[lit-ideas] Re: Salingeriana

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 23 Sep 2013 16:40:40 -0700

JL writes

I wonder if Salinger was 'knew' (if that's the word) that the Brits (or
some of them) referred to the "Second" World War as "the phoney [British
spelling preferred] war". Since he came to be quite fond of the epithet. I
forget who first used it to refer to the 'second world war'

The phrase probably came into use after the Isolationist Senator, William Borah, of Idaho, was reported in a newspaper to have said, 'There's something phoney about this war.' He was not talking about the entire Second World War; he was speaking of the time between the German invasion of Poland, in the fall of 1939, to the invasion of France, in the spring of 1940, during which 'nothing happened.'


‘Phoney War’ is the name given to the period of time in World War Two from September 1939 to April 1940 when, after the blitzkrieg attack on Poland in September 1939, seemingly nothing happened. Many in Great Britain expected a major calamity – but the title ‘Phoney War’ summarises what happened in Western Europe – near enough nothing.

The term 'Phoney War' was first used, allegedly, by an American senator called Borah. Winston Churchill referred to the same period as the ‘Twilight War’ while the Germans referred to it as ‘Sitzkrieg’ – 'sitting war'.

It's odd that anyone, British or otherwise, would think that the entire Second World War was somehow a 'phoney' war.

Robert Paul,
relying on childhood memories

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