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Author Topic: British Push Bottles Up German Rear
Ron Miel
I'm Dreaming of a White Sale


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Supposedly a newspaper headline in WWII ran :
"Eight Army push bottles up Germans' rear"

True or UL? can it be traced to a specific newspaper omn a particular date?

And while we're on the subject, how about :
"British Left waffles on Falkland Islans"

[ 12. March 2006, 12:01 AM:   snopes ]

Posts: 39 | From: London, England | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Andrew of Ware, England
A-Ware in a Manger


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Here's a web page that discusses the quote (scroll down).

quote:
A similar ambiguous headline occasionally gets hauled out for the amusement of linguistics classes: "British Push Bottles Up German Rear." Again, the key to the battling interpretations is whether a single word (in this case "push") is parsed as a noun or a verb. I always figured that this headline was apocryphal (one also sometimes sees "French" in place of "British"). But I've seen two references online that say there was an actual headline from World War II along these lines, evidently reproduced in Fritz Spiegl's What The Papers Didn't Mean to Say (1965). The headline given in Spiegl's book reads: "Eighth Army Push Bottles Up German Rear." For American readers this isn't quite as elegant as using "British" or "French," since the ambiguity of Spiegl's headline requires construing "Eighth Army" as plural. That's not a problem for British readers, but in American usage so-called "collective nouns" typically take singular verbs. The ethnonyms "British" and "French," much like "Chinese," can be construed as plural and thus lend themselves to ambiguous readings.

(Another variant on the headline offered by the author Terry Pratchett is "Russian Push Bottles Up German Rear." That doesn't work nearly as well, since the noun "Russian" can only be construed as singular and thus doesn't agree with the verb "push" — unless, of course, one reads "Russian" as a vocative and "Push Bottles Up German Rear" as an imperative. Ouch.)


Fritz Spiegl I have always thought of as reliable, but no refence is given as to where the headline first appeared (if it ever appeared, that is).

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Andrew, Ware, England

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Felessan
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:
Originally posted by Andrew of Ware, England:
Here's a web page that discusses the quote (scroll down).

quote:
A similar ambiguous headline occasionally gets hauled out for the amusement of linguistics classes: "British Push Bottles Up German Rear." Again, the key to the battling interpretations is whether a single word (in this case "push") is parsed as a noun or a verb. I always figured that this headline was apocryphal (one also sometimes sees "French" in place of "British"). But I've seen two references online that say there was an actual headline from World War II along these lines, evidently reproduced in Fritz Spiegl's What The Papers Didn't Mean to Say (1965). The headline given in Spiegl's book reads: "Eighth Army Push Bottles Up German Rear." For American readers this isn't quite as elegant as using "British" or "French," since the ambiguity of Spiegl's headline requires construing "Eighth Army" as plural. That's not a problem for British readers, but in American usage so-called "collective nouns" typically take singular verbs. The ethnonyms "British" and "French," much like "Chinese," can be construed as plural and thus lend themselves to ambiguous readings.

(Another variant on the headline offered by the author Terry Pratchett is "Russian Push Bottles Up German Rear." That doesn't work nearly as well, since the noun "Russian" can only be construed as singular and thus doesn't agree with the verb "push" — unless, of course, one reads "Russian" as a vocative and "Push Bottles Up German Rear" as an imperative. Ouch.)


Fritz Spiegl I have always thought of as reliable, but no refence is given as to where the headline first appeared (if it ever appeared, that is).
I have a copy of What The Papers Didn't Mean To Say, and I can assure you that the headline was definitely "Eighth Army Push Bottles Up Germans", not "German Rear".

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You fool! That's not a warrior, that's a banana!
- a surreal moment in a role-playing game

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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For what this is worth, Nigel Rees -- editor of Cassell's Humourous Quotations (2003; ISBN 0-304-36588-2; p. 344) -- notes that this "possibly apocryphal headline" was quoted by Robert Lacy on BBC Radio's Quote . . . Unquote in February, 1979. Rees mentions that Lacy had claimed it came from a 1942 issue of the News Chronicle, a now defunct British newspaper.

In the end, however, pushing this back beyond 1965, when Spiegl's book was published, has apparently proven difficult.

Bonnie "we'll have to get to the bottom of this" Taylor

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Se non č vero, č ben trovato.

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Alex Buchet
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


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Wasn't such a practice forbidden by the Geneva Convention?
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dfresh
Deck the Malls


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quote:
Originally posted by Alex Buchet:
Wasn't such a practice forbidden by the Geneva Convention?

Consenting adults, etc...of course, that leaves the question about if the Eighth Army is singular enough to give one consent or not.
Posts: 420 | From: Oxford, PA | Registered: Nov 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

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