The Japanese authorities were reported in the papers as having said ‘Mama’ and ‘Papa’ were un-Japanese, spots Norman Collins. In his book, Kabuki’s Forgotten War, James R. Brandon comments that this was ‘playful’, before pointing out, that by 1940, levity had vanished. All drama was ‘Japanised’. Among the words banned from display were toilet, entrance, platform, revue, show, matinée – and so on. (There is a good presentation on the subject here.) So the extent to which it was playful is questionable. Collins asks for English equivalents of the ‘distressingly un-English’ flair, metier, chassis, garage, omelette, hors d’oeuvre, soufflé, negligé (sic), déshabillé, bete noire, affaire, and fete. (Is it me or is ‘flair’ a curious choice? It is also equally unusual that he should specify the 12 words exactly.)
This turns out to be a very popular competition indeed – it would run well today, too, I think. One wag sends an entry as Adolf Hitler, Preston (probably an accommodation address – Collins) , suggesting ‘addle’ for omelette and ‘hittle’ for soufflé. Collins gives several individual examples, including jinker for fete (high jinker for a fete under civic patronage) – J.H.G. Gibbs; and ‘a do’ for the same – Parisienne. Affaire gets several ‘love affair’s – but as Collins points out, there was no love in l’affaire Dreyfus. Lester Ralph nearly wins but misses a word. Laing also nearly wins, but Collins doesn’t like ‘carenought’ for negligé. So the first prize goes to H.C. Riddell, and the second to E.V. Warne. The latter has been trying to win for over a year, but the former is a new face. He is Henry Riddell (1908-1986), who was one of the BBC’s radio announcers, a role he continued to fulfil until the 1960s. He was to be one of the coronation broadcast team, and he was a familiar voice in sports reports, too.
Notice that the winners eschew the cheap joke. They are being perfectly serious.