English As She Is Spoke

American:English translations

Starting this blog has drawn me into some interesting ‘translation’ conversations with my chums (friends) in the US.  There, you see?  I’ve already had to explain one term in the first sentence!

I’ve also seen some translation bloopers, such as the website that advised an American that when in Britain if one wants to buy diapers, one should ask for napkins.  Now that probably would have worked in Charles Dicken’s days, but these days a diaper is a nappy (whether disposable, washable or modern ‘smart’ nappy).  And if you ask for napkins, you’ll be shown to the linen section so you can buy some damask table napkins for dinner.  In fact, it’s much easier if you don’t worry and simply ask for diapers, as we get so much American TV here that I can’t imagine anyone would have a problem understanding you.

And things could be much worse.  You could be Portuguese and trying to learn English back in the 19th Century.  In which case you couldn’t turn to the web, but would have had to rely on a book called “English As She Is Spoke”.  Unfortunately, it seems that the authors of this book had rather a fragile grasp on the language themselves; so not quite sporting to write a book that others may rely on, is it?

Probably my favourite mis-translation in it is:

“A cavalo dado não se lhe olha para o dente”, which should be translated as “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, but somehow got translated as “A horse baared don’t look him the tooth”.

I don’t know about you, but I may have a spot of bother working that one out.

Wikipedia says:

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 PortugueseEnglish 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.”

And yes, you can get it from Amazon!

All I’ve got to say about Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino is…  Bless.

And we all know what that means, eh?


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Only in America…or not!

photo from carmenscafe.files.wordpress.com

photo from carmenscafe.files.wordpress.com

We often see crazy stories with the header “Only in America…”

Well try this one from ‘The Times’ for size – it happened in Wales (that’s the small country attached to, and just West of, England).  A man has accused Tesco, the grocery retail giant, of religious discrimination…because they asked him to lower his Jedi Knight hood!

A Jedi knight was kicked out of a Tesco store because he refused to take off his hood. Daniel Jones is the founder of the International Church of Jediism, which supposedly has 500,000 followers living in dank bedsits around the world. He is claiming religious discrimination and insists that he was “hurt” by his experience. Tesco has attempted to respond light-heartedly, insisting that Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Luke Skywalker have all been pictured without their hoods. Jones himself had been pictured unhooded on his website. “But would you ask a Muslim woman to remove her veil?” I asked a Tesco spokesman. “No,” the chap replied, sighing, and knowing he was in for a horrible weekend, “we wouldn’t.”

Oh dear; there are plenty of modern Muslims who will tell you that there is no religious requirement to wear a veil. This is a clear case of religious discrimination, then. Tesco has now said that Jedi knights will be welcomed to its store, but must take off their hoods, ha ha. I think Tesco doesn’t take the International Church of Jediism with any seriousness at all and it is time for Shami Chakrabarti, the police and the European Court of Human Rights to get involved.

In fact this story is everywhere, probably because Britain has clasped Jedi Knights firmly to its bosom.  In the 2001 UK census, 390 000 people claimed their religion to be “Jedi Knight”, making it the fourth largest reported religion in the country.

How come?  Well, there may be the odd one or two who actually believe they are Jedi Knights (and I’m suspecting that Daniel Jones may be one of them), but most people simply wanted to protest at being asked what they considered a personal question, but in a typically British way, decided to make it rather tongue-in-cheek.

So anyway, if you were considering popping in to Tesco today in your full Jedi get-up, remember Yoda say “Proud of being Jedi, be you.  But hood down, put you, if  Tesco shop at you want to”.

May the farce be with you.

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Four Hundred and fifty three ideas later…

StGeorgeFlagYou wouldn’t believe the number of things that spring to mind, now I’m writing this blog.

This morning I got up (woken by BBC Radio 2), got dressed (in very English clothes), ate breakfast (which involved very English things such as tea and marmalade), drove my daughter past myriad fascinating places (which I don’t normally notice at all) to Banbury for her music class (where we sang very English nursery rhymes with a very English accent) and this afternoon visited her little friends in the next village (on what you would call a play-date, but we don’t have a name for it) and drank tea whilst the children played on the swings overlooking fields and fields of sheep.

It seems there are so many places, quirks and quintessentially English things to write about, that I hardly know where to start.  And as I believe blogs should be interactive and not me just wittering on (as I am at the moment, you ask?), I think it’s time you stopped being lazy and got to work, asking me some questions!

So there you go; I’ll be blogging on demand.  With the odd bit of wittering too, no doubt.

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