Balbulican

War in a Phrasebook

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One of the fun things about renovations is the literary archaeology you get to do when moving books around. Repacking our office bookcase, I came across a little manual I bought some years ago and had forgotten.

“Speak French: A Book for the Soldiers” was published in 1917 for American soldiers ordered to France, “…in order to make easier and more profitable their sojourn among their friends and allies from across the water.” Some of the phrases the authors felt would achieve that purpose:

“I never look at women.” “I found a real helmet in the mud of the trench.” “The woman whom you see is the spy’s sister.” “His leg was caught under the beast.” “Many shells have fallen near me but none has struck me.” “His ears are freezing. Have you a cap?” “Will you furnish cigars and bonbons to the regiment?” “He died very well.”

And the following phrases, which might be the most concise war novel ever written:

“It is raining.” “It rained last night.” “It will rain again tomorrow”. “We will not be able to see the light if it rains.” “I received my leave of absence yesterday. I will leave tomorrow, perhaps.” “Are you sitting beside me?” “I cannot see very well.”

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This page contains a single entry by Balbulican published on February 17, 2013 4:39 PM.

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