I love period dramas. I am, like many others, distraught that Downtown Abbey is now over. I love anything set in the early 20th century and I have often said that I was much more suited to life in that era. My most recent viewing has been Anzac girls about a group of Australian and New Zealand nurses working during the First World War. What struck me was the importance of the postal service. The girls were given hope by the letters sent from home and the small gifts that made life during the war seem a little more bearable.
Whilst letters could bring so much hope and comfort they could also bring the worst news possible. Telegrams were the quickest way to send information. It was a visit from the telegram boy that everyone dreaded. Each letter in a message cost money, this meant messages had to be kept as short as possible. Word choice was therefore of the upmost importance to minimise confusion. This links to connotations and implicature. The choice of “killed in action” compared to “missing in action” implies very different emotional responses. With the progressive participle “missing” many people clinged onto the fact there was no confirmation of death. Just one change in word choice had the power to destroy people’s lives.
We should be extremely thankful for the speed of messaging in the 21st century. It can now take a matter of minutes to send a message to someone in another country. We should also be appreciative of all those unsung heroes in the war who got the messages to where they needed to be and brought so much hope to so many during a period of devastation.