The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #156701   Message #3693756
Posted By: Bainbo
13-Mar-15 - 06:33 PM
Thread Name: Anachronisms in lyrics
Subject: RE: Anachronisms in lyrics
A possible anachronism always irritates me during John McCutcheon's otherwise splendid Christmas In The Trenches, which puts these words into the mouth of a British soldier: "Each Christmas come since World War I, I've learned its lessons well.

I'm pretty certain nobody would have referred to it as World War I back then. Not until there'd been a second war, anyway. This page claims the term "First World War" was coined as early as 1918, as soon as the war finished, but wasn't in common usage. But not the phrase "World War I". It just doesn't sound right.

And that brings me to another discrepancy. The song tells of taking part in the Christmas Truce of 1914. The first verse tells us: "Two years ago the war was waiting for me after school." So, even if he joined up immediately before the events of Christmas 1914, the narration can't be taking place any later than 1916 or 1917, while the war was still being fought. So how do you get "Each Christmas come since World War I", which seems to indicate he's speaking well after the war finished?

And finally (sorry about this – I really do love the song!) – not so much an anachronism, but rather whatever the linguistic equivalent is, and the one that really bugs me: "In a flare-lit soccer game we gave 'em hell." Soccer? The words are being attributed to a soldier from Liverpool, England. I know the word "soccer" was coined in the UK, as an abbreviation for Association Football, but I don't hear it in common use now, a cursory search doesn't turn up any evidence that it was in common use then, and it just jars on the ears of a British English speaker to hear it put into the mouth of a British soldier.

But it's still a far better song than I'll ever be able to write.