Friday, November 9, 2012
Language and lingo in the Burmese war
2. Hindustani words. More problematic are the many native words that the soldiers adopted during their time in Burma. Porridge became burgoo. Tea was chah. An embankment was called a bund. Fraser has a footnote whenever these words are introduced, and a glossary at the end helps if you forget one or can't tell what it means from the context.
3. Scottish dialect. Most difficult of all is understanding what these soldiers, most of them from the Cumberland region, are saying to one another. Fraser may have trouble, after more than half a century, remembering all the details of what he did in Burma, but he somehow remembers entire conversations that go on like this:
"Awreet - Ah'll oondoo it for thee meself'. Then we'll baith git a drink - oot o' thy bottle!"
In small doses, especially if read aloud, these conversations can be understandable and amusing, but Fraser continues them sometimes for a page or more at a time, and it is tempting to skip over them entirely.