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English as She is Spoke
(O Novo Guia da Conversação em Portuguez e Inglez) By
Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino

In 1855 a little book was published in Paris to little notice -- a Portuguese/English phrase book. It was nearly thirty years before it was discovered to contain a rich deposit of pure hilarity. Briefly, the author, who knew no English, had constructed it by taking a Portuguese/French phrasebook and translating the French word for word into English using a dictionary. (See link below for details.) The result is a book written in a language no-one ever spoke or will ever speak, but which is a masterpiece of unintended humour.

It starts as it means to go on with an Introduction pouring scorn on the work of other writers of phrasebooks "A choice of familiar dialogues, clean of gallicisms, and despoiled phrases, it was missing yet to studious portuguese and brazilian Youth. . . ", and continues with lists of Useful Words, through Familiar Dialogues and Anecdotes to Idiotisms and Proverbs. At each stage the reader's amazed laughter increases.

Anyone who has ever read it cannot resist quoting favourite parts. These are ours; the notes in italics are also ours):

Chastisements.(Which even Donald Rumsfeld might hesitate to approve.)

The dungeon
The iron collar
To decapitate
To empale
To strangle
To whip
The galleys
The torture rack
To break upon
Tho tear off the flesh
To draw to four horses.

For to ride a horse.

Very dissatisfied customer (brandishing pistol): Here is a horse who have a bad looks. Give me another; I will not that. He not sall know to march, he is pursy, he is foundered. Don't you are ashamed to give me a jade as like? he is undshoed, he is with nails up; it want to lead to the farrier.
Terrified horse dealer: Your pistols are its loads?

An Anecdote

A beggar, to Madrid, had solicited the pity of a passenger. "You are young and strong, told him that man; it would be better to work as you deliver to the business who you do. — It is money as I beg you, repply immediately the proud beggar, and not councils."

But enough. Read, and weep with laughter


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The Origins of English as She is Spoke

A comparison with Babelfish, which is not much better and much less funny

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