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AMB


Joined: 07 Oct 2005
Posts: 871
Location: Queensland, Australia
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All,

'The Johnny'.

An army expression? I've always thought it meant a person or individual.

AMB
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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Kipling uses the term "Johnny" in one of my favorite short stories of his, "Drums of the Fore and Aft" as a generic address used by the Gurkha soldiers for their "non-Gurkha" comrades-in-arms (who happen to be Scots in this story). You're probably right though, AMB. It might well have been used for anyone. Still, it's not too much of a stretch from to go from "Jock" to "Jack" to "John" and finally arrive at "Johnnie/ Johnny"-- at least not much of a stretch for a Gurkha (or Kipling).

In our own Civil War , all of the combatants were either "Johnny Reb" or "Billy Yank". Go figger.

What chance Caine ad libbed a wee bit and "Johnny" is a Cockney expression? How about some of the others: "What price this?"; "Chin-chin"; "Drunk as a lord"; "There's a bitter pill"; etc.
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AMB


Joined: 07 Oct 2005
Posts: 871
Location: Queensland, Australia
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Sawubona,

Interesting.

In today's British Army, individual Gurkhas are sometimes referred to as 'Johnny Gurkha'.

Wasn't that from 'The Man Who Would Be King'?

AMB


Last edited by AMB on Mon Jun 04, 2012 12:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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Saw/AMB

I also have a vague idea that orientals had a habit of referring to - or calling - westerners Johnny at times, it being the commonest western christian name. This might fit with the Gurkha habit. I think Kipling's Gurhkas are using the expression in this way rather than referring specifically to Scots. I'd be surprised if RK mistakenly thought Scots were referred to by that expression.

I can't really see Caine messing about with the script in his first real part in a major film, especially introducing a Cockney expression into a part of an officer & gentleman. It wouldn't make sense in the film and would also be a liberty he was surely not in a position to take. None of the four phrases you quote from the film have any cockney connections, all being fairly common everyday expressions.

Chin-chin is (or was) a sort of cheery remark on a light hearted occasion, such as a toast, or a farewell. Difficult to think of another expression which conveys exactly the same meaning on each occasion, other than "Cheers" when toasting, of course. Definitely old fashioned & used today only when slightly affectatiously or in humour. Upper class, I thought, but you never know with Cockneys. (I tend to think of Chin-chin as of a slightly later vintage than 1879 but might be wrong.

Drunk as a lord is our most popular description of someone's inebriated state. Still very common although these days there are plenty of alternatives with a slightly more vernacular flavour!

There's a bitter pill (as in "a bitter pill to swallow") - was this when they thought the Martinis from Isandlwana were being trained on them? Common expression meaning "that's a bit hard to take" because of the irony of being fired on by your own weapons. Still ordinarily in use.

What price this? Can't remember when this occurs. Bromhead to Adendorff? No exact "translation" but "Who'd have thought it?" is perhaps near. The well known expression "what price glory now?" may help. "A serious situation we never expected." "Something has gone wrong - perhaps with our values." Someone else here might come a bit closer than my efforts!

Peter
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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"Johnny" as a generic address is definitely in "Drums of the Fore and Aft", although it might very well be in "The Man Who Would Be King" also-- I just don't recall it there.

Peter, I always assumed that "Chin-chin" was just that and probably an alternate form of "Chin up", both of which also seem to me to carry a sense of commiseration-- a recognition on the part of the speaker that "Life's a bitch", but if we raise heads (i.e.: keep our chins up) and look beyond our present mud pies then we'll see that the future promises better. I get the feeling that it's used ironically by Bromhead/Caine, since his life (at that particular point in time), isn't too much of a bitch at all.

"What price this, Bromhead? You know your whole regiments gone." Stevenson to Bromhead.
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oldcontemtible


Joined: 26 Jun 2008
Posts: 46
Location: Fortress Antwerp, Belgium
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From mealie bags to Kipling and Johnny's, and back..... Wink

Thanks all for the hints and tips.
the source for the bags didn't prove to be useful, as it was all good old fashion sandbag type......too small then.
But they had burlap on the yard, so back to the sewing machine.

