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Croquet match to settle centuries old linguistic war

River Nene at the heart of a linguistic war in Britain
Credit: Stavros1/Wikipedia/Creative Commons 3.0

For centuries there has been a linguistic battle raging in the heart of Britain over the pronunciation of the River Nene.

The hundred-mile-long river separates the two cities of Northampton and Peterborough and people in each community pronounce the name differently.

And the two communities have decided to end this raging linguistic war once and for all in a winner take all croquet match.

The Daily Mail provides the breathtaking details:

Two communities are set to go head to head over a centuries-old dispute over the correct way to pronounce the local river – with a game of croquet. 

Generations of people from Northampton and Peterborough have battled over the correct way to pronounce the River Nene, but the dispute will be put to bed this weekend at the local croquet derby. 

Northampton local call the river ‘Nen’ while 40 miles away in Peterborough, they say ‘Neen’. […]

The first side to win five games in Sunday’s match will claim the right for the river to be pronounced their way.

READ: Croquet match will settle centuries-old dispute between locals in Northampton and Peterborough over how to pronounce the name of the River Nene

During World War I as Allied and Axis armies faced each other in trenches often only yards apart, a story emerged of how on Christmas day in 1914, German and British troops declared an impromptu truce and ended up playing a soccer game in no man’s land.

According to reports, there were actually several matches played between enemy armies during the war.

ESPN explains:

The games weren’t serious. One lasted only an hour, after which both teams were exhausted. And though corpses had been cleared from the battlefield earlier that day, shell holes and the soldiers’ huge boots made close control impossible. Players who fell in the mud were pulled out by the enemy, to cheers from spectators perched on the parapets.

“Goalposts were either a couple of pieces of wood, or caps or helmets,” writes Jurgs.

Ernie Williams, in 1914 a British soldier in the 6th Cheshires regiment, told the BBC TV programme Grandstand 69 years later: “It was just a general kickabout. I should think there were about a couple of hundred taking part … I was pretty good then, at 19 … There was no sort of ill-will between us. … It was simply a melee — nothing like the soccer you see on television. The boots we wore were a menace — those great big boots we had on — and in those days the balls were made of leather and they soon got very soggy.”

Of course, not everyone approved:

A 25-year-old German soldier named Adolf Hitler was equally shocked by the truce. In Weintraub account, he had spent Christmas Day in the cellar of an abbey near Ypres, Belgium. Told later that men of his regiment had played soccer with them, he exclaimed: “Something like that should not happen in wartime. Have you no German honor?” German regimental histories written under Nazism do not mention the truce.

READ: Soccer in the trenches: Remembering the WWI Christmas Truce

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