The Real Ank

The real Ank, a French-Moroccan, served in the French paratroops and then became a “contracted representative of French and other Western interests;” the sort who humps a ruck and rifle; a good soldier. His given name was Henri, pronounced Ahn-ree, but after learning the diminutive for the Anglicized “Henry” was “Hank,” he insisted on using it, because, he said, “Eez Americain neek-name, oui? And I will be un Americain someday!”

The problem was, like many French-speakers, he couldn’t pronounce the H-sound for beans. No matter how hard he tried, “Hank” always came out “`Ank.” So, we called him `Ank. After much de rigueur teasing by our multinational crew, he gave a Gallic shrug and accepted it. Why, he was asked, did he want so badly to be an American? He would look shocked.

“You kee-deeng me? More free! Very big, purple mountain majesty, wave of grain, cool! `Ot dogs at baze-ball game! Yankees, Indians of Cleve-land! Cruising in Chevy Camaro! More pretty chick-ladies, all kinds! Cheeseburger, chili! Taco! America! Ronal’ Reagan, President, keeks ass! Land of free, home of brave! Bon temps!”

Another problem: `Ank learned sorta-English phrases only by what they sounded like to him, with poorly-connected meanings. There was an incident (“Bones in the Bearded Barley;” no space to tell it here) in which one of our guys had a little nervous breakdown. `Ank reported on his condition.

“Ehhh, `e’s freepeen gout, but `e will be okay.” Huh? “You know; freepeen gout, like,” — `Ank bugged his eyes, stuck his tongue out and wagged it, spun an index finger around one ear — “Creh-zee, okay? Lost marbles; gone boogla-boogla-boogla!” Took one minute to laugh our butts off, another to figure out he meant “freaking out” or perhaps “flipping out.” That was not how he’d heard it. Again with the Gallic shrug. Ahh, `Ank ...