Language issues again

The version of Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’ published in The Times (see my post of 21 September) seems to contain a misprint in line 11: ‘stanch’ instead of ‘staunch’ (‘to the end against odds uncounted’).  Last week I was in the Chapel of Trinity College, Oxford, to see the College’s manuscript of the poem, and this confirmed Binyon had written ‘staunch’. But, well, the idea of a misprint in The Times in 1914 seems incredible!

I now discover from The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles that at that time there were not only two spellings for the adjective, but two pronunciations: ‘stawnsh’ and ‘starnsh’.  I would have said that ‘stanch’ is used today only for the verb, and, incidentally, that the consonant combination ‘ch’ is pronounced in both spellings as in ‘church’.  However, I see from The Chambers Dictionary (2009) that I would be wrong on both counts…

In his letter of 29 September 1914 George Calderon starts to tell Kittie that ‘the Ritz Hotel at Paris is somehow at our disposal and we can have things sent, which will reach us’, but then breaks off: ‘I am too bewildered with tabloids and cigarettes to go into the details.’

Tabloids?  Were the Northcliffe press onto him for impersonating a soldier?

It turns out that in Edwardian times Tabloid was a registered trademark for medicines manufactured in compressed/concentrated form by Wellcome and Co, but then (rather like ‘hoover’) it dropped the capital letter in order to be used of such drugs in general.  The idea of George having taken so many of these ‘tabloids’ (what were they for?) and smoking so much as to be ‘bewildered’ casts an interesting light on his state.

Next entry: 3 October 1914


About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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