunless anyone appens to know of any work in this hairriar?).