‘War awe warthog Warsaw. Yaw.’

Question 7 in the examination was rather hard, but it was not quite a trick question.

The extract given, from Burgess’s introduction to Return Trip Tango and Other Stories from Abroad (the book contains selections from Translation magazine), read as follows:

In a novel of my own, I had a character yawning phonetically ‘War awe Warsaw warthog.’ The German translator took it upon himself to render this literally, making no sense. Here there seemed to be a kind of willed ignorance of context.

However, these words differ slightly from those in the following extract, from Burgess’s 1960 novel The Doctor is Sick (pp 153-154 of the Penguin edition):

Yawning, head-scratching, he put on his shoes, saying: ‘War awe warthog Warsaw. Yaw,’ he added. ‘I beg your pardon,’ he said. ‘I’m just wondering what’s the best thing to do this evening. With you, that is.’

It is not surprising that candidates had difficulty with this question, especially in view of the fact that I, who set the question, am myself not sure of the answer.

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