[Ads-l] Fw: more on "twerp"--part one... and a half

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 17 16:29:38 EDT 2017


"Bless 'em All" was a hit song in 1940, and was popular in various parodies
in the armed forces of every English speaking country during WW2. The word
"twirp" was sometimes replaced by "twat."

There is reason to believe that the pop song was based on one written "not
for publication") by English composer Fred Godfrey (1880-1953) while he was
stationed in England or Dunkirk with the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917,
but those lyrics are now untraceable. Since the stanza in the polite
version containing the word "twirp" starts out with a "troopship that's
leaving Bombay," it's  unlikely that it had much to do with Godfrey's
putative lyrics.

There seems to be no contemporaneous record of the song in any form being
sung before 1940. If it had been, it was most likely in a bawdy form
restricted to the Royal Air Force (1918 descendant of the RNAS and the
Royal Flying Corps).  I know  because I've spent far too much time since
the 1960s trying to find such a reference.

JL


On Sun, Sep 17, 2017 at 11:52 AM, Dan Goncharoff <thegonch at gmail.com> wrote:

> Isn't it more likely that most airmen needing replacement in 1916 did not
> "retire" but were killed?
>
> DanG
>
> On Sun, Sep 17, 2017 at 9:42 AM, Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu>
> wrote:
>
> > Before getting to Tommy Earp, I should qualify one part of part one. The
> > claim (made in a 1945 book) of "twerp" in a song from 1916 is
> questionable,
> > doubtful, unreliable, it seems. There are several versions of the song
> > euphemistically titled "Bless 'Em All," some apparently sans twirp or
> > twerp. The 1992 Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (p. 353), e.g., gives a
> > verse as from a 1940 song (it may have been first published in 1940),
> > including: "There's many an airman just finishing his time/ There's many
> a
> > twirp signing on...."
> >
> > There may well have been such a song during WWI, but whether attesting
> > "twerp" is uncertain, as far as I know. But the claim of 1916 was
> > (reportedly) made in 1941 by a man who did not enlist until 1917. There
> is
> > dispute about authorship. How many airmen could there have been in 1916,
> > and how many then already retiring?
> >
> >
> > Stephen
> >
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of Stephen Goranson <...>
> > Sent: Saturday, September 16, 2017 10:43 AM
> > To: ...
> > Subject: [ADS-L] more on "twerp"--part one
> >
> > Among the questions about "twerp" (a person who is considered
> > contemptible, objectionable, ridiculous or the like) are (a) whether the
> > term predates approximately the World War I era and (b) whether, as
> Tolkien
> > wrote to his son and later editor in a (then) private letter, T. W. Earp
> of
> > Oxford was "the original twerp." Today I would tentatively say probably
> no
> > and yes.
> >
> >
> > OED gives 1925 as the earliest attested use. Merriam-Webster online gives
> > circa 1923. HDAS is unavailable for t-words. Green's has 1916 (1945).
> > Several online sites claim that "Dictionary of American Slang" gives
> 1874,
> > but do not provide a quote or citation. Some books with that exact title
> > (by Weseen, Wentworth, and Chapman) do not give 1874. But some by E.
> > Partridge, with different titles, do, but without details. I may have
> found
> > the putative, questionable, source.
> >
> >
> > William Bernhard Tegetmeier (1816-1912), was a polymath, friend of
> Darwin,
> > and expert concerning pigeons. In two of his books (first editions 1868,
> > Pigeons: their Structure... P. 94 [1] and 1871, The Homing or Carrier
> > Pigeon p. 94 [2]) we read the following identical text, quoting "the late
> > Mr. Wheelwright (the Old Bushman)"[3]: "I recollect many years ago--I
> > believe it was about the first time that these Antwerp birds (or, as the
> > fanciers of the day styled them, the ' 'Twerps,') ever were seen in
> > England--that one hundred and ten of them were brought over to London
> for a
> > prize given by the Columbarian Society there...." Note the initial
> > apostrophe and the capital T. And note that this discourse is from
> > "fanciers," aficionados. There is no negative meaning of this pet name.
> If
> > this is what Partridge read--and World Cat indicates reprints of the 1868
> > book including in 1874--I suggest caution. Who would follow Partridges'
> > pigeon flight of fancy, wild goose chase?
> >
> >
> > Part two to follow after I receive an inter-library loan so I need not
> > rely on google snippets.
> >
> >
> > Stephen Goranson
> >
> > http://people.duke.edu/~goranson/
> >
> > Forthcoming, with Gerald Cohen and Matthew Little: Origin of Kibosh
> > (Routledge)
> >
> > [1] with color illustrations by H. Weir: https://urldefense.proofpoint.
> > com/v2/url?u=https-3A__archive.org_details_pigeonstheirstru00tege&d=
> > DwIFAw&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-
> > 8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=UqMXD4Xxr2WkWEjeijMejKx374BtxS
> > kNfxJk62FajXY&s=TC-XGMhXGBVtpH45LBGeI-SkiMt_TnSlroLrnsfeUgc&e=
> >
> > [2] https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__babel.
> > hathitrust.org_cgi_pt-3Fid-3Dcoo.31924000040588-3Bview-
> > 3D1up-3Bseq-3D100&d=DwIFAw&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6Y
> > HLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=
> > UqMXD4Xxr2WkWEjeijMejKx374BtxSkNfxJk62FajXY&s=u9oSB-A5eWo27HMJYt5T_
> > bPMhmuPWdzxoufCFPkZv3Q&e=
> >
> >
> > [3] Presumably Horace William Wheelwright (1815-1865)
> >
> > <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-
> > 3A__www.americandialect.org&d=DwIFAw&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6Y
> > HLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=
> > UqMXD4Xxr2WkWEjeijMejKx374BtxSkNfxJk62FajXY&s=
> > dHjm64vV9nvjIWNQ5mAmTeMUeqXWF2WAxliSaD4HpU0&e=>
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> >
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>



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