Tommy French written by Julian Walker and published by Pen & Sword Books – £19.99 – Hardback – Pages 224
‘Napoo’, ‘compray’, ‘san fairy ann’, ‘toot sweet’ are anglicized French phrases that came into use on the Western Front during the First World War as British troops struggled to communicate in French. Over four years of war they created an extraordinary slang which reflects the period and brings the conflict to mind whenever it is heard today.
Julian Walker, in this original and meticulously researched book, explores the subject in fascinating detail. In the process he gives us an insight into the British soldiers’ experience in France during the war and the special language they invented in order to cope with their situation.
He shows how French place-names were anglicized as were words for food and drink, and he looks at what these slang terms tell us about the soldiers’ perception of France, their relationship with the French and their ideas of home. He traces the spread of ‘Tommy French’ back to the Home Front, where it was popularized in songs and on postcards, and looks at the French reaction to the anglicization of their language.
Having grown up on military camps you often find that the armed forces have their own lingo or language both those in the forces and their families. Even now I could have a conversation with my wife and kids and they wouldn’t know what I was going on about. So when I was offered the chance to review Tommy French I gladly took it. When men from different nations come together there has to be some way of getting along and the job done. This book clearly illustrates this well, in that whilst you have french and english one can’t dominate the other, so you have this fudge or formation of some sort where the two marry together. The author Julian Walker does a great job of illustrating the words and amalgamations, and it’s often great to see how these words are often still around in use even today in some way. I really enjoyed this book a lot mainly because I love words, sayings and books I would certainly recommend this to others.