Off topic: Has there ever been a good phrase book?
Thread poster: Elizabeth Sumner
Hi, I'm just getting round to reading the sequel to Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (one of my favourites) and I came across this passage that anyone who's tried to 'get by' with a Berlitz/Rough Guide/Lonely Planet should recognise.
"...He handed me a small book bound in red cloth. It was a guide to English conversation for the use of German travellers. It commenced “On a Steam-boat,” and terminated “At the Doctor’s”; its longest chapter being devoted to conversation in a railway carriage, among, apparently, a compartment load of quarrelsome and ill-mannered lunatics: “Can you not get further away from me, sir?”—“It is impossible, madam; my neighbour, here, is very stout”—“Shall we not endeavour to arrange our legs?”—“Please have the goodness to keep your elbows down”—“Pray do not inconvenience yourself, madam, if my shoulder is of any accommodation to you,” whether intended to be said sarcastically or not, there was nothing to indicate —“I really must request you to move a little, madam, I can hardly breathe,” the author’s idea being, presumably, that by this time the whole party was mixed up together on the floor. The chapter concluded with the phrase, “Here we are at our destination, God be thanked! (Gott sei dank!)” a pious exclamation, which under the circumstances must have taken the form of a chorus…
…“It is not a brilliant publication,” I remarked, handing the book back to George; “it is not a book that personally I would recommend to any German about to visit England; I think it would get him disliked. But I have read books published in London for the use of English travellers abroad every whit as foolish. Some educated idiot, misunderstanding seven languages, would appear to go about writing these books for the misinformation and false guidance of modern Europe.”
From my experience, it seems nothing much has changed since 1900!
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| | NancyLynn
Local time: 20:54
French to English
Moderator of this forum
| Oh I can't resist || Oct 28, 2004 |
Those are great, thanks.
When I first came to Mexico someone lent me a Spanish phrase book. It was of course divided into chapters, the last chapter being courtship and the last phrase of the courtship chapter a proposal of marriage.
I always wondered if you could then buy a phrase-book for married life. The mind boggles.
| Just an explosion || Oct 28, 2004 |
Some years back I read in The Readers' Digest about an author's reaction to a phrase book. One typical exchange went like this.
She: (nervously): "What is it?"
He: "Oh, nothing. Just an explosion".
By the way, every self-respecting Italian phrasebook in Germany (and probably somewhere else, too) features gestures, including some that I've never seen, as if you couldn't make yourself understood in Italy without your hands.
| Tom and Jerry - They liked a wee dram || Oct 29, 2004 |
I took a look at the website Jack mentioned - it certainly is worth a look. Anyway, I was carrying on with the book and came across the following odd phrase (it's used by a churchwarden to describe his youthful high jinks).
"I tried driving [stealing] a hansom cab once. That has always been regarded as the acme of modern Tom and Jerryism."
I'd never heard this used before so I had to have a look for the derivation on the internet. Apparently this was a Victorian term for wild, drunken behaviour. Even stranger, it's all down to Eggnog! The following is taken from 'Eggnog - A History' (there really is everything on the internet).
"In the 1820's Pierce Egan, a period author, wrote a book called "Life of London: or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom". To publicize his work Mr. Egan made up a variation of eggnog he called "Tom and Jerry". It added 1/2 oz of brandy to the basic recipe (fortifying it considerably and adding further to its popularity)."
So one man's fortified eggnog inadvertently led to the greatest cartoon double act of all time (and probably some serious stomach upsets).
It's a strange world.
Jack Doughty wrote:
I always thought this phrase was from a 19th-century English phrase-book published in Portugal, but the closest I can find to it on Google is this, from the website of the BBC radio programme "Quote, Unquote":
The whole page is worth a look.
The Jerome K. Jerome book is called "Three Men on the Bummel".
[Edited at 2004-10-27 17:01]
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Has there ever been a good phrase book?
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