Muddle-headed Kay (mhw) wrote,
Muddle-headed Kay

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English As She Is Spoke

It is my considered opinion that there are some books which anyone with any pretensions to an appreciation of language and a sense of humour must, at some point in her or his life, read.

Of such books, I think that among the best are those written without any intention of their having any ludific quality, such as The Young Visiters — the author's spelling — by Daisy Ashford. It should be argued, though, that someone of her nine tender years must be allowed a deal of latitude in her sense of what is, and what is not, ludicrous.

No such latitude is owed to Pedro Carolinho, the writer (I am tempted to put perpetrator) of O Novo Guia da Conversação em Portuguez e Inglez, which purports to be a handbook of useful English phrases for the Portuguese traveller. No doubt that his intentions were worthy; no doubt there was need of an English/Portuguese phrasebook. But there can be no doubt whatsoever that the author's method of producing it was one of extreme foolhardiness.

Carolinho took a perfectly serviceable French/Portuguese phrasebook by José Da Fonseca, and, with the aid of a French/English dictionary, translated the phrasebook's French into English. Word by word; for the brave Carolinho knew no English whatsoever.

English As She Is Spoke, the title under which the work achieved a later, greater and probably far more entertained public, is the Babel Fish humour of the mid-nineteenth century, and all the better because it was committed in high seriousness.

Read it. If you can keep a straight face throughout, I shall despair of you.

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