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Credit to the mess? Options
Tomahawk71
Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 3:24:03 PM

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What does "credit to the mess" mean, please?

QUOTE:

'Did you know her husband?'
'Not so well, poor devil, not so well.'
Harriman, Smiley reflected, seemed to have a great deal more sympathy for the living than the dead. Perhaps soldiers were like that. He wouldn't know.
'He's terribly cut up, I hear. Dreadful shock—fortunes of war, eh?' he added and Smiley nodded. 'He's the other type. Humble origin, good officer qualities, credit to the mess. Those are the ones that cut up most, the ones women get at.'
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 3:49:13 PM
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It refers to the Officers Mess a place where Comissioned Officers, those of Lieutenant rank or higher in the British Army eat, socialise and if unmarried would live.

Credit means approval, honour or praise.

"He's the other type. Humble origins, good officer qualities, brought honour to the mess" might be another way to phrase it.

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Tomahawk71
Posted: Friday, July 14, 2017 1:06:38 AM

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Sarrriesfan wrote:
It refers to the Officers Mess a place where Comissioned Officers, those of Lieutenant rank or higher in the British Army eat, socialise and if unmarried would live.

Credit means approval, honour or praise.

"He's the other type. Humble origins, good officer qualities, brought honour to the mess" might be another way to phrase it.


Thanks! But this "he" is not an officer but a school teacher.
But the speaker is an ex army officer who likes to use a military language.
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Friday, July 14, 2017 5:57:49 AM
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Tomahawk71 wrote:
Sarrriesfan wrote:
It refers to the Officers Mess a place where Comissioned Officers, those of Lieutenant rank or higher in the British Army eat, socialise and if unmarried would live.

Credit means approval, honour or praise.

"He's the other type. Humble origins, good officer qualities, brought honour to the mess" might be another way to phrase it.


Thanks! But this "he" is not an officer but a school teacher.
But the speaker is an ex army officer who likes to use a military language.


Yes the speaker may well be speaking using military language, I think that is the most likely explanation.

However the book is set in Britain in the 1950s, just after the Second World War when many British men joined the army to defend the country from the Nazi threat. It would not be unusual for a person that is a school teacher in 1950 to have been an officer in the army during the war, and Harriman may have known them then. For example I was taught by someone in the 1970s that had been an RAF fighter pilot.

The context may help to understand which of these it is.


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Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Friday, July 14, 2017 7:43:51 PM

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A phrase/idiom is "he/she was a credit to . . ."

That whole series of phrases is 'verbal shorthand'.

"He's the other type. He came from a humble origin, but had good officer qualities. He was a credit to the mess."

The soldier definitely seems to be speaking of him as an army officer.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Tomahawk71
Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 11:35:15 AM

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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
A phrase/idiom is "he/she was a credit to . . ."

That whole series of phrases is 'verbal shorthand'.

"He's the other type. He came from a humble origin, but had good officer qualities. He was a credit to the mess."

The soldier definitely seems to be speaking of him as an army officer.


But that mentioned guy is not an officer. He is a teacher.
Maybe the speaker implies this guy is a credit to the league of married men? Or to the teachers of his school?
leonAzul
Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 1:30:52 PM

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Tomahawk71 wrote:

But that mentioned guy is not an officer. He is a teacher.
Maybe the speaker implies this guy is a credit to the league of married men? Or to the teachers of his school?


The two occupations are not mutually exclusive.

A person can accept a commission during war time or as part of required public service, then either continue with a career in the armed forces, or choose another career, either resigning the commission or remaining in the reserves.

Indeed, even within the active service there are teachers and instructors, most of them NCOs (sergeants and warrant officers) or lieutenants.

"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Saturday, July 15, 2017 6:03:52 PM
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just to add a point, as he is a teacher he had a university education and probably has a degree, and with the way the British class system worked at the time, if he did enlist in the army during WW2 he would have been sent to train as an officer rather than an enlisted man.

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Tomahawk71
Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017 4:33:44 AM

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Sarrriesfan wrote:
just to add a point, as he is a teacher he had a university education and probably has a degree, and with the way the British class system worked at the time, if he did enlist in the army during WW2 he would have been sent to train as an officer rather than an enlisted man.


So, he Was a credit to the mess (when he was a reserve officer).
Should we read it like that?

He was an officer during the war. He belonged to a mess during his military service and
he was one of the best men in the mess.

Right?
leonAzul
Posted: Sunday, July 16, 2017 7:15:29 PM

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Tomahawk71 wrote:

So, he Was a credit to the mess (when he was a reserve officer).
Should we read it like that?



The distinction is being made between a career officer who more or less inherited his rank as a member of an elite family, and an officer of more humble origins who advances by virtue of his effort and integrity.

Whether he was literally an officer is not material, although saying it this way does suggest that. The point is that he is respected for his behavior, not for his family's prestige.

"Make it go away, Mrs Whatsit," he whispered. "Make it go away. It's evil."
Romany
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017 6:12:30 AM
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I don't think the usage is as strict as you guys are representing it.

Being a "credit to the Mess" (sorry, but to me it takes a capital letter and always will) doesn't literally mean one HAS TO even be a member of the Forces. It's like saying "He's a credit to gentlemen everywhere" or "He shows every positive trait a true gentleman displays" - especially in peace time.

My father was a career officer - but from all he and his war cronies used to natter about when I was a child, there was NO distinction between officers - among the officers. It was the enlisted men (not officers) who used to draw distinctions. While that may sound defensive, it must be remembered that career officers weren't just in for the duration - it was their career/job, so they had been in training and preparation for a long time before any major war broke out. Anyone who made it through that intensive training to officer was respected no matter their origins.

Anyway, as Leon suggested, his actual status as a member of the Forces is not as important as the fact that he was a 'true gentleman': the kind any Mess would be proud to acknowledge. Whether he was a member of any particular Mess or not. In the RAF, at least, family prestige plays no part.
Tomahawk71
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017 7:17:59 AM

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Romany wrote:
I don't think the usage is as strict as you guys are representing it.

Being a "credit to the Mess" (sorry, but to me it takes a capital letter and always will) doesn't literally mean one HAS TO even be a member of the Forces. It's like saying "He's a credit to gentlemen everywhere" or "He shows every positive trait a true gentleman displays" - especially in peace time.

My father was a career officer - but from all he and his war cronies used to natter about when I was a child, there was NO distinction between officers - among the officers. It was the enlisted men (not officers) who used to draw distinctions. While that may sound defensive, it must be remembered that career officers weren't just in for the duration - it was their career/job, so they had been in training and preparation for a long time before any major war broke out. Anyone who made it through that intensive training to officer was respected no matter their origins.

Anyway, as Leon suggested, his actual status as a member of the Forces is not as important as the fact that he was a 'true gentleman': the kind any Mess would be proud to acknowledge. Whether he was a member of any particular Mess or not. In the RAF, at least, family prestige plays no part.




"He is a real gentleman!"
That's all, I guess? :)
Romany
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017 8:41:39 AM
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Yep. Short and sweet.
Tomahawk71
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017 11:18:34 AM

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Romany wrote:

Yep. Short and sweet.


Oh, thanks god!

And thank YOU! Applause
Romany
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017 1:44:36 PM
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You're very welcome, mate.I think we all feel pleased to know something one has said/done has helped a lightbulb go off - so thanks back at you.Dancing
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