Two Words

In Richard Blaker’s Medal Without Bar (1929), we learn some of the history of the appalling officer, Dolbey:

Dolbey was  arraigned, through the proper channels, by an indignant and dignified old Sergeant for cursing him on parade and in the presence of his subordinates with two words that no good soldier may use, save in jest or to a peer.

So what  were those two words? Did he swear at him, or was it something else?


  1. Andy Frayn
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    My immediate reaction is that it’s something blasphemous or anti-monarchial, but I have absolutely no grounds for this…

  2. Dan
    Posted January 21, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    If only on the basis of Her Privates We, I think I’d take a safe bet that it was blasphemous, not anti-monarchical. Unless one takes the position that all royalty are f*cking c*nts (I wouldn’t normally asterisk, but I wouldn’t like to get caught up in a spam filter!)

  3. Andy Frayn
    Posted January 24, 2007 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking of Death of a Hero, in which ‘Queen Victoria’ is asterisked in one particular instance.

  4. Posted January 24, 2007 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    My own suspicion is that it’s “Bloody fool.” A phrase that could be said to a friend as a joke, and which you could get away with said to someone of the same rank, but which would seem undignified and improper coming from officer to sergeant.
    “Bloody” was a much stronger swear-word then than now, as is shown by the anxiety of Hodder and Stoughton about the appearance of the word in Richard Blaker’s book. In letters to Blaker, they usually refer to it as “the sanguinary adjective.”

  5. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2007 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps, then, this depends on the context of the unit and those involved. And I think that distinction between what can be said between peers and what should be said by officers to subordinates still remains.
    There may, indeed, be a study to be written on the changing swearwords of the British army 1914-18 (changing officer class, changing cursing?). I take the point about b– f–, though, and asterisking Queen Victoria is fascinating.

  6. Dan
    Posted January 27, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    And with a bit more thought, I suppose that the joy of Blaker’s euphemising is that the reader can make it up for themselves, thus bypassing the difference between what publishers might find offensive and what soldiers might actually say to each other.

Post a Comment

%d bloggers like this: