Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Wondrous Words Wednesday - Shadows Walking
I received the book "Shadows Walking" from Douglas R. Skopp, the author. It is an historical fiction about Nazi doctors that I wanted to read because I have often wondered WHAT they were thinking(!) I finished reading it this week, and I am going to do a full review, but I flagged a couple words for Wondrous Words Wednesday. Wondrous Words Wednesday is a meme sponsored by bermudaonion.net, where we feature new-to-us words and what they mean!
My words were "mensa" and "Boche."
You may be thinking, "I know what mensa is. It is the high IQ society."
And, that is the dictionary definition...along with a definition that, interestingly, has to do with constellations. But, when I google GERMAN mensa it turns out that it is a dining hall for students, which makes sense in the context it is used in this book.
On page 231, a German who has seen combat in WWI flips out and starts screaming, 'The Boche! The Boche!' I looked this one up, and it turns out to be a derogatory term that the French called the Germans in WWI. But, this guy WAS German...so, why would he be using a derogatory term about Germans? The answer might be that he was, literally, stark raving mad.
The good thing is I got this book directly from the author. So, I am going to write and ask him, and I will let you know the answer in another episode of WWW!
UPDATE: ANSWER FROM AUTHOR BELOW!!
Thank you for your kind words about my novel, Shadows Walking. I look forward to your review on your blog.
Yes, Pelcher’s scream, “The Boche!” is indeed what the French called the Germans, during World War I and afterwards.
Here’s a dictionary definition:
“Boche [bɒʃ] n Derogatory slang (esp in World Wars I and II)
1. a German, esp a German soldier
the (usually functioning as plural) Germans collectively, esp German soldiers regarded as the enemy
[from French, probably shortened from alboche German, from allemand German + caboche pate]”
I meant Pelcher’s delusional scream to be an accusation against his own kind, the Germans, a despairing cry from a would-be German physician in a novel about medical experimentation and cruelty. You, as far as I know, are the first one to even pick up on his scream, Elizabeth, and what I intended it to convey. Thank you! But I suspect that it’s too obscure or arcane a reference, among many others of my little efforts to make Shadows Walking a more nuanced rendition of the horrors of World War I and the ensuing era that I describe.
One more point, I went out of my way to never use the term “German” when I believed “Nazi” would be more appropriate. I don’t want the reader to think that I believe that Nazi brutality was just another facet of German civilization, or that all Germans were Nazis. On the contrary, to think in these “racial” categories is to do exactly what the Nazis did when they denigrated, say, the Jews. Such racist thinking led, I believe, directly to the indifference at the heart of Nazi atrocities.
I hope this helps. Thank you so much for your question.
Posted by Libby at 7:56 AM