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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pointie-Talkie: How Gaijin Have Survived The Japanese For Decades

Okay… so you’re a WWII Allied country soldier who happens to find himself stuck behind enemy lines because your plane was shot down, tank was blown up or your boat was torpedoed and you decided what the heck, five miles isn’t that far to swim in shark-infested waters of Oceania.

No friendlies in sight… and where are you? Those people over there look like they are Japanese… and whatever they are saying sure sounds like gobbledy-gook to you…

What do you do now?

You could pull out your handy-dandy book, expertly prepared for you by the good ol’ U.S. Army Air Force, find the English phrase you think is best suited for the situation, rethink that, and choose again… and then pointing and showing the dialogue to what you hope are friendlies, they can find the language in the book that they understand, and at least get the gist of what the heck is going on and why you are standing in their septic system.

"I am an American soldier needing your help in our struggle against the Japanese, but I cannot speak your language..."

Yes… your book, Pointie Talkie, just saved your butt.

From 1941 thru 1945, the above book was a real phrasebook for those unlucky American airmen who may have been downed... stuck in a place where no one speaks your language...

But, your Pointie Talkie book (images found over at, a place you can purchase old and cool books that will never be found in your local virtual public library) has 190 pages and seven drawings (only seven?!) that depict friendliness between Americans and whomever, as it encourages those poor illiterate country foreign bumpkins to protect and hide the Americans from the Japanese.

The books contains phrases in Chinese, Burmese, French, Thai, Ammanese, Shan, Lolo (Yei) and Lao, with an admonitory statement from Chiang Kai-Shek (Director of the National Military Council) advising natives to assist the American flyer or be subjected to punishment.

That’s nice.

I have no idea what most of those languages are or who speaks them.

And... if these poor people who might help a downed serviceman are truly illiterate... how the hell are they supposed to be able to read the messages in the book?!

Assume that the service man isn't sure where he is... so he has no idea what language the friendlies might speak... even showing the illiterate friendlies all the various language translations might not do him a world of good.

I think... if one is using a book... that one has to hope like hell that all people involved are at least semi-literate.

If I was creating a book similar in scope, I would create something akin to Ikea instruction manuals that can be viewed and resolved in a relatively short time... ergo, having a book with fewer pages of words—regardless of the language—and having more illustrations involving pointie-talkie.

Above is an example of an illustration from Pointie Talkie - and you can see that the American has received help.

In my humble opinion, if the locals haven't already tried to kill you, odds are pretty good they are going to help a lost soldier et al fighting against the Japanese who have helped destroy their way of life.

Still... what might work better is handing over a pack of cigarettes or a chocolate bar along with a promise not to try and sleep with the women of the house.

Kidding aside... does anyone know why this book is Number 5?

Assuming this is the last of the series, what the hell was in the first four books?

Andrew Joseph

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