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.



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:


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





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