THE AWFUL GERMAN LANGUAGE
In the Berlin of 1891, street-car conductors gave you a ticket for every mile traveled, and you were expected to keep all these tickets or slips of paper in apple-pie order to show to an inspector who might, or might not, come around. Mark regularly threw his on the floor, and dropped cigar ashes on them. Accordingly, he had to pay double fare every little while, and was abused into the bargain.
One afternoon, going to the Legation, we got into an old, rather narrow bus, and opposite Mark sat a woman with an enormous bosom.
"What do you bet she takes No. 52 corsets?" he whispered. "She grew that as a shelf for her bus tickets," he continued. "If I had a 'chester' like that, I could save money."
After a pause, he turned suddenly on me:
"What is bust in German?"
"Busen," I translated.
"Male, female, or neuter?"
He began slapping his knees with both hands, waggled his head from one side to the other, and laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks. But he never said another word on that trip.
Two months later the lecture, "The Awful German Tongue," was delivered. But at the