As I Please
Tribune, 2 February 1945
I have just been rereading, with great interest, an old
favourite of my boyhood, The Green Curve by ‘Ole Luk-Oie’. ‘Ole
Luk-Oie’ was the pseudonym of Major Swinton (afterwards General Swinton),
who was, I believe, one of the rather numerous people credited with the
invention of the tank. The stories in this book, written about 1908, are the
forecasts of an intelligent professional soldier who had learned the lessons
of the Boer War and
the Russo-Japanese War,
and it is interesting to compare them with what actually happened a few
One story, written as early as 1907 (at which date no aeroplane had actually risen off the ground for more than a few seconds), describes an air raid. The aeroplanes carry eight-pounder bombs! Another story, written in the same year, deals with a German invasion of England, and I was particularly interested to notice that in this story the Germans are already nicknamed ‘Huns’. I had been inclined to attribute the use of the word ‘Hun’, for Germans, to Kipling, who certainly used it in the poem that he published during the first week of the last war.
In spite of the efforts of several newspapers, ‘Hun’ has never caught on in this war, but we have plenty of other offensive nicknames. Someone could write a valuable monograph on the use of question-begging names and epithets, and their effect in obscuring political controversies. It would bring out the curious fact that if you simply accept and apply to yourself a name intended as an insult, it may end by losing its insulting character. This appears to be happening to ‘Trotskyist’, which is already dangerously close to being a compliment. So also with ‘Conchy’ during the last war. Another example is ‘Britisher’. This word was used for years as a term of opprobrium in the anglophobe American press. Later on, Northcliffe and others, looking round for some substitute for ‘Englishman’ which should have an imperialistic and jingoistic flavour, found ‘Britisher’ ready to hand, and took it over. Since then the word has had an aura of gutter patriotism, and the kind of person who tells you that ‘what these natives need is a firm hand’ also tells you that he is ‘proud to be a Britisher’ – which is about equivalent to a Chinese Nationalist describing himself as a ‘Chink’.
A leaflet recently received from the Friends’ Peace
Committee states that if the current scheme to remove all Poles from the
areas to be taken over by the U.S.S.R., and, in compensation, all Germans
from the portions of Germany to be taken over by Poland, is put into
operation, ‘this will involve the transfer of not less than seven million
A not-too-distant explosion shakes the house, the
windows rattle in their sockets, and in the next room the 1964 class wakes
up and lets out a yell or two. Each time this happens I find myself thinking,
‘Is it possible that human beings can continue with this lunacy very much
longer?’ You know the answer, of course. Indeed, the difficulty nowadays
is to find anyone who thinks that there will not be another war in
the fairly near future.
A little story I came upon in a book.
The Estate of Eric Blair
Reproduced here under educational Fair Use law