Wednesday, March 30, 2022

English As She Is Spoke

The book is remarkably recent, 19th C, when plenty of printed material would have been available and plenty of people who spoke Portuguese who had actually been to England (or America or Canada). Yet someone thought Pedro Carolino's book English As She Is Spoke valuable enough to print it or buy it. He clearly does not speak English, yet confidently assures his readers that such constructions are not only accurate, but better than what they would find elsewhere, as they capture current idiomatic speech. 

 Degrees of kindred.
The gossip
The quater-grandfather
The gossip mistress
The quater-grandmother
The nurse
A guardian
An guardian
A relation
An relation
A widower
An widow

Familiar Phrases
Go to send for.
Have you say that?
Have you understand that he says?
At what purpose have say so?
Put your confidence in my.
At what o'clock dine him?
Apply you at the study during that you are young.
Dress your hairs.
Sing an area.
These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in the mouth.
How do you can it to deny?
Wax my shoes.
This is that I have think.
That are the dishes whose you must be and to abstain.
This meat ist not too over do.
This ink is white.
This room is filled of bugs.
This girl have a beauty edge.

 The walk.
Will you and take a walk with me?
Wait for that the warm be out.
Go through that meadow. Who the country is beautiful! who the trees are thick!
Take the bloom's perfume.
It seems me that the corn does push alredy.
You hear the bird's gurgling?
Which pleasure! Which charm!
The field has by me a thousand charms.
Are you hunter? will you go to the hunting in one day this week?
Willingly; I have not a most pleasure in the world. There is some game on they cantons?
We have done a great walk.

Yes we have indeed done  a great walk to get here, haven't we? A PDF of the whole work here.

Mark Twain wrote a later introduction to it, marveling at the perfectness of its nonsense. "...nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect, it must and will stand alone: its immortality is secure." And -

Many persons have believed that this book's miraculous stupidities were studied and disingenuous; but no one can read the volume carefully through and keep that opinion. It was written in serious good faith and deep earnestness, by an honest and upright idiot who believed he knew something of the English language, and could impart his knowledge to others. The amplest proof of this crops out somewhere or other upon each and every page. There are sentences in the book which could have been manufactured by a man in his right mind, and with an intelligent and deliberate purposes to seem innocently ignorant; but there are other sentences, and paragraphs,which no mere pretended ignorance could ever achieve—nor yet even the most genuine and comprehensive ignorance, when unbacked by inspiration.

I am inordinately proud of the fact that I immediately thought of both The Bald Soprano (Ionesco's  play based on learning a language from Assimil conversation texts, including such after-dinner conversation as "But still, the soup was perhaps a little too salt. It was saltier than you. Ha, ha, ha. It also had too may leeks and not enough onions. I regret I didn’t advise Mary to add some aniseed stars. The next time I’ll know better") and Monty Python's The Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook ("my hovercraft is full of eels"), both of which were mentioned in the Wiki.  So we are all on the same page here.


5 comments:

Unknown said...

My wife attended a very European-international bible-college where some of the Germans had learned English almost entirely from the King-James bible on tape or LP record.

She reports conversation with them as being interesting and somehow unsettling.

Cranberry said...

If you listen closely to what people actually say (aided immensely by closed captioning these days), many people don't speak in full sentences. Speech, transcribed precisely, is often less convincing when read than when heard.

I'm also reminded of the "needs fixed," expression, which I'm hearing more often these days, even in Massachusetts.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Absolutely. Real transcriptions can sound artificial if you aren't used to them. You can't just spring Jeet? on people without context, but if someone is arriving around mealtime, it is understandable. T S Eliot's The Cocktail Party captures this very cleverly, with the interweaving of incomplete sentences that make up a real conversation.

My brother, sons, and I all do lots of overlapping conversation. I heard someone describe how New York Jews are likely to do this (and how disapproving they were) on a radio show years ago, but I listened to it and thought "Sounds about right to me."

Korora said...

Then there was the Water Buffalo Incident, where a college student who'd gone to a Hebrew-speaking high school learned the hard way not to translate slang literally.

Korora said...

Oh, and even with the Engrish, some of the anecdotes retain their zing.

"A duchess accused of magic being interrogated for a commissary extremely unhandsome, this was beg him setae one she had look the devil. 'Yes, sir, 1 did see him, was answer the duchess, and he was like you as two water's drops.'"

"A judge having ordered at any gendarms to arrest a criminal, this conducted at her presence, was shamness enough far to tell him that he was semed to Pilatus. The judge was answered him: 'Condemning a so great rogue as thee, I shall not have at less to wash my hands.'"