Phoney war
Posted: 17 July 2007 07:45 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Pondering Richard’s challenge in another thread to come up with a use for fonification, I wandered down a bylane and started to think about the phrase ‘phoney war’.

There’s a brief wiki which turned up this interesting nugget:

Also called “Funny War”; Winston Churchill called it the “Twilight War”. The term has equivalents in many other languages, notably the German Sitzkrieg ("sitting war,” a pun on Blitzkrieg) or komischer Krieg (funny war), the French drôle de guerre ("funny war” or “strange war,” drôle having two meanings) and the Polish dziwna wojna ("strange war"). In Britain the period was even referred to as the “Bore War” (a pun on “Boer War").

OED has this first cite for ‘phoney war’:

1939 Nation (N.Y.) 30 Sept. 336/2 Senator Borah talks about a ‘*phony’ war and contemplates with democratic disgust the intrenched power of the British Empire.

It’s interesting that ‘funny war’ has exact equivalents in French and German. One wonders at the relationship, if any, between the two terms ‘funny war and ‘phoney war’. Was one a mondegreen of the other perhaps?

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Posted: 17 July 2007 08:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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BTW of phoney itself OED says

[Prob. alteration of FAWNEY n. (cf. FAWNEY n. 2).]

Fawney, n.

[a. Irish fáin(n)e ring.]

1. A finger-ring. 

2. a. = fawney rig. to go on the fawney: to practise the fawney-rig.  b. One who practises the fawney-rig.
1781 G. PARKER View Society II. 167 There is a large shop in London where these kind of rings are sold, for the purpose of going on the Fawney. Ibid., The Fawney says, ‘I dare say some poor woman [etc.]’. 1789 {emem} Life’s Painter 174, Fawny, an old, stale trick, called ring-dropping.

First cite for phoney is 1862 from the US.

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Posted: 17 July 2007 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’ve seen that 1939 citation before and wondered if the context is exactly the same as that of the 1939-40 “Sitzkrieg” between Germany and Britain/France. 30 September is awfully early to be making pronouncements about lack of action, given that the war was only declared between the powers on 3 September. (The invasion of Poland was 1 September.) The single sentence isn’t enough to divine the context with certainty.

I found this in the 17 Nov 1939 New York Times, p. 20:

“Do people really mean what they say when they call the war in Europe a phony war? Do they feel about it as the crowd does about a phony prize-fight in which both sides are accused of stalling? It is hard to think of the American audience losing its patience and shouting to Churchill and Daladier to go in and kill ‘im. A funny war, perhaps, but a phony war presupposes that there is a secret deal between Hitler and Chamberlain by which one of them is to be knocked out in the third round.”

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