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Tommy French (Hardback)

How British First World War Soldiers Turned French into Slang

WWI Military

By Julian Walker
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526765925
Published: 30th April 2021

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RRP £19.99

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‘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.

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About Julian Walker

Julian Walker is a leading authority on First World War slang and manages the international project ‘Languages and the First World War’. He has convened conferences on the subject and lectured and written extensively about it. His previous books include Trench Talk, Languages and the First World War and Words and the First World War. He reckons his own French is about as good as that of the average second lieutenant in 1916.

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