Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

On the lighter side

Since I am disheartened by the elections, I sought comfort in a little paperback I own called The Book of Heroic Failures, by Stephen Pile, a tremendously amusing compilation of things that have gone terribly wrong. My favorite entry, which I reproduce here in its entirety, is called "The Worst Phrasebook":

Pedro Carolino is one of the all-time greats. In 1883 he wrote an English-Portuguese phrasebook despite having little or no command of the English language. His greatly recommended book The New Guide of the Conversation of Portuguese and English has now been reprinted under the title English As She Is Spoke. After a brief dedication:
We expect then, who the little book (for the care what we wrote him, and for her typographical correct) that may be worth the acceptation of the studious persons, and especially of the youth, at which we dedicate him particularly.
Carolino kicks off with some "Familiar Phrases" which the Portuguese holidaymaker might find useful. Among these are:
Dress you hairs This hat go well Undress you to Exculpate me by your brother's She make the prude Do you cut the hairs? He has tost his all good
He then moves on to "Familiar Dialogues" which include "For to wish the good morning," and "For to visit a sick." Dialogue 18 -- "For to ride a horse" begins: "Here is a horse who have bad looks. Give me another. I will not that. He not sall know to march, he is pursy. He is foundered. Don't you are ashamed to give me a jade as like? he is undshoed, he is with nails up." In the section on "Anecdotes," Carolino offers the following guaranteed to enthrall any listener:
One eyed was laied against a man which had good eyes that he saw better than him. The party was accepted. I had gain, over said the one eyed; why I se you two eyes, and you not look me who one.
It is difficult to top that, but Carolina manages in a useful section of "Idoitisms and provers." These include:
Nothing some money, nothing of Swiss He eat to coaches A take is better than two you shall have The stone as roll not heap up not foam
And the well-known expression
The dog than bark not bite
Carolino's particular genius was aided by the fact that he did not possess an English-Portuguese Dictionary. However, he did possess Portuguese-French and French-English dictionaries through both of which he dragged his original expressions. The results yield language of orginality and great beauty. Is there anything in conventional English which could equal the vividness of "To craunch a marmoset?"