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Wasn’t there a Frenchman who…..

Phrasebooks have long spared English blushes abroad, allowing modern tourists to tentatively attempt the local language in exotic locations.

But in 19th century Britain it was rain-swept Wales which attracted intrepid travellers, and their needs were far removed from simply settling the bill or ordering a taxi.

A 180-year-old phrasebook telling early tourists how to address Welsh “peasants” has been unearthed by archivists, and reveals the demands of Victorian visitors.

The 1838 volume The Welsh Interpreter was written for those who “wish to make themselves understood by the peasantry during their rambles through Wales”.

Sadly there’s nothing really fun in it – like so where do you keep the special sheep?

Unlike “My postillion has been struck by lightning” which has a certain fame as being most fun. I may well have garbled bits of this but I think it was an Anglo Portuguese dictionary/book of phrases for the traveller. Which was done by a Frenchie who spoke neither language. He took the Luso-Frog dictionary, the Frog-real language one and worked from end to end. Leading to such phrases as that about the horse – a postillion being a type of horse I think.

20 thoughts on “Wasn’t there a Frenchman who…..”

  1. You’re quite right. I had mistakenly (from post, i.e. rear) thought it was the guy who stood on the back of the coach to hop off and open the door for the nobs. Now I wonder what his job title was.

  2. Sadly, the Venn diagram for the Monty Python phrase book ‘my hovercraft is full of eels’ and the Welsh peasant’s life experience shows two non-intersecting circles. I suspect, however, that the ‘Drop your panties Sir William, I cannot wait until lunchtime!’ one does have a bit of overlap.

  3. That would be English as She Is Spoke. Literal translations lead to some absurdity. That pond it seems me many multiplied of fishes. Let us amuse rather to the fishing. Sounds like a bot.

  4. Spanglish and Chinglish are other interesting languages. Unfortunately, the Chinese have become much better at speaking English, such that instruction manuals don’t have funnily mangled phrases anymore.

    Trivia: There are more English speaking people in China than in England.

  5. Give us a clue Danny. I have tried translating those sentences literally and have no clue what they might be referring to

  6. TMB: Dunno, but kids there still go to English rather than American language classes, so perhaps they get told when they ask the obvious question. Of course I’ve read “Americans would speak French if not for the Louisiana Purchase” and there’s the Muhlenberg Legend about it possibly becoming German by fiat, but that’s a myth, apparently.

    So when do we think there will be more American kids learning Spanish at their mothers’ knee than English? Has it already happened?

  7. I’ve been doing some proofreading for a Chinese lady writing in English, and am having arguments that she should be using “deludedly” instead of “delusively”; her argument is based on “it’s in the dictionary”, my arguments are “it’s *WRONG*!”.

  8. her argument is based on “it’s in the dictionary”, my arguments are “it’s *WRONG*!”.

    You could try: “If you use that, every native English speaker will instantly know that English is not your first language.” Or is that not the point of the proofreading?

    (I don’t think I’ve ever heard “delusive” or “delusively” before.)

  9. jgh – how old is her dictionary? Delusively isn’t so much “wrong” as archaic.

    Diogenes – I’m not sure that’s what you mean, is it? “Deludingly” would be for one intending to delude whereas “deludedly” would be for one who is deluded. Fr’instance:
    1) Capt Potato thinks he’s a genius and claims deludedly that he is a genius.
    2) Capt P knows he’s a distended bladder of gas¹ but claims deludingly on his blog that he is a genius.
    ¹ Yes, I know, please assume a modicum of self-knowledge on his part for this hypothesis.

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