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The funny war

In France, the period between September 1939 and May 1940 is commonly referred to as “la drôle de guerre”. We have Roland Dorgelès to thank for this expression, which appeared for the first time in October 1939, in a report that the journalist/writer penned on the armies, to describe this period when Europe was at war although there was no fighting.

In English this period is called “the phoney war” (“guerre bidon” in French).

We might wonder about the origin of these two expressions in French and English, and ponder as to whether one did not produce the other. Might the expression adopted by Dorgelès not turn out to have been a misunderstanding of “phoney”, since, to the ear, “phoney” is not so far removed from “funny”? Thus far our research has not enabled us to shed any light on the matter.

Jeromius

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