Friday, May 4, 2018

Bizarre Books: "English As She Is Spoke"

If you ever saw the classic Monty Python sketch about a bizarre Hungarian phrasebook, then you might have an idea of the comedy that can come from a badly translated English phrase. In modern times, the Internet has brought Japanese culture and its bad translations of "Engrish" to a whole new audience, but before all of them, there was English As She Is Spoke.

In 1883, an obscure author named Pedro Carolino published a small Portuguese-to-English phrasebook titled English as She Is Spoke. Though it was intended for Portuguese speakers, it quickly gained an international audience for its bizarre English phrases. It seems that Carolino spoke little to no English himself but did know French. As a result, it's believed he used a Portuguese-to-French dictionary to translate his phrases into French, then used a French-to-English dictionary to produce an English translation. The result was a lot like running English through Google Translate, and made unintentionally hilarious results.

Here are some of the more famous examples:
The walls have hearsay. = As paredes têm ouvidos ("The walls have ears")
That not says a word, consent. = Quem cala consente ("Silence is consent")
What do him? = Que faz ele? ("What does he do? / What is he doing?")
That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes. Let us amuse rather to the fishing. = Este lago parece-me bem piscoso. Vamos pescar para nos divertirmos. ("This lake looks full of fish. Let's have some fun fishing.")
These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in mouth.  = ??? ("These apricots and peaches make my mouth water.")
Ever since the 19th Century, many hours were wiled away with the book being passed around and read out loud to howls of laughter. Author Mark Twain himself wrote the introduction for the first U.S. English edition, and said, "Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect."

The book is available online in full at Project Gutenberg, and it sure lives up to its reputation.

Related Posts:
Bizarre Books: The Pop-Up Book of Phobias
Bizarre Books: Six-Gun Gorilla
Bizarre Books: How to Avoid Huge Ships

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