A Bizarre Phrase The Army Taught Soldiers In World War II

Was its lesson sexist or comical or both?

Janice Harayda
2 min readMay 21, 2022
Logo for the Armed Forces newspaper, Stars and Stripes / Department of Defense

Every June 6, I write about a D-Day book in honor of a treasured relative who landed in France with the Allies and was seriously wounded and evacuated in the liberation of Saint-Lô.

There’s a lot of good writing about the invasion of Normandy, and I’ve been rereading some of it ahead of the 78th anniversary of D-Day next month. Along with Cornelius Ryan’s incomparable The Longest Day, my favorite books on the subject include Antony Beevor’s D-Day: The Battle for Normandy (Penguin, 2009), and when I went back to it, I found a quote I’d forgotten.

Beevor says that before the invasion of France, the Army thought U.S. soldiers might benefit from learning conversational French, and it produced language books for them that had potentially helpful phrases. He writes in D-Day:

“Supposedly useful gambits were also provided in daily lessons published by [the military newspaper] Stars and Stripes, such as the French for ‘My wife doesn’t understand me.’ ”

Wouldn’t you love to hear what the wives back at home thought when they heard that one? And whether the Army produced books for the WACs and the WAVEs that had phrases like, “My husband doesn’t understand me”?

--

--

Janice Harayda

Critic, novelist, award-winning journalist. Former book editor of the Plain Dealer and book columnist for Glamour. Words in NYT, WSJ, and other major media.