Category Archives: Language

Non-military ‘shell-shock’

Reading Malcolm Sage, Detective by Herbert Jenkins (1921) I come across this description of a young man who has just heard that his uncle has been murdered: Malcolm Sage and Sir James between them succeeded in placing young Dane more at his ease. The haunted, shell-shock look left his eyes, and the twitching disappeared from […]


Thanks to Erica at Reading 1900-1950 for spreading the word about Ngrams. The Google Ngram Viewer is ‘a phrase-usage graphing tool.’ Based on scans of over 5.2 million books, it charts the yearly appearance of  any n-grams (letter combinations) that you care to enter. I’ve plotted incidences of the phrase ‘Great War’ against appearances of […]

‘All Quiet’ – the cocktail

In P.G. Wodehouse’s Mulliner Nights, Oofy Prosser is in a bad state the morning after enjoying Bronx cocktails, Martinis, Side-cars, Lizard’s Breaths, All Quiet on the Western Fronts […] champagne, whisky, brandy, chartreuse, benedictine and curaçao. Was there really an All Quiet cocktail? Googling doesn’t find me a recipe. Was this a joke, based on […]

The Daily Mail again

Another snippet from A War Museum – once again a reader’s letter to the Daily Mail: SIR – I am staying in an east coast town that has suffered more than its share from Teutonic Kultur as dropped from the skies. Yet I have seen a large estabishment still labelled ‘Kindergarten’. This surely ought to […]

Shephard and Motion

In 2002, Ben Shephard wrote A War of Nerves: Soldiers and Psychiatrists 1914 -1994. This is a work of serious history, examining a wide range of sources and attempting to get beyond conventional ideas about war neuroses. He looks at these in their historical context, in a way that illuminates the behaviour both of soldiers […]

A Pair of Newsletters

Two literary newsletters have arrived in the post. Each contains some of my writing, but that’s not the main reason for looking at them. The Arnold Bennett Society newsletter is full of interesting bits and pieces, but the main reason for looking it out should be a piece called ‘There’s no such place as Wrikton’ […]

Douglas Jerrold again

Douglas Jerrold is a writer who interests me greatly. I’m increasingly convinced that he is definitely the author of  A Few Things you can do with One Arm, though I’ve no clinching evidence yet. I’ve taken a look at his 1927 history of the Royal Naval Division, and it’s an odd mixture of styles. Parts […]


I’ve recently been re-reading Morton’s Barber of Putney and Frankau’s Peter Jackson, Cigar Merchant. Both were published in 1919, and in both the Germans are sometimes referred to slangily as “Gerboys”. I don’t think I’ve seen this term outside these two novels, and I wonder how common it was. I suppose it’s a way  infantilizing […]

Sherry, Stein and Strachey

Vincent Sherry, in his annoying book The Great War and the Language of Modernism, characterises the War as a Liberal one (and he doesn’t like Liberals). He sees Britain’s engagement as motivated by self-interest, and then justified by a liberal rhetoric, a discourse of apparent “lucidity and rationality”, a “language of logical optimism”. This language […]

Parental Guidance Suggested

There is a website that automatically rates blogs (and other websites too, I think) to see who they are suitable for. It tells me that this site is rated PG – parental guidance suggested. I think that  this is done by a simple vocabulary check, which noses out any language that is crude or disgusting. […]