Monday, August 11, 2008

English as She is Spoke

The above is the title of a book written in 1855 by Pedro Carolino. He wanted to write an English phrase book for Portuguese students. The problem was...he didn't speak English.

To quote the preface of this book:

"...he didn't own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What he did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French phrasebook and a French-to-English dictionary. The bizarre linguistic train wreck that ensued--published in Paris in 1855 as O Novo Guia da Conversacio, em Portuguez e Inglez, em Duas Partes: The New Guide of the Conversation, in Portuguese and English, in Two Parts--became celebrated as a bizarre masterpiece of unintentional humor, and it went on to be reprinted around the world for the rest of the 19th century, under the title English as She is Spoke."

Here are some samples:

This pen are good for notting.
What news tell me? all hairs dresser are newsmonger. (Insult to a barber)

With a gardener: What you make hither, Francis?
I water this flowers parterre.
Shall i eat some plums soon?
It is not the season yet; but here is some peaches what does ripen at the eye sight.
It delay me to eat some wal nuts-kernels; take care not leave to pass the season.
Be tranquil, i shall throw you any nuts during the shell is green yet.

It's very interesting and was actually used as an authoritative resource for several decades, and then it wasn't. It has been used as an example of tortured English in the decades since and perhaps as a warning to others as the way not to write a phrase book.

7 comments:

Kay Day said...

Actually, I'm surprised it came out as well as it did!
Perhaps I shall get an English to Russian dictionary and a Russian to Japanese dictionary and see what I can do?!

right.

Julie said...

Wow!! I REALLY want that book! That is funny stuff. I could write a phrase book on a language that I don't know...I can use his method. That would be fun! You should make that our next writing project. Have each of us write a commen phrase, and than switch the sentences around or something. I don't know, but you must do this, yes, she is waiting for you!

Julie said...

you know while I was composing my comment Kay snuck hers in first! Blah!

Kay Day said...

I did a little experiment on Babel Fish.
I typed in, "When writing a book, one must know the language in which it will be read."

I translated it to Greek.
From Greek to French.
From French to German.
From German back to English.

"In d' writing; a book, quelqu' must know, how he appropriately speaks the language, at which he is read."

And that is with a computer! Not even factoring in human mistake-making.

Momstheword said...

It all okay to me seems. What big deal is you make?

QOTW said...

This is fun stuff. Thanks for participating.

Jen said...

That is hilarious!