10 “THE O-PIP”
them, and between ourselves could make one another understand when we wanted a stick of “Spearmint” or a peep at the history notes on his starched cuff. But now we are in this quaint country we find that our French is bad, and that the people behind the counter are like the Chinaman—they “no sabbee.”
When we landed in France a drove of “les garcon” fell upon us armed with little books, entitled “What you want to say and how to say it in French.” The books had a ready sale. Everyone became studious, and the babble that followed was worse than a Chinese prayer-meeting.
Finally we reached a town and had a pay-day. That evening everyone went out to spend, the sky, as usual, being the limit. But difficulties were soon encountered.
One party visited a cafe, and the books were immediately produced and opened at the page on “Restaurant and Buffet.” They found the English for what they wanted, and placed a finger on the corresponding French on the opposite page and hailed Marie.
Marie read and smiled. Then she spoke; quite a lot, in fact. It was French. A mystified look came over the party. A hurried look was paid the book to see if there was a page on “French— and how to understand it.” But there was none. One chap possessed presence of mind and shouted: “No compree, Marie. No compree.” Signs were resorted to, and finally the boys got what they wanted.
Another party wandered into an estaminet, quite an unusual occurrence. This party had with it a Red Cross man, who said he spoke French fluently. He slapped some francs on the bar and shot off a string of something.
The barmaid smiled, then laughed: “M’sieur, you speak French with a Canadian accent.”
Now the Red Cross man is starting his French over again. A number of boys who came fresh to the army from the High Schools, beseiged a grocery store in search of " eats.” Carefully choosing his words, one of the boys addressed “le madame.” She listened curiously, and then politely said:—“ I beg your pardon, M’sieur.”
Can you imagine anything more disgusting?
However, we are all coming along, and if the war keeps on for another 50 years we may be able to speak enough proper French to get a bottle of champagne, a dill-pickle, and a clean collar.
Officer: “Look here, Jones, didn’t you tell me you were going to get that polish this morning?”
Batman: “Yes, sir, but I changed my mind.”
Officer: “Changed your mind again, eh? Is there anything you don’t change?’’
Batman: “Yes, sir, my underwear.”