English As She Is Spoke/Introduction

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·Introduction·

F
rom the time of Shakspere downwards, wits and authors innumerable have made themselves and the public more or less merry at the expense of the earlier efforts of the student of a strange tongue; but it has been reserved to our own time for a soi disant instructor to perpetrate—at his own expense—the monstrous joke of publishing a Guide to Conversation in a language of which it is only too evident that every word is utterly strange to him. The Teutonic sage who evolved the ideal portrait of an elephant from his "inner consciousness" was a commonplace, matter-of-fact person compared with the daring visionary who conjures up a complete system of language from the same fertile but untrustworthy source. The piquancy of Senhor Pedro Carolino's New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English is enhanced by the evident bona fides and careful compilation of "the little book," or as Pedro himself gravely expresses it, "for the care what we wrote him, and for her typographical correction."

In short, the New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English was written with serious intent, and for the purpose of initiating Portuguese students into the mysteries of the English language. The earlier portions of the book are divided into three columns, the first giving the Portuguese; the second what, in the opinion of the author, is the English equivalent; and the third the English equivalent phonetically spelt, so that the tyro may at the same time master our barbarous phraseology and the pronunciation thereof. In the second part of the work the learner is supposed to have sufficiently mastered the pronunciation of the English language, to be left to his own devices.

A little consideration of the shaping of our author's English phrases leads to the conclusion that the materials used have been a Portuguese-French phrase-book and a French-English dictionary. With these slight impedimenta has the daring Lusitanian ventured upon the unknown deep of a strange language, and the result, to quote again from the Preface, “May be worth the acceptation of the studious persons, and especially of the Youth, at which we dedicate him particularly,” but will at all events contribute not a little to the Youth's hilarity.

To begin with the vocabulary; it is perhaps hardly fair to expect a professor of languages to trouble himself with “Degrees of Kindred,” still, such titles as “Gossip mistress, a relation, an relation, a guardian, an guardian, the quater-grandfather, the quater-grandmother,” require some slight elucidation, and passing over the catalogue of articles of dress which are denominated “Objects of Man” and “Woman Objects,” one may take exception to “crumbs” and “groceries,” which are inserted among plates and cruets as ordinary table garniture.

Among what are denominated “Eatings” we find “some wigs,” “a dainty dishes,” “a mutton shoulder,” “a little mine,” “hog-fat,” and “an amelet”: the menu is scarcely appetising, especially when among “Fishes and Shellfishes” our Portuguese Lucullus sets down the “hedgehog,” “snail,” and “wolf.” After this such trifles as “starch” arranged under the heading of “Metals and Minerals,” and “brick” and “whitelead” under that of “Common Stones” fall almost flat; but one would like to be initiated into the mysteries of “gleek,” “carousal,” and “keel,” which are gravely asserted to be “Games.” Among “Chivalry Orders” one has a glimmering of what is intended by “Saint Michaelmas” and “ Very-Merit”; but under the heading of “Degrees,” although by a slight exercise of the imagination we can picture to ourselves “a quater master,” “a general to galleries,” or even a “vessel captain,” we are entirely nonplussed by “a harbinger” and “a parapet.”

Passing on to “Familiar Phrases,” most of which appear to be old friends with new faces, Senhor Carolino's literal cribs from the French become more and more apparent, in spite of his boast in the Preface of being “clean of gallicisms and despoiled phrases.” “Apply you at the study during that you are young” is doubtless an excellent precept, and as he remarks further on "How do you can it to deny”; but study may be misdirected, and in the moral, no less than in the material world, it is useful to know “That are the dishes whom you must be and to abstain”; while the meaning of “This girl have a beauty edge” is scarcely clear unless it relates to the preternatural acuteness of the fair sex in these days of board schools and woman’s rights.

Further on the conversationalist appears to get into rough company, and we find him remarking “He laughs at my nose, he jest by me,” gallicé “Il me rit au nez, il se moque de moi”; “He has me take out my hairs,” “He does me some kicks,” “He has scratch the face with hers nails,” all doubtless painfully translated with the assistance of a French-English dictionary from “Il m'a arraché les cheveux,” “Il me donne des coups-de-pied,” “Il m'a laceré la figure de ses ongles.” It is noticeable that our instructor as a rule endeavours to make the possessive pronoun agree with the substantive in number and gender in orthodox Portuguese fashion, and that like a true grammatical patriot he insists upon the substantive having the same gender as in his native tongue; therefore “às unhas” must be rendered “hers nails” and “vóssas civilidades” “yours civilities.” By this time no one will be disposed to contradict our inimitable Pedro when he remarks “E facéto,” giving the translation as “He has the word for to laugh,” a construction bearing a suspicious resemblance to “Il a le mot pour rire.” “He do the devil at four” has no reference to an artful scheme for circumventing the Archfiend at a stated hour, but is merely a simulacrum of the well-known gallic idiomatic expression “Il fait le diable à quatre.” Truly this is excellent fooling; Punch in his wildest humour, backed by the whole colony of Leicester Square, could not produce funnier English. “He burns one’s self the brains,” “He was fighted in duel,” “They fight one's selfs together,” “He do want to fall,” would be more intelligible if less picturesque in their original form of “Il se brûle la cervelle,” “Il s'est battu en duel," “Ils se battent ensemble,” “Il manque de tomber.” The comic vein running through the “Familiar Phrases” is so inexhaustible that space forbids further quotation from this portion of the book, which may be appropriately closed with “Help to a little most the better yours terms,” a mysterious adjuration, which a reference to the original Portuguese leads one to suppose may be a daring guess at “Choisissez un peu mieux vos paroles.

