Hackneyed clichés of the 1940s

Kaleiposcope cover 001

Like any decent journalist Harold Murray tried to avoid using clichés and well worn catch phrases in his work. It’s a pity that more radio journalists today ( particularly on Radio Five Live) aren’t as scrupulous. In his very entertaining Kaleidoscope (1946) Murray expresses his irritation at some of the worst examples of hackneyed speech in common use back then.

I remember the editor of the Nottingham Journal talking about misused words and hackneyed clichés which “makes us feel murderous when we hear them “. A. P. Herbert has devoted much thought to the subject. We are all more or less guilty. Why do we say, “I’ve got to catch a train, “ I’ve got to go.”? Why that superfluous “got”?  Why at the end of a letter do we have to put “yours sincerely “, or, for that matter, “ yours “ anything? If ever I see girls talking now they seem to be crying ,” Ectually!”, Honestly!,” “ Definitely!”. There has been much talk about basic English. There is more silly slang from America, particularly from Hollywood, than ever before. I wonder how many popular catch phrases you can recall ( I mean before the radio) . The first I remember were, “Get your hair cut, “ Ask a policeman,” “ Now we shan’t be long,” “ Fancy meeting you, “ What ho! She bumps, “Make room for your uncle,” “Does your mother know you’re out,” “ Bob’s your uncle. “ Pop goes the weasel,“ liked nearly all catch phrases from a song was before my time, and you will know the weasel was a flat iron, pawned weekly. In these days catch phrases come mostly from “Itma” and the like.

We at Jot HQ would like to know whatever happened to “What ho! She bumps and “ Make room for your uncle “. Are there any in the Jottosphere who might have heard them being used ? We’d like to know. As for Honestly, Definitely and Ectually, we have our own Absolutely today. And we also have the recently introduced So that prefaces almost every explanation given by apparently intelligent spokesmen in radio interviews. The redundant’ Like’, liberally sprinkled in sentences delivered in estuarial accents by adolescents of all classes has been around for many decades and doesn’t look as if it will ever become unfashionable, unlike, ‘ grotty ‘ ‘way out ‘ and ‘psychedelic’.

I wonder what A. P. Herbert and Murray would have made of the frequent misuse by radio journalists with degrees in English of ‘ reticence’ for reluctance and ‘ enormity ‘ for a memorable event.


Charles Morgan to Arthur Bryant

IMG_0562Found –an interesting signed presentation from Charles Morgan to the historian, Arthur Bryant. It reads – “Arthur Bryant, more about the froggies from his old friend & admirer, Charles Morgan 7.7.49.” It was in a copy of his 1949 book The River Line.

Morgan had been awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1936 and was elected a member of the Institut de France in 1949. In his time Morgan enjoyed an ‘immense’ (Wikipedia) reputation during his lifetime, particularly in France.

The River Line became a play but was originally written as a novel in 1949 and concerned the activities of escaped British prisoners of war in France during World War II.

The inscription is interesting given Morgan’s high standing in France and his professed love for the French. He is still admired there but has become a  slow seller in Britain. The inscription possibly panders to Bryant’s tastes and views, notably to the right.  Bryant had written a book in 1940 which he had to rapidly repress (see Bookride) due to its failure to condemn Hitler.

Pigeons in War

From Pigeons in World War II edited by W H Osman (London 1950) two stories of amazing feats by army pigeons from this thorough record of WWII pigeon services. A few pigeons received the highest award - the Dickin Medal. No names, no pack drill..

1.Army pigeon 8790 DD 43 Q Bred by Australian Pigeon Section whilst attached to the United States 6th Army

During the fight for Manus Island (1945) the United States Marines sent a reconnaissance patrol to the strategic village of Dravito. The patrol was strongly attacked by Japs whilst returning with the information that a strong counter attack was in preparation The patrol's radio was rendered inoperative during the action so two pigeons were released warning the Headquarters of the impending attack. These pigeons were shot down immediately as the Japanese intensified their efforts to annihilate the patrol. This left one pigeon (8790 DD 43 Q)…the sole remaining means of contact  they were released leaving Army pigeon 8790 DD 43 Q as the sole remaining means of contact with Headquarters. It was released during a lull in the fighting and despite heavy fire directed at it reached Headquarters thirty miles in difficult country in 46 minutes. As a result Dravito was heavily bombed and the patrol extricated from its perilous position.

2.Army pigeon 3863 DD 44

Bred by Australian Pigeon Service. Trained by 1st by Australian Pigeon Section (operating with the first Australian Water Transport Group.)

In July 1945 during the operations on Bougainville an Infantry Company of the 3rd Australian Division was pinned down and surrounded by a superior enemy forces. The Japanese had cut off or destroyed all means of communication to Battalion Headquarters except two pigeons carried by the Company. Army pigeon 3863 DD 44 was despatched with an urgent call for reinforcements and artillery support in order that the position could be relieved by nightfall. Despite heavy tropical rain and the fact that this bird was fired on by 60-70 Japanese immediately on release (which wounded the pigeon) Army pigeon 3863 DD 44 flew the 22 miles in 3 hours arriving at the loft in a state of complete exhaustion. As a result of this gallant effort artillery support was given and the Company with its wounded was withdrawn safely before dark.

