Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


OF COURSE, even jingoistic world travelers need sustenance. And, indeed, mealtimes are part of the pleasure of mixing with foreigners, especially if you know how to order them around.

Have I got the book for this!

My particular Murray’s Hand Book of Travel-Talk is a bit more current than 1882; it was published in 1909. However, it retains the jingoistic charm that prompted Cecil Rhodes, reputedly, to remind a colleague, “Remember that you are an Englishman, and have subsequently drawn the greatest prize in the lottery of life.”

I offer sample dialogues here for repasts extending from Early Breakfast/Le Premier Déjeuner/Frühstück/La Prima Colazione to a Private Room/Diner à Part/In einem Privatzimmer/Pranzo in qua Sala particolare. Only the English is given; the other renderings are left as an exercise.

Coquilles Saint-Jacques, s’il vous plais, avec Pomme Frites et Salad. Image by Wladyslaw.

Early Breakfast. Matters get off to a shaky start: “Let me know when it is ready.” “Is breakfast not yet ready? I ordered it half an hour ago.”

“Tea for three, coffee for two.” “The water does not boil.” “We will make tea ourselves.” “The coffee is too weak.”

This reminds me of another breakfast quip from somewhere or other (some say no less than Abraham Lincoln): “If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.”

Back to Murray’s Early Breakfast: “I should like soft-boiled eggs.” “These eggs are not boiled enough.” “They are not fresh.” “Take them away.”

Schweinshaxe, bitte, mit Kartoffelklöesse. Image from

Luncheon. “I don’t care what it is; just whatever happens to be ready.” “Only please bring it at once, as I am in a hurry.”

And apparently still stewing about that half-hour delay at breakfast and those questionable eggs.

“Oh! I can’t possibly wait ten minutes. I am half dead with hunger.”

Dinner. “Let me look at the menu.” “Will you turn on more light? I cannot see.”

Why not confess that you don’t read français/Deutsche/italiano and just point? However, and I’ve done this, it can lead to adventure.

“What kind of meat is that?”

Pasta Puttanesca, per favore, con un’insalata. Image from

“This room is frightfully hot. Couldn’t you open one of the windows?”

“I like plenty of fresh air, but I can’t and won’t sit in a draught.”

“The attendance in this house is very remiss.”

I’m recognizing the type.

In a Private Room. Things start off pleasantly enough: “We do not want a grand dinner. Let us have soup, fish, a joint, and some sort of cheese.”

Then comes the grabber: “I do not like garlic or oil.”

Geez, then why travel to the Continent?

On the bright side, recall the hand book’s subtitle: “Intended to serve as interpreter to English travellers abroad and foreigners in England. Turn about is fair play/Tourner est le fair-play/Wende ist faires Spiel/Girarsi è un gioco leale.

And Bon voyage/Gute Reise/Buon viaggio. ds

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