Did a 19th Century Phrasebook Inspire Monty Python?

By March 2, 2017Language, Literature

In the 1800s a Portuguese man named Pedro Carolino gave a brave attempt to write a phrasebook for those learning the English language.

‘English as She Is Spoke’, or ‘O novo guia da conversação em portuguez e inglez’, was supposed to help those with Portuguese as a mother tongue to converse with English speakers. The only problem was that the writer spoke little English himself, and the end result of his clumsy translations was just a little strange… 

(Image of original book cover from public domain)




It is assumed that the Pedro Carolino used two separate dictionaries to complete his book- first a Portuguese to French translator, then French to English. This would certainly explain why the language is a tad off-course. The translations were so poor and nonsensical that the book soon became famous, and instant cult classic, reaching as far as Mark Twain in the USA. Twain even wrote the introduction for the first English edition in 1883:

“Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect.”

Below are a list of some of the ever-so-slightly-not-perfect phrases within the book… Can you spot where he went wrong?

I wonder whether this now-infamous book was the inspiration behind the classic Monty Python’s Flying Circus “Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook” sketch?

Take a look and see for yourself…

Would you, or any language lovers you know, would get a kick out of this quirky piece of history? If so, it is still very much available!

Buy ‘English As She Is Spoke’ here: 

US
UK




Lost Dictionary of Slang Written by Anthony Burgess Discovered

By | Authors, Language, News | No Comments
Writer Anthony Burgess is best known for his modern classic novel A Clockwork Orange, which centres around a gang who engages in ultra violence whilst speaking in a Russian-influenced style of slang invented by Burgess called ‘Nadsat’. Burgess was fascinated by slang and, over 50 years ago, began writing a slang dictionary, which was thought lost but has now been rediscovered. Read More

6 Sweary Adult Colouring Books to Release the Stress

By | Arty, Language | No Comments
Sometimes life can get just a bit too much and we need an outlet… Somewhere to release the pent up stress and irritation. Occasionally even reading doesn’t help, what with all the negative thoughts floating about our heads, distracting us from truly being absorbed by our favourite books.

This is where a bit of colouring in can help, even if you just stab at the page with a red pencil while screaming obscenities. Regular colouring books are good, adult colouring books are great, but colouring books that swear along with you? They are THE BEST.

Just take a look…

Read More

Latin phrases We Still Use Today

By | Language | One Comment
Every language belongs to a particular language family and this family tree is indeed huge with extensive branches. Latin; a language belonging to the Italian branch of the Indo-European language family, and the mother of romance languages like Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese is considered a dead classical language today. Originally spoken in the Italian Peninsula and once widespread throughout the Roman Empire, it is now a language very rarely used in everyday communication or for official purposes. Though linguists consider this as a dead language, one can say that it lives on in its descendants like Italian, French and even English. Read More

We Only Speak TXTSLNG

By | Language | No Comments

Yo. il meet u 2moro n den we cn dcyd wats 2 b done 4 Claire’s bday. Pls ask Anne 2 join us 2. Oh n I saw d vid u sent. Lol. So kul! Anyway, cu 2moro. Lmk d tym. Gtg.

If you were able to read and understand that entire message perfectly, you officially speak texting lingo.

Standard SMS messages originally had a limit of 160 characters and, indeed, many still do. Read More

Reading the Signs: Sign Language

By | Culture, Language | No Comments
Various languages have, since time immemorial, been the mode of communication between people. These languages have evolved over time and today we see a large language map which has many language families and dialects. These are mostly verbal and written. But what about a large part of world population that is hard of hearing or has hearing and speaking disabilities?

Sign language is a visual means of communication that uses hand gestures and facial expressions. It is mainly used by people who have hearing or speech impairments. Read More

Words

Play On Words, or With Them

By | Language | No Comments
Word Play is verbal wit- the manipulation of language with the intent to amuse. Sounds and meanings of words are exploited resulting in funny remarks. It has a wider use orally than in written text but literature has always been full of word play.

Examples of this literary technique include puns, double entendres, tongue twisters, etc. We often engage in wordplay such as jokes and witty remarks during casual conversations among friends and colleagues. Read More

Decoding English Proficiency Tests

By | Language | No Comments
Most of us have gone through the long and cumbersome process of filling applications, submitting resumes, writing SOPs and taking English Proficiency Tests when applying to universities. For those of us, who may not have had English as a medium of study or those who do not belong to countries where English is the first or second language, it is required that we take certain exams to prove our English fluency when we wish to study in certain universities. These institutions ask for our test scores to make sure we will be able to handle the medium of instruction and therefore, be able to study and perform well. Although various language proficiency tests exist to gauge performance ability in many languages across the world, let us take a look at the various English proficiency tests. Read More

Leave a Reply