At the height of World War II on April 6th, 1943, the British Ambassador to Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, wrote a letter to Foreign Office minister Lord Reginald Pembroke in an effort to simply brighten up his day–a letter which has since become a classic piece of correspondence for reasons that will soon become obvious. The letter is indeed hilarious, and proof, if it were needed, that name-based punnery and mild xenophobia did a roaring trade long before the Internet was fired up.
(This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note.)
The Foreign Office
6th April 1943
My Dear Reggie,
In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt.
We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.
Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr,