A Little Light Relief - and Brush Up Your English While You're At It.
September 20, 2001 5:37 PM   Subscribe

A Little Light Relief - and Brush Up Your English While You're At It. In the spirit of poking fun at one's own flesh and blood - and respecting all those who aren't - I offer the most appalling tribute to Shakespeare's and Emerson's language since time itself began. I give you, ladies and gentlemen, the great Portuguese scholar Pedro Carolino, whose "English As She Is Spoke" Mark Twain considered to be the funniest book ever written. Start with "Familiar Dialogues 1" and, if you've still been able to keep a straight face, try "Idiotisms and Proverbs" for the full effect... (Thanks to Ganz's Humor Page)
posted by MiguelCardoso (19 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Proving one's again, the penis meatier than the soard.
posted by hellinskira at 5:48 PM on September 20, 2001

Even though we do have our own Carolinos here at MeFi...

Any nominations?
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:02 PM on September 20, 2001

Pure beauty, isn't it? My understanding is that Mark Twain had an original copy of this book, because he loved it so.

This is only excerpts from the full book, which I've unfortunately never had the pleasure of seeing.
posted by marknau at 6:02 PM on September 20, 2001

Available in reprint from Amazon.co.uk, if you're prepared to pay the shipping...
posted by holgate at 6:12 PM on September 20, 2001

Oh, oh, oh!
holgate, I love you.
posted by marknau at 6:13 PM on September 20, 2001

I bought a copy from a NY bookseller through Bibliofind. It cost me $95 and was in fair condition. This was the original first edition. Editions with Mark Twain's preface are easier to find and cheaper.
Beware, though, of abridged editions, which abound. Amazon.co.uk used to stock one, a pamphlet - "A jest in sober earnest" - but it contains only a small part of the fun. The full version guarantees years of hilarity.
(Mark Twain's preface is on the web somewhere, along with other great pieces taking the piss out of Italian and other jewels not in the Collected Edition but I couldn't find it for you right now).
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:14 PM on September 20, 2001

Hmm...are you trying to stir up our xenophobia and feelings of superiority, Miguel? ;)
posted by rushmc at 7:09 PM on September 20, 2001

Having been familiar with excerpts from this masterwork for many years, I have often gone outside and thought: "Who the country is beautiful! who the trees are thick!" I've even said it, to no one's comprehension.
posted by argybarg at 7:14 PM on September 20, 2001

On the button again, rushmc! By jove, is there no end to your perspicacity?
Have you noticed, by the way, how little xenophilia there is?
That's my particular pleasure. I love Italians, the Irish, Americans, the Danes, the English, the Israelis, Cubans, the Japanese, Brazilians, Chileans, all Africans, the Norwegians and the Dutch.
Isn't it weird that the world "xenophile" sounds so weird? And yet it is surely the most natural and intelligent thing for any curious person to be.
The more I love my country, Portugal, the easier it is to appreciate others.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:21 PM on September 20, 2001

Have you noticed, by the way, how little xenophilia there is?

Count me in. Can I sleep on your couch when I come visit Portugal?
posted by rushmc at 7:26 PM on September 20, 2001

If you're a genuine, raving xenophiliac, rushmc, and don't mind the three cats(is it allurophobia?)yes, you can. Plus you get a proper bed and your own room. No "couches" or "crashing" here in Lisbon, I'm glad to say.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:34 PM on September 20, 2001

Cool, thanks! With luck, I won't make your house a target due to my nationality by the time I get there.
posted by rushmc at 7:55 PM on September 20, 2001

Only thing I can possibly say to this is "How are you Gentlemen? All your base are belong to us!"

Beautiful. :-D
posted by DarkWood at 9:27 PM on September 20, 2001

Have a look at the profoundly funny www.engrish.com if you like this kind of stuff.
posted by oletoke at 10:47 PM on September 20, 2001

Thanks, oletoke. :-D.
The Japanese are unbeatable because they use Engrish with absolute chutzpah and a gleeful disrespect.
I specially look forward to imbibing some of that Pocari Sweat Refreshment Water.
Hope it's salty and served warm.
(Isn't if funny how brand-names can put you off? Here in the old Iberian Peninsula we all have a problem with Nescafé, coz it means "No es café" or "Não és café" to Spanish and Portuguese speakers)

At least they were honest with us, though...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:08 AM on September 21, 2001

Spotted at http://www.mcsweeneys.net/notes/ :


We've just come up with an arrangement with Paul Collins, longtime McSwys contributor and author of the recently published and much-acclaimed Banvard's Folly, to publish a series of books that spring from or were the source of inspiration for many of his articles about long-forgotten eccentrics. These books, produced in cloth-bound hardcover editions, will be published in very limited numbers -- probably each in the 1,000-copy range. The first two titles will appear in the spring. They are:

English as She Is Spoke. In 1855, José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino sat down to write an English phrasebook for Portuguese students. There was just one problem: they didn't know English. Even worse, they didn't own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What they did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French dictionary and a French-to-English dictionary. The bizarre linguistic train wreck that ensued became a classic of unintentional humor, and went on to dozens of printings around the world for the rest of the 19th century. Armed with Fonseca and Carolino's guide, a Portuguese traveler could complain about his writing implements ("This pen are good for notting"), insult a barber ("What news tell me? all hairs dresser are newsmonger"), complain about the orchestra ("It is a noise which to cleave the head"), go hunting ("Let aim it! let make fire him!"), and consult a handy selection of truly mystifying Idiotisms and Proverbs ("Nothing some money nothing of Swiss.") Mark Twain, prefacing the American edition, marveled of its "miraculous stupidities" that "Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect." Selected from the original 1855 Paris printing of Fonseca and Carolino's hapless masterpiece, with an introduction by Paul Collins, this is the first newly edited and typeset edition in over a century.

More information about pre-ordering these books will be on the site sometime in the late fall.
posted by Vidiot at 6:45 AM on September 21, 2001

People, people, people!!!

You don't need an 18th century Portuguese man to create your hilarity for you. Just use modern technology to do it for you.

You take a chunk of text you would like to see hopelessly mangled like this one referered to by a Metafilter item:

"LAW and order was breaking down in Kabul yesterday as Taliban soldiers and poverty-stricken civilians carried out armed daylight robberies and looted houses left empty by people who have fled."

Then you feed it to babelfish (http://babelfish.altavista.com/) and ask it to translate it from English to Spanish (or a language of your choice). Once it returns the "Spanish" version of things, cut and paste that down into the translation field and ask it to go from "Spanish" to "English". For example:

"The LAW and the order analyzed yesterday in Kabul whereas the soldiers of civil Taliban and the poverty-pulse made robberies armed of the solar hour and sacked the empty houses to the left by the people who have fled."

It's not as good as if it went through an additional intervening language like French but the results are often absolutely bizarre.
posted by johnmunsch at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2001

What great news, Vidiot!
This is the second time I've saluted you today so please don't think I'm courting.
It would be ESSENTIAL - this has never been done before, in any edition - to correctly translate the Portuguese words and expressions the poor bastard intended to rend into English.
This quadruples the fun. For instance, the barber quote meant to say "Any news? Barbers are notorious gossips".
It's the crevass between the original intention and the ensuing result that cracks one up.
It also, interestingly, points to otherwise undetectable syntactical and semantic differences between almost-Latin-only languages like French and Portuguese and Anglo-Latin English.
To sextuple the fun, of course, you'd have to find that crucial French dictionary.
It's in all the big catalogues but I've never seen a copy.

Good luck - and count me in!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:32 PM on September 21, 2001

Hey, Miguel, salute away. I need all the ego-boosting I can get right now. *self-pity attack* hehe.
posted by Vidiot at 10:52 PM on September 21, 2001

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