b Papa Dog's Blog: English As She Is Spoke

Papa Dog's Blog

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

English As She Is Spoke

Today’s A Word a Day contained this snippet:

“If you have Sprachgefuhl, you have an ear for idiomatically appropriate language. The best illustration of Sprachgefuhl, or the lack of it, was an 1855 Portuguese-English phrase book intended to help Portuguese speakers master the English language.

“Titled ‘English As She Is Spoke,’ it was authored by one Pedro Carolino. The only problem was that Pedro didn't know any English. On the plus side, he did have a Portuguese-French phrase book. Pedro simply picked up a French-English dictionary and tried the circuitous route: Portuguese to French to English. The result was such gems as:

“Names for body parts: ‘Of the Man: The inferior lip; The superior lip; The fat of the leg.’
“Food: ‘Eatings: Some black pudding; A little mine; Hog fat; Some wigs; Vegetables boiled to a pap.’
“Swimming instructions: ‘For to swim: I row upon the belly on the back and between two waters.’
“Idioms: ‘Idiotism: Cat scalded fear the cold water.’

“This book was even used as a textbook in the Portuguese colony of Macao. I regret to say they eventually stopped using it. Imagine, in just a few years, we could have witnessed a lovely new strain of the English language take root.”

Later today I happened to be looking at the McSweeney’s site, and guess what I came across? I think perhaps the Internet gods are telling me to buy this.


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