Sep. 9th, 2014

melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
[personal profile] melannen
(x-posted to Tumblr with followup.)

So I recently did some reading about WWII in the Arctic in hopes it would give me useful stuff about Capsicle (sadly, it didn’t, although the story about the guy who was so bored on the Greenland station that he taught himself falconry out of a book really wants to be relevant somehow). I even got the main primary source on ILL, a volume called “War Below Zero” that was published before the war ended and is a collection of semi-first-person-accounts, in the hopes that it would also help me with authentic WWII language in my writing.

So the first couple of pieces in the book were published in magazines, co-written by the base commander and some reporters, and they were interesting and sounded a lot like other early-20th-century popular writing I’ve read. And then I got to the next-to-last section, “Flight East”, which purports to be “written by the pilot of one of the [P-]38’s [in the Lost Squadron], Lieutenant Harry L. Smith, known to his comrades as ‘Snuffy’ Smith (all Southerners named Smith in the Air Forces are invariably known as ‘Snuffy’, or sometimes, if they had a good running start, as ‘Chicken Haid’ Smith)”, and, folks. I am never attempting to write authentic WWII GI slang ever again.

I made copies of that section before I returned the book because it was so… amazing; I haven’t gotten around to typing up the whole thing, but here are some random representative paragraphs, for flavor:
"The Labrador base is a hellhole with slimy chuck, knotty beds, and an enemy squadron of 109s disguised as mosquitos. Guy who’s stationed here insists the mosquitos have so much of his blood in them that they sent him a card on Father’s day. Allah, take me home! What the coke, though? Letcha beard grow, ya teeth turn yellow, and live today ‘cause we ain’t made to last forever. Some of those lads on the other side of the world would give more’n I’ve got to be right here where these old flying boots are now… And so to the sack."

"Egg and I were hanging around our crates giving ‘em the last touch after running the engines on morning pre-flight when wing-daing! … Spider hits his Bucket, winds her up and starts billowing forth— damme, looks as if we’re taking off. Seven hundred miles of cold drink ahead, and nothing but a blast of pop to say ‘Let’s go’ … I hit the seat, alert style, wind old Sugar up and blast out on the strip — the Egg Crates are Snafu’d as usual so we have plenty of time to get set for the gun. Two 17’s, two peashooters, and now — me. Whoa, Josephine! Pulled ‘er off at 95 and got a partial stall…"

"The flight turns left and follows the coast northward. Sugar, you blasted beautiful bucket, you can quit running any time now, because I’ll set your tin hide most any place along that shore and be a live cookie."

"Caphonia Cafranz! It’s only 2 a.m… we’ve had no sleep for the last 18 hours.. but the weather is good. Green flight’s finally joined us, so Hitler, here we come. Eight days is a long time in this monotony of eat and sleep, so le’s give ‘er the kiss-off. Poor Buck! some knucklehead let his ship roll off the strip, and the tail was torn up. More of this monotony; ‘tis rough!"

And here’s the last paragraph, after the rescue:
"We finally got aboard the cutter after six hours of waiting for it to break its way to us through the ice. Once I said the coast of Greenland was the sweetest thing I ever saw. That’s retracted. It was the steak those Navy boys gave us aboard the cutter. That was true love, Spider said. Brother, you can say that again."


I’m pretty sure the slang was punched up in this at least a *little* for publication (possibly to make up for the relative lack of obscenity and blasphemy, although there are plenty of ‘damme’s and ‘hell’s left in.) I still kinda want to see somebody write up Steve Rogers’s final post-mission briefing in this style, though, it would be amazing. Anyway here is some more Authentic Colorful Period Language to punch up your Cap and Bucky characterization with, courtesy of Lt. “Snuffy” Smith:

* Sugar, this ain’t true love (used constantly, to describe anything from suboptimal to catastrophic)
* Stand by ypsiporrah!
* Swee’pea, that’s enough of that.
* Cousin, it looks as if this is IT
* Chickadee (To address the audience. Also “babe”, “baby”, “sweetheart”, “chum”, “brother”.)
* Caphonia Caphranz!
* so le’s give ‘er the kiss-off
* before long, zingo!
* the only place you could set a poker chip on
* I’m colder than an Alp dog’s nose
* it’ll put us home with Momma!
* Haw! Funny as Hell!
* Susie-Q, it’s true!
* Holy Joe!
* Hot jive!

…I kinda regret ever finding this, because now any fic that doesn’t write WWII Cap and Bucky talking in 3/4 impenetrable slang is just pale and limp in comparison.

(Two actual capsicle-related things to note: a) the Northern route - via Greenland and Iceland - was a major Allied air route during the war; flying warplanes across the Arctic one at a time was the safest and fastest way to get them from the US to England for the war in Europe. So Cap would have been flying right into what he probably knew was a busy Allied air lane studded with bases and radio beacons, from which some pretty spectacular and already publicized rescues from plane crashes had been carried out, not into a desolate unknown.

And b) the pilots who flew on that route universally referred to the Ice Cap as just "The Cap", and reviled, feared, and respected it, because landing safely on the ice was possible - if treacherous - but getting safely off again was a lot harder. So Howard's rescue missions - at least at first - aren't as much of a long shot as they might seem from this end. And would also have been full of arctic Air Corps veterans making endless puns about Cap/Cap.)

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