Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

English as She is Spoke

Imagine you’re a Portuguese writer who has no knowledge whatsoever of the English language. Imagine that you decide to write a Portuguese-English phrasebook. Now imagine that you don’t have a Portuguese-English dictionary, but rather a Portuguese-French dictionary and a French-English dictionary. The average writer would shrivel at such a daunting task and throw in the towel. Pedro Caroline was not your average writer. With his phenomenal linguistic skill he wrote his phrasebook in Portuguese, translated it into French using one dictionary, and then translated from French to English using his other dictionary. He accomplished this extraordinary task with no actual knowledge of the English language and in 1853 published his Portuguese-English phrasebook for students, entitled English as She is Spoke. He lovingly dedicated his book to the students who would be benefiting from it:

We expect then, who the little book (for the care what we wrote him, and for her typographical correction) that may be worth the expectation of the studious persons, and especially of the Youth, at which we dedicate him particularly.

He gives his students some practical examples of English conversation. For example, if you wanted to go fishing with a friend, this dialogue might ensue:

--That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes. Let us amuse rather to the fishing
--Here, there is a wand and some hooks
--Silence! there is a superb perch! Give me quick the rod. Ah! there is, it is a lamprey
--You mistake you, it is a frog! dip again it in the water
--Perhaps I will do better to fish with the leap
--Try it! I desire that you may be more happy and more skilful who acertain fisher, what have fished all day without to can take nothing.

And, of course, once you have mastered the art of conversation, it would be good for you to learn some common Enlish idioms, or as Caroline calls them, idiotisms. For those readers unfamiliar with these idiotisms, I’ll give you the version you might be familiar with and then give you Caroline’s version:

The walls have ears.
The walls have hearsay.

The dog’s bark is worse than his bite.
The dog than bark not bite.

It’s raining buckets.
It is raining in jars.

The rolling stone gathers no moss.
The stone as roll not heap up not foam.

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
A horse baared don't look him the tooth.

Put your money where your mouth is.
According to thy purse rule thy mouth.

And my personal favorite…

A full stomach makes for a content face.
After the paunch comes the dance.

And finally, there are the idiotisms for which I know no English equivalent:

Nothing some money, nothing of Swiss
He steep as a marmot
Take the moon with the teeth
Cat scalded fear the cold water
He turns as a weath turcocl

So there you have it. Gleanings from a literary masterpiece, of which Mark Twain wrote: “this celebrated little phrase-book will never die while the English language lasts ... it is perfect ... its immortality is secure.”