It’s Time you Knew

From a 1944 book It's Time You Knew - a sort of Ripley's 'Believe it or Not' book produced by Bulova and, it seems, given to customers in American watch shops. This copy has the stamp of one Jack Conner, a jeweller from Oroville California.  The answers are below - in the case of Errol Flynn the Bulova answer is wrong- this was a piece of fake publicity dreamed up by the Hollywood studios in the 1930s that seems to have stuck. He was not an Olympian (also he was Australian.)


It is approximately 186,000,000 miles to the Sun and back again.

66 men flew non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean before Lindbergh. Sir John Alcock and Sir A. Whitton-Brown flew from Newfoundland to Ireland, in 1919. Later the same year, the English dirigible "R-34," with 31 men aboard, crossed from Scotland to America and returned. In 1924, the German "ZR-3" flew from Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst, N.J., with a crew of 33 men–totaling 66 men, who flew the Atlantic before Lindbergh, and making Lindbergh the 67th man.

Watch-rate variation recorders, used to test every Bulova Watch upon its completion, take 30 seconds to tell how fast or slow a watch would run in 24 hours.

Errol Flynn represented England, as a boxer, in the 1928 Olympics at Amsterdam.

Boon Haw’s Tiger Balm Car

Aw Boon Haw was the founder of the Tiger Balm fortunes.  His splendid sports car is shown in Carveth Wells 1940 book North of Singapore. 75 years later it is on display in the Tiger Balm mansion Haw Par Villa in Singapore. Aw Boon Haw used to drive the car (a customised Humber) around Singapore, a tiger head on the radiator, fangs protruding, wire whiskers. Red bulbs were in the eyes, and the horn sounded like a tiger’s roar. Great publicity - way before Shell's  "tiger in your tank."

There is a story of a road rivalry between Boon Haw and Sultan Ibrahim of Johore. Sultan Ibrahim was a sportsman and hunter. The incident took place when the Sultan, enraged at being overtaken by Boon Haw in his famous Tiger Car. Sultan Ibrahim shot at the Tiger Car on Bukit Timah Road. It was considered lese-majesté to overtake royalty even on foreign roads*. Notwithstanding, the British colonial administration forbade the Sultan thereafter from visiting Singapore ever again except for purpose of going to and from the Singapore airport.

* This tradition of royal road rage still persists among plutocrats - for example Aristotle Onassis's biographer notes that he detested anyone who overtook his Porsche...

Shackleton’s Phantom Guide

Came across this article in the Winter 1948 Occult Review by the intrepid cinematographer J.C. Bee-Mason, a war photographer in France, Belgium and Russia, and cinematographer to Ernest Shackleton on his last expedition south and other Arctic expeditions. He was obsessed with bee-keeping (hence the hyphenated “Bee” in his name) and filmed documentaries about bees.There is quite a bit about him on the web including his belief that if you ate a hundred pounds of good honey every year you would live to 100. Sadly JCB only made into his early 80s. Part of the interest in the piece is the acknowledged influence of Shackleton's experience on some lines in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land:

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
- But who is that on the other side of you?

This phenomenon  has been called by the author John Geiger the 'third man factor' - the experience of people at the very edge of death who feel the presence of an incorporeal being who encourages them and guides them to safety. Geiger tells the stories of 9-11 survivors, mountaineers, astronauts, explorers and prisoners of war who have reported this feeling…

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Mein Skunk

Found in an old Australian newspaper:

Maurice A. Hammoneau, of Brook-lyn, N.Y., bookbinder extra-ordinary,puts bindings on books to harmonise with their subject matter. Thus Hammoneau will encase a volume on reptiles in snake-skin, or dress a book on music in ivory piano keys. For Hitler's Mein Kampf, Hammoneau chose skunk skin.-Sideshow, N.C. Canberra Times, Monday 29 April 1940

On the Hitler skunk theme a novelty firm produced a complete ceramic trio set featuring the Hitler Skunk, Mussolini Pig and Tojo Rat. These are shown in the 1944 catalogue of Johnson Smith and Co.

Little Inns of Soho – the Koh-i-Noor

From a small book Little Inns of Soho (1948) this review of one of the few London Indian restaurants at that time.

The book is by Penelope Seaman (daughter of Owen?).

29 Rupert Street
Telephone GER. 3379
Closes 11 p. m. Open on Sundays till 11 p. m. Unlicensed.

From vegetarianism to Indian food seems rather a long step. But many delicious Indian dishes are made with a vegetable base, such as dhal (of lentils, onions and curry sauce) and, of course, all the various accoutrements that go with a good Indian curry. Pickles and chutney are difficult to obtain nowadays and one substitute used consists of strips of onion flavoured with red pepper. One very delicious chutney is made from onions and mint. Bay leaves are also frequently used for all flavourings.

There are some four Indian restaurants in the West End of London; and the Koh-i-Noor is one of five run by the brothers Vir in Great Britain. Krishna Vir, who comes from Delhi, looks after the London, Cambridge and Brighton restaurants and his brothers run the ones at Oxford and Manchester.

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