(Photo: March Field, Riverside, CA)
Reading letters from 1918 is a bit like reading a much earlier form of English. Just like reading the Early Modern English of Shakespeare, or even more so, the Middle English of folks like Chaucer, I think the ever-changing language is slowly starting to see a shift from then and now. I can only imagine how the dialect will change by the next century.
After reading the below missives by our fair prince Ernest, one is left thinking, "Huh?" I am confused by much of what he says, except for the continued fawning. Part of it is because I don't know details about the events he speaks of, and part of it is just how he uses language. What I do understand, makes me smile; describing one's self as a "restless bird all aft" is so last century. And I just might have to steal the phrase "all a-jumble." Priceless. Where it gets fuzzy is when he says things like "pussy-footed son of a sea look." Okay, dude. Back up. Slow down. Translate for 2010, buddy. That's all I'm sayin'.
A few points stand out here, as you will see:
1) Mamie is either sick or hurt at the time.
2) Blatant racism in 1918 is tossed around like shiny pennies without a second thought. Ernest uses a word that made me suck in my breath, but he says it like it's an everyday word.
3) Ernest talks about getting letters from Mamie, and I don't have possession them. It finally dawned on me that many of the letters she mailed him somehow were either tossed or misplaced. It would be just like a guy not to keep them in a box like she did. Obviously most of the ones she kept would be from him. That only makes sense. Duh.
4) Ernest writes a letter in a plane!
Happy 2010 everyone. See you in the new year.
The Grammar Nazi
Barracks 3 also Squadron A
Nov. 13, 1918
Dearest sweet girl of mine:
Please dear, I’ve tried to write tonight but can’t write as I wish. Tore up letter after letter. It’s 11:45 now. It’s orders to be in bed, but am in the orderly room with the blinds down secretly burning midnight zzzs. And yet guess I’ll have to wait – a million years – till Sat. eve to see you dear. Didn’t get my mail this morn and believe me I was some restless bird all aft. Wondering wondering were you real sick and I know you weren’t happy. O girl of girls I so want you to be. Rec’d your dearest letter this evening. Honey, my thoughts and mind and heart and soul are all a-jumble. Have had several close calls and can crack a joke with death staring me in the face.
Yet tonight I don’t feel like joking. Earlier this eve several of the fellows tried to get me to let them see what I was or wasn’t writing. I told them to chase themselves.
One of them a kike showed me a letter he just got from a girlfriend.
It started out soft as the dickens and finally wanted to ask him a very intimate question. One she had lost sleep and everything over. Wanted the pussy-footed son of a sea look to lay down his friendship and tell her from the bottom of his heart would Jeff ever be as big as [?].
Gee I sure remember sitting there on the sofa with you dear and we saw him when he was. O girl! Girl! O gollie!
What’s that ditty about? If I were where I would be. Then I would be where I am not. But I am not where I want to be. So I must wait till I can be…or something. 1000 years like that.
It’s after 12:00 and I can hear all sorts of noises outside. Snores and snores.
Anyway dear, God bless you little lovely blonde heart, and may the sun shine bright as the dickens for you soon.
Night xx. Night, night and again. God bless you honey and keep you from getting hurt in this cruel world. Xxxxxxxxxx.
With a heart full of love dear, as ever your own.
Aero Sqdrn. A.
November 16, 1918
Am scribbling this in the field. Will not have much time. Am studying to take exam for 1 cls. sergeant. It will be rather a severe one. May not pass, but was recommended, so here goes. Rec’d your dearest of letters yesterday.
Well, here come the ships …
P.S. am writing this bit 3000 ft up over Hemet. It looks so pretty. Couldn’t talk about it to the St. in the rear seat so this. Such a variety of color, autumn leaves, etc. and the clouds and their shadows, the Eucalyptus and the rugged hills and mountains surrounding the whole and grayback with snow on it in the background. We are circling now, all the ships chasing us, we are in the lead. Well, I’ll finish this on the [?] things are so at home. Gee I wish you could see it.
O girlie of mine, tomorrow is Sunday and I can’t see you – wanted to buy a pass but none of the fellows would part for love – or money. I sure feel awfully heart-hungry for you, you, u! Dear sweetheart! Gee but the coming week will seem ages long. And my little girl all crippled up. Dear I hope you are better when this gets there. Oh how I wish I could hold you close and kiss you o so lovingly and tenderly.
So Mable snubbed you. Are you ever so sure girlie? By gollie girls are funny. If a fellow, my chum were to do ditto, I’d just say lovingly hello, ya big stiff, whazza matter? Come on and kick thru. Why, please tell me why? Ah! Mamie, a fellah has gotta forgive lots of things in this world. Sure dear, it does hurt like the dickens – and it’s a queer predicament to get into. One is shocked and doesn’t know what to do. And at the moment forgetting, one’s power to hate is as great as one’s love was before. Huh! O I hope yet the way it happened it seems, well, funny. I hope you have made up. My sis and her chum used to get too thick and then they would get thin again. Then make up, etc.
Don’t honey. I’ll try not to spoil you, and I don’t think you’re spoiled. But I sure love to give sweet things to things sweet. Trouble is one can’t get real extra fine sweets at present. It’s all camouflaged. What was it on the margin of that letter? Wait till I see you dear and I will, again unless. Huh! – unless nothing.
I see they are going to let the fellows out of the army and maybe in quantity and bulk, etc. pretty soon. I don’t know yet what I’ll do. Whether I’d rather go or stay.
I would give a pretty penny to stroll around through the woodies with just you dear. Don’t tease me about making faces at you. Wish I could right now and sniff. There!
I wonder will I tear up this letter and everything and just write another and then tear it up, etc.
That one picture is my sister-in-law where I was Sunday. Well I must do some studying tonight. It seems so quiet in here right now. Most of the fellows are at the Y.A. We had our boisterous singing awhile ago.
Night darling girlie of mine and I just love you o so much!