Sunday, November 1, 2009

My Nipples Explode With The Light


English as She Is Spoke is the common name of a 19th century book credited to José da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino, which was intended as a Portuguese-English conversational guide or phrase book, but is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour.

The humour appears to be a result of dictionary-aided literal translation, which causes many idiomatic expressions to be translated wildly inappropriately. For example, the Portuguese phrase chover a cântaros is translated as raining in jars, whereas an idiomatic English translation would be raining buckets.

Mark Twain said of English as She Is Spoke 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."

It is widely believed that neither of the authors credited with the work could speak English, and that a French-English dictionary was used to translate an earlier Portuguese-French phrase book O Novo guia da conversação em francês e português, which had been written by José da Fonseca alone. The Portuguese-French phrase book is apparently a competent work, without the defects that characterise English as She Is Spoke.

In 2002, Alexander MacBride of the UCLA Department of Linguistics suggested that it is more likely that the Portuguese-English book was an unauthorised translation by Pedro Carolino of the Portuguese-French book, without the involvement of José da Fonseca, than a joint effort by the two.

Stephen Pile mentions this work in The Book of Heroic Failures, and comments: "Is there anything in conventional English which could equal the vividness of 'To craunch a marmoset'?"

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