In the second part, entitled “Familiar Dialogues,” the fun grows fast and furious. Let us accompany our mad wag upon “The walk.” “You hear the bird’s gurgling?” he enquires, and then rapturously exclaims “Which pleasure! which charm! The field has by me a thousand charms”; after this, to the question “Are you hunter? will you go to the hunting in one day this week?” he responds “Willingly; I have not a most pleasure in the world. There is some game on they cantons”. Proceeding from “game” to “gaming” we soon run aground upon the word “jeu,” which as we know does duty in French both for a game and a pack of cards. “At what pack will you that we does play?” “To the cards.” Of course this is “A quel jeu voulez-vous que nous jouions ?” “Aux cartes;” and further on “This time I have a great deal pack,” “Cette fois j'ai un jeu excellent.

Now let us listen to our friend at his tailor’s: his greeting is perky—almost slangy. "Can you do me a coat?" he enquires, but quickly drivels down to "What cloth will you do to?" and then to the question "What will you to double (doubler) the coat?" obtains the satisfactory answer "From something of duration. I believe to you that." After requesting to have his garment "The rather that be possible," he overwhelms the procrastinating man of cloth with the stern remark "You have me done to expect too," evidently a bold version of "Vous m' avez fait trop attendre," which draws forth the natural excuse "I did can’t to come rather." Passing by a number of good things which one would like to analyse if space permitted, we arrive at "For to ride a horse," a fine little bit of word painting almost Carlylean in its grotesqueness. "Here is a horse who have a bad looks. He not sall know to march, he is pursy, he is foundered. Don't you are ashamed to give me a jade as like? he is undshoed, he is with nails up; it want to lead to the farrier." “Let us prick (piquons) go us more fast, never I was seen a so much bad beast; she will not nor to bring forward neither put back." “Strek him the bridle," cries the horsedealer, "Hold him the rein sharters." "Pique stron gly, make to marsh him." “I have pricked him enough. But I can't to make marsh him," replies the indignant client. “Go down, I shall make marsh," declares the dealer; upon which the incensed equestrian rejoins “Take care that he not give you a foot kicks," and the "coper" sardonically but somewhat incoherently concludes with "Then he kicks for that I look? Sook here if I knew to tame hix."

After the "Familiar Dialogues" we come upon a series of letters from celebrated personages, who would be puzzled to recognize themselves in their new dresses; and a collection of anecdotes which may be taken singly after dinner as a gentle promoter of digestion; the whole being appropriately concluded with "Idiotisms and Proverbs," between which it must be confessed the distinction is purely imaginary; the following are a few gems: "Its are some blu stories" (contes bleus); "Nothing some money, nothing some Swiss," "He sin in trouble water" (confusion of pécher and pêcher). "A horse baared don’t look him the tooth," "The stone as roll not heap up not foam," mousse meaning both foam and moss, of course the wrong meaning is essential to a good "idiotism." "To force to forge, becomes smith" (a force de forger on devient forgeron). "To craunch the marmoset" and "To fatten the foot" may terminate the list, and are incontestably more idiotic, although scarcely so idiomatic as "Croquer le marmot" and "Graisser la patte."

The column in Portuguese which runs throughout the original work is omitted, and only a sufficient number of the English extracts are culled to enable the reader to form a just idea of the unintentionally humorous style that an author may fall into who attempts to follow the intricacies of "English as she is spoke" by the aid of a French dictionary and a phrasebook.

It is to be trusted the eccentric "Guide" to which this short sketch is intended to serve as Introduction—and, so far as may be, elucidation—is not a fair specimen of Portuguese or Brazilian educational literature; if such be the case the schoolmaster is indeed "abroad," and one may justly fear that his instruction—to quote once more the Preface—"only will be for to accustom the Portuguese pupils, or foreign, to speak very bad any of the mentioned idioms."

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