Off topic: English as She is Spoke
Thread poster: Abigail Elvins

Abigail Elvins  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:54
Portuguese to English
Feb 18, 2008

Does anyone know this hilarious book?

An English phrase book for the Portuguese written in 1855 by Pedro Carolino, a man with no knowledge of English.

By making use of a Portuguese-French Phrase book and a French to English dictionary he set about his task!

It is rightly described as a bizarre materpiece of unintentional humour.

For anyone with a knowledge of Portuguese and English it's great fun.

ISBN 1-932416-11-0 for anyone who is interested.


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Brilliantly awful and great fun Feb 19, 2008

I had a copy of this years ago, with a foreword by Mark Twain. When I was in college, some friends and I stayed up late one night reading excerpts from this phrase book out loud and laughing ourselves silly. For days thereafter we cracked each other up by uttering the phrase "to craunch the marmoset."

The mistranslations were so funny that we figured Twain must have made the whole thing up as a satire, but apparently it was a legitimately awful language guide.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:54
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Often-quoted phrase from this book Feb 19, 2008

"Lo, the postilion has been struck by lightning!"

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
1884 edition available online Feb 19, 2008

A facsimile of the 1884 U.S. edition can be downloaded free of charge from books.google.com. Be sure to download the copy they scanned from the University of Michigan Library (as this also includes "English as She is Spoke: Her Seconds Part"). This PDF file is listed on the site under the longer title "English as She is Spoke: Or, A Jest in Sober Earnest."

The author's "Preface" (in alleged English; p. 28 of the PDF) is a marvel of unintentional humor. But the book gets really good when you reach the "Familiar Dialogues" and the utterly opaque "Idiotisms and Proverbs."

The 1880s editions, however, were very abridged and omit the original Portuguese, so I suggest getting the current edition.

[Edited at 2008-02-19 09:16]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 20:54
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
THANKS! Feb 19, 2008

This book was quoted all through my childhood, but my parents were somewhat nomadic, and I never found it on their bookshelves. I would not really have appreciated it then if I had.

It probably succumbed to white ants in an earlier generation in India - my father's parents were nomads too. If my mother had a copy, it may have been bombed in her parents' home in London in the 1940s...

I'll be downloading it and ordering it immediately. You couldn't have posted this at a better moment.

Another marvellous book is George Mikes' 'How to be an Alien'.

It's dated, but I am mentioning it in memory of a dear friend who loved it as well as 'English as she is spoke'.
He had been ill for some time, and 'forgot to wake up' last Sunday.

I'll read it for him and laugh through the tears. He'd hate to think I was grieving. He is having real fun in his own heaven, meeting all the people he didn't meet in this world, and giving some of them a friendly lecture on how they should have lived their lives.

If they can get a word in edgeways, some of them might tell him a thing or two...

Live life while you have it, folks!



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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, another classic in a very different vein Feb 19, 2008

Christine Andersen wrote:

Another marvellous book is George Mikes' 'How to be an Alien'.


Yes, this is also brilliant, but deliberately so in this case.

I first discovered "How to be an Alien" in 1984 when a translation professor at the University of Salamanca had us translate an excerpt into Spanish. Mikes' sequel from the 1970s, "How to be Decadent," is also amusing, and I often find myself quoting from both volumes.


I am mentioning it in memory of a dear friend who loved it as well as 'English as she is spoke'.
He had been ill for some time, and 'forgot to wake up' last Sunday.


I'm so sorry to hear of your friend's passing.

[Edited at 2008-02-19 08:34]


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Jim Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Pretty good wiki on this one Feb 19, 2008

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_As_She_Is_Spoke

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ibz  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:54
Member (2007)
English to German
+ ...
If you enjoyed this one ... Feb 19, 2008

... you might also like Mark Twain's "The awful German language".
http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/awfgrmlg.html
Always makes me laugh!
Greetings,
Irene


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Roy Williams  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 20:54
German to English
PDF Feb 19, 2008

I looked for the PDF in book.google.com, I couldn't find a downloadable version. I'm so disappointed. I really wanna craunch a marmoset!

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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Downloading the 1884 version (no marmoset included) Feb 19, 2008

WilRoy wrote:

I looked for the PDF in book.google.com, I couldn't find a downloadable version. I'm so disappointed. I really wanna craunch a marmoset!


At books.google.com, search for the title English as She is Spoke.

When the list of books appears, choose the second one:
"English as She is Spoke: Or, A Jest in Sober Earnest"

Once the book appears on screen, click on the "Download" link at the top of the right-hand pane (the column of white on the right side of the screen).

Sadly, the "marmoset" phrase is missing from this early abridged edition. But I believe it does include one of my other favorites: "These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in mouth." Which reminds me... gotta go eat breakfast.


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Roy Williams  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 20:54
German to English
funny Feb 19, 2008

As my wife once said as she was still learing english "that really cracks me down!"

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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 14:54
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
I would like to thank you for your suggestion Feb 19, 2008

ibz wrote:

... you might also like Mark Twain's "The awful German language".
http://www.crossmyt.com/hc/linghebr/awfgrmlg.html
Always makes me laugh!
Greetings,
Irene

Once I got halfway through I was laughing so hard it induced the first signs of asthma I've had in 25 years! My children though were happy to dance around their mad mother who was lying howling on the floor...


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Abigail Elvins  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 19:54
Portuguese to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks folks! Feb 19, 2008

Thank you, everyone, for your great suggestions!

As for English as she is Spoke, it's so nice to know that I'm not the only one who finds it side-splitting.

My Portuguese mother-in-law got hold of our copy and she now swears by it as the only English phrase book that has English she can understand. We can't convince her it's not really meant to help her!!!

By the way, I love this forum. How good to examine the funny side of language. I feel better already - thanks!

Abi


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Veronica Coquard
France
Local time: 20:54
French to English
If you've ever been a hapless student of the French language... Feb 20, 2008

...You MUST read "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by Davis Sedaris.

The humour is completely intentional but it is also perfectly on-the-mark. You will cringe as your own (past) mistakes are mercilessly played out for you!

Almost as good as going back over high school homework but without the red marks.

Thanks to Abi, Ibz and Steven for the reading suggestions. This is not the first time I have picked up good ideas for leisure reading here on ProZ. What about forming a book club?


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