The last blog examined Easy Serbian for our Men Abroad, published in 1915, and written by Captain J S Keyworth, who published a number of titles in this format; we are now able to compare this with three others, Easy French for our Men Abroad, Easy German for our Men Abroad and Easy Italian for our Men Abroad.
Immediately noticeable is that the Serbian phrasebook differs from the French, Italian and German ones right on page 1, adding ‘up there’, ‘down there’ and ‘here’, and later ‘railway’ and ‘latrine’ to the ‘where is the …?’ questions. The Serbian has ‘forward’ and ‘back’, which the others omit, and the Serbian generally offers more phrases – ‘very far’, ‘the garden’, ‘yes’, ‘no’, which do not appear in the others.
The differences are curious: the Serbian, French and German move from requests for wine, beer, brandy (plum-brandy for Serbian), tea and coffee, to tobacco, cigar, cigarettes, matches, pipe, cigarette papers, and then to paper, envelope, ink, etc, while the Italian phrasebook asks for these much earlier, straight after the meat foods: tyurkey, pork, butter, honey, pudding, milk, wine, brandy, tea, tobacco, and then paper, blotting paper, cotton, salt, pepper, meat, soup, jam, etc The Italian list of groceries requested later runs: eggs, potatoes, cabbages, sausages, vegetables, biscuits, matches, cigarette paper, fruit, a cauliflower, an onion, a cigar, pencil, newspaper, book, bath, glass, knife. It is all rather random.
Pages 6 and 7 in all texts runs from animals, to persons, to clothing, to ‘a few military terms’. The German, Italian and French animals (have you a …?) run – horse, mule, donkey, cow, sheep, goat, pig, dog, cat, fish, bird. The Serbian substitutes ‘donkey’ with ‘ox’, omits ‘fish’, and ends with the phrase ‘we have not got …’, a reflection of awareness of shortage in Serbia, perhaps. The ‘Persons’ section in the French and Italian books ask ‘Have you seen …?’ with a list of persons and relations, while the German gives the phrase ‘Call …’ for all persons; the Serbian text begins with ‘Have you seen …?’, which is replaced with ‘That is my …’ The German and French lists of clothes run to eight, the Italian to seven, and the Serbian to 13, including ‘knickers’, ‘drawers’, ‘handkerchief’, ‘waistcoat’ and ‘top-boots’.
The ‘few military terms’ are similar in the French, Italian and German texts, with the exception that the Italian text has ‘Italians’ instead of ‘Belgians’ in the list of five nationalities. The Serbian text differs again, in beginning with the words for ‘The war’ and ‘a soldier’, and perhaps obviously the list of nationalities runs to Poles, Serbs, Bulgarians, Greeks, Roumanians, Montenegrins, Albanians, Turks, Bosnians, Italians, Hungarians and Austrians.
Most noticeable is that the Serbian phrasebook has three pages more than the others, though this is not due to filling out across all fields – the French has 30 terms for the ‘In hospital’ section while the Serbian has 23. Where the Serbian extends is in the ‘Simple phrases’ section, conjugating various tenses for ‘to be’ and ‘to have’, and including ‘I shall have to’, ‘it pleases me’, ‘A good journey!’, ‘without me’ and ‘what is this called?’
How to interpret these? The French and German texts were produced in 1914, the Italian possibly in early 1915, and the Serbian in 1915; was there felt to be a need for a fuller list of texts, or for phrasebooks that more accurately reflected the nature of the cultures being addressed? The presence of plum-brandy and paprika and mince would seem to argue so.