Thursday, February 10, 2011

Postcard Friendship Friday - Shadow of a Doubt

Postcard (c. 1900) of a Burmese Monastery

(Burma is now Myanmar)

Burma Road postcard and stamp. First day of issue.

Burma in the spring of 1942 was a prize coveted by two forces: The Japanese and the Allies. Within Burma's boundaries lay rich mineral and oil reserves. The country also produced major quantities of rice. If the Japanese captured the country, a vital link between China and India would be severed and the two countries would be susceptible to invasions. Unfortunately the Japanese were much better prepared for taking Burma and closing the Burma Road than the Allies were to defend it. In May, 1942, U.S. Lt. General Joseph Stilwell was driven from Burma, but he returned as the head of the Chinese division in October, 1943. An acerbic man who was often at odds with China's Generalissimo Chaing Kai-shek and his own subordinate General Claire Lee Chennault, Stilwell was nonetheless a capable leader. Allied forces thus prevailed partially opening the Burma Road in January, 1945.

Chaing Kai-shek claimed the victory. Stilwell's acerbic comment to that was:

"China has taken Burma. I'll take umbrage."

I love the phrase "take umbrage". It is one of many words and phrases that are drifting into the abandoned warehouses of the English language.

Today Stilwell might have said "Well, like, you know, that dude Chaing Kai-shek goes, 'So Burma is like, you know, mine!' So I go 'Yo! You just disrespected me and I'm like, you know, feeling all dissed about it. Bummer."

Bummer is right. I take umbrage to what passes for today's version of the English language.

Before we take umbrage too far from Burma, let me just say this: Burma-shave! The brushless shaving cream supposedly contained herbs, minerals and oils from Malaysia and Burma. Thus the name.

And now a word about the word umbrage: It comes from the Latin "umber" meaning shadow. In this case the shadow is anger.

Umbrella comes from the same Latin word for shadow

so does "umbel"

like the umbel shaped flowers of the wild carrot called Queen Anne's Lace

Penumbra, Antumbra and umbra describe shadow phases of an eclipse as well as the darkened sunspots on the sun.

And then there's the chemical umbellafirone which is used in sunscreen.

And of course, we would be remiss not to discuss the color, umber, which gets it's name from the brownish red clay in Umbria Italy. There is "raw umber", and then there is "burnt umber" which takes on a brighter reddish hue. It happens when heat is applied to raw umber. This brings other colors to mind - like sienna and burnt sienna. These come from the limonite clay in Siena, Italy. All of these are shades of brown that many of us became familiar with when we opened our first big box of Crayola Crayons.

This stadium seating style box from 1948 contained the first "burnt sienna" crayons.

As you can tell by this post, I'm not one to stay within the lines. Please don't take umbrage.

Instead, take a trip over to visit Beth at The Best Hearts Are Crunchy for more Postcard Friendship Friday Fun. This is Beth's 50th PFF post host!


MrCachet said...

Yup - and I remember the Burma-Shave slogans two or three words to a sign for about a mile. We learned to read while driving down the road!

Did you just play with words? ;o)

Joy said...

Gosh from Burma to crayons, that is a wide ranging post. A fabulous Burma Road cover, I'm envious of you owning that.
Don't take umbrage:-) but I think you have a typo, should it read Burma is now known as Myanmar (rather than Sri Lanka).

Aimee said...

Your posts are always so much fun! Love the postcards from a country that doesn't even have that name anymore.

MuseSwings said...

Thank you Joy! - It is Myanmar. I was confusing it with its next door neighbor Ceylon which is Sri Lanka. I'd like to own the first day cover, but as with most of my PFF posts I am using images of cards with kind permission of

Tete said...

Happy PFF! Boy, did you say a mouthful about our language today and I love your interpretation of it. You packed a storehouse of unique information in one little post here. Thanks for sharing and all the research done.

Sheila said...

I just love the journey from a Burmese monastery to crayons, via Queen Anne's Lace! :)

Rebecca said...

What a history lesson-thanks-it was wonderful!

tony said...

The Next Time It Rains Here In Yorkshire (which it often does..) I will remember to take my Umbrage with me!

Funoldhag said...

A very fun post! Learned lots of things - now all I have to do is remember them! :-) Carol