‘I am still in the pink. Terribly dirty, but as happy as a kid with mud. Still in the same place. Awful slaughter. Two more of our men were wounded last night by a shell. One had three fingers blown clean off’.
This letter was reproduced in the Evening News in October 1914 from where, carefully clipped out (and with in the pink underlined), it made its way into the Words in War-Time archive. Originally written by Corporal Bert —- [the surname is elided], it reassured his family in Walthamstow of his continued good health at the Front.
Moving from private to public domains, the letter hence participated in the contemporary recording of war (newspapers such as the Evening News regularly sought out first-hand testimony of this kind, offering, too, the promise of monetary reward).
Seen in term of the archive, however, it was to participate in living history of a different kind. In these terms, in the pink signalled a phrase which was, as yet, unattested in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (the section dealing with words in the range Ph-Piper had been published eight years earlier, appearing in June 1906). It would, in fact, emerge as one of the most characteristic idioms of war-time discourse, constituting a familiar item in letters to and from the Front, as well as being appropriated into a range of other domains. Continue reading