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ARMCHAIR TRAVEL has several advantages over reality these days: No TSA hassles, no visas, no returning worries because of mixups of ethnicity or origin. What’s more, if the guidebook is chosen appropriately, its author shares all the inside stuff. And, given differing cultures, mores and times, there’s even occasional armchair travel goofiness.
Americans are offered odd phrases of Hindustani. A German scholar’s view of London is an instructive one. And helpful hints translated from French to English occasionally offer unexpected subtexts. To wit, these are from three guides: Americans’ Guide to Hindustani, The Little Londoner, and Manuel de Conversation Avec Prononciation: Français–Anglais.
Considering this third guide first, readers might recall that French has tutoyer, the modern use of the second person singular. It’s their counterpart of “thee,” pretty much limited these days to liturgy in English, but employed by the French in an intimate relationship between speaker and listener.
M. Clifton incorporates this in his selection of sample sentences in Manuel de Conversation Avec Prononciation. For example, he offers Tu n’aurais pas eu ces pȇches, Thou wouldnst not have had those peaches/Thau wudst nŏt hav hȧd thȏz pǐ’tshiz.
Yes, it’s tutoyer, but something not likely to appear in your Making out en Français.
The section on Le diner Dinner din’r offers a translation that I found initially startling: J’aime bien le bifteck cuit à point, mais je vous avoue que j’ai un faible pour le gîte à la noix. This is rendered, “I like beef-steak nicely done, but I confess that I have a great liking for the mouse-buttock.” Phonetically, “th’ maūs-bœt’œk.”
A cookery definition suggests that the mouse buttock is a piece of beef cut from the lower portion of the round. However, modern-day Google Translate prefers “with walnuts” for à la noix.
The second book, The Little Londoner, is subtitled “A Concise Account of the Life and Ways of the English with Special Reference to London Supplying the Means of Acquiring an Adequate Command of the Spoken Language in All Departments of Daily Life.” Whew.
Dr. Kron’s certainly knows “The King’s English” (the king being George V, who ascended the throne in 1911, the year the book was published). Kron’s section on Colloquial English is particularly entertaining.
He notes, “It is a curious fact that slang, which originally was a privilege and property of the lowest grades of life, is now making its way into ordinary English conversation, and is in particular favour with the younger members of good society.”
“To go on the mash,” for instance, is to court someone. “He mashes all the girls” might be said of a dandy, a swell, a masher.
The word “beano,” as in “We had a first-class beano,” derives from the word “bean-feast.” The latter has an interesting heritage: Traditionally, on the feast of Twelfth Night, following the twelve days of Christmas, employees were offered a celebratory dinner. A high point was the bean feast, in which a bean was buried in a cake. The bean’s lucky recipient received a year’s good fortune.
“In former times,” Kron observes, “only those ‘born within the sound of Bow Bells’ (the bells of Bow Church, in Cheapside) were called Cockneys, i.e., true Londoners.” Kron’s description of the Cockney dialect is exemplified by ‘Arry and his girlfriend ‘Arriet, with their traveling h sounds: “Let’s go hup the ‘ill,” ‘Arry might say.
Kron also notes that dropping the final g is a frequent vulgarism, “even among people who are higher up in the social scale, e.g., mornin’ and workin’.
“But only people of the ‘Arry type make the opposite blunder of sounding a g where there is none to be heard, as in kitching (for kitchen).” Kron also cites “nuffink (nothing)” as another variation.
Note, his 1911 recognition of this is more than a century prior to the spoken British National Corpus recently discussed here at SimanaitisSays.
The third guide is actually a primer teaching Americans the language of northwestern India. M. J. Shahani seems to know his Americans well, as exhibited in his choice of Useful Phrases following each section of Grammar.
Conjugation of the Present Tense is followed by several phrases I’d deem useful: “Do you speak English?” Tum angrezee bolte haiṅ? or Āp angrezee bolte haiṅ? If I know my Hindustani right, the choice of Tum or Āp depends on how polite you wish to be, Āp being the more gracious.
Politeness isn’t always the guide’s long suit: By page 6, there’s Yeh maila hai, “This one is dirty.” On page 41, we learn Is kamre meṅ kitne long rahte haiṅ? A phrase that’s sure to please: “How many people live in this room?”
By page 89, matters degenerate to Jaisa ham bolte haiṅ, waisa karo. “Do as I tell you.”
M.J. Shahani doesn’t offer “Ugly American” in Hindustani. Google Translate has it बदसूरत अमेरिकन, Ajeeb Amerikan. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017