@ jeff: I wish I could lend your display for a WE Laughing

Guy
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Special Artist


Joined: 29 Apr 2012
Posts: 22
Location: UK
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Jeff, the box looks great too, and with the sacks, I'm very envious. The boxes are interesting - I have seen the box in Brecon museum, and the photo of the one from Durban (p.35 Nothing Remains...) and they look very solid, heavy dark things. The ones in de Neuville's picture, undoubtedly the same or similar box, is also a dead ringer for a tea-chest, which can be bought easily enough nowadays and often in bulk and quite cheaply, if you have a hunt on the internet - there are plenty on ebay, but often for local pickup only (for obvious reasons) but for the purposes of reenactment and display, tea chests could provide a biscuit box barricade relatively cheaply and easily, perhaps a splash of woodstain, and then the Navy Biscuit stencilling; they also have the advantage of being pretty light, having very thin walls and very thin metal banding.
Also, I was flicking through a copy of Greaves' "Forgotten Battles of the ZW" in a bookshop (I don't have a copy), and there is an interesting photo that also appears in Sister Janet, showing the interior of the laager at Utrecht; the photo in the new book is much clearer, which is why I mention it - a pile of boxes (meat/biscuit???) look like a slightly different design, and also seem to have some writing on them, possibly in chalk? Difficult to see in Sister Janet, but I'm sure the new book showed it more clearly. Of course, they could be any sort of wooden crate containing almost anything, but just a thought.
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Sawubona


Joined: 09 Nov 2005
Posts: 1179
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And how is Sister Janet, Special? Every year for about the past five I've been meaning to buy a copy, if for no other reasons than that it's connected to the AZW and my sister is named Janet?
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Special Artist


Joined: 29 Apr 2012
Posts: 22
Location: UK
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Saw, it's been about six years since I read it, but I recall thinking at the time that it had been worth reading.... not knowing much about the medical side of things, or the presence of nurses in Zululand, I guess I learnt a lot. The pictures from her scrapbook, of which the laager at Utrecht is one, and some of her own sketches, are interesting. Certainly a different enough subject in the glut of recent years to stand out from the crowd.
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Peter Ewart


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 1797
Location: Near Canterbury, Kent, England.
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One of the co-authors, Katie Stossel, delivered an interesting (and frequently amusing) talk on this topic at the recent AZW day at the NAM, showing some very interesting material, including several of the illustrations which appear in the book, such as flowers picked at the grave of Melvill & Coghill and papers recovered from the field of Isandlwana, which Janet Wells visited in October 1879. These items had been preserved in her scrapbook.

Her story is very interesting and certainly an adventurous one for one so young (she was not yet an adult in 1879 and had already been decorated for her service in the Balkans even earlier) but although she nursed many casualties of the AZW, it should be noted that the book's publicity did its best to conceal (is that too strong a word?) the fact that she did not arrive in Natal until 10 days after Ulundi, beginning her work at the hospital in Utrecht towards the end of July.

The sub-title Nurse & Heroine of the Anglo-Zulu War, and a painting of the action at Rorke's Drift on the front of the dust-jacket might just be excused, but the fly-leaf's claim that she "served at the front during the Anglo-Zulu War" stretches things just a little, as does the statement in the next paragraph that "she arrived at Rorke's Drift shortly after the legendary action." Depends on what you call "shortly" of course, but - perhaps because I was already aware that she had arrived in Zululand only after the war had ended - I thought these statements misleading to a prospective reader not necessarily already well versed in the details of the campaign. It is impossible not to conclude that points were stretched and pertinent dates left out in the publicity for this book, the only possible aim being to suggest her service in S Africa coincided with the duration of the AZW - which it didn't. All this didn't matter, of course, as her story stands up on its own as the wonderful adventure of an intrepid and devoted young lady, so it is disappointing that the publishers did not have the confidence to avoid nurturing the confusion. In the NAM talk, it was only late in the presentation that some members of the audience gradually realised she had not served during the war at all. (OK, the king had yet to be captured, I'll allow that!)

The work is heavily padded with very general background material, not just in the appendices and special sections, but in the text as well, apparently aimed not only at those unversed in the AZW (which is fine) but even at those unfamiliar with 19th century matters. However, because Nurse Wells' story is a remarkable one, and it is wonderful that her personal ephemera has survived, I'd still recommend this book's acquisition.

Peter
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