Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

It's Just Not Done, Old Boy.

There's a low-level debate going on in the Telegraph- and perhaps elsewhere- about the swearing in Sam Mendes' 1917. In today's paper Nicolas Tolstoy says it's inconceivable that an officer would have told a private soldier to "fuck off" because it was drummed into him at Sandhurst that officers don't swear at their men.

Really? I can see that rule being observed in peacetime in the notoriously puritanical 1950s, but among battle-wearied men at the front in World War I?...

Unfortunately there are no survivors around to settle the question for us.

I did a bit of research- and while I can't answer the question about officers saying "fuck" I did find some interesting bits and pieces. For instance in the book Digger Dialects- a dictionary of Australian army slang published in 1919- W.H. Dowling (mis-spelling in the interests of decency) recorded that American soldiers were known to their Aussie allies as "carksuckers"- presumably because that was a favourite word of theirs- and British soldiers as "fookers".
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