Do not might one's understand to speak

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The title comes from Pedro Carolino's English as She is Spoke (1883), an accidental classic that is meant to be an English phrasebook and conversational guide, but as the author couldn't speak much, or any, English, he created a garbled translation of a Portuguese-French phrasebook that has a charm in its ridiculousness.

It ranges from the completely incomprehensible - I did can't to come rather - to items where the meaning can be worked out, like He is beggar as a church rat, presumably the idiom as poor as a church mouse, with some extraordinary phrases along the way.

Mark Twain was a fan and wrote in his introduction to the book that "nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect, it must and will stand alone: its immortality is secure."  However, I am not so sure that it has to stand alone any longer as a series of videos by Tracy Goodwin claiming to offer a guide to having a convincing British accent may well provide the voice to this work.

Blundering through a mixture of regional pronunciations presented as standard to a pronunciation of hot coffee that is positively otherworldly, with a mishmash of stereotypes, errors and inventions thrown in, she is a marvel to behold.  Anyone who wants to speak British English seriously badly and wrongly will find this pronunciation course worth its weight in gold, or as Pedro Carolino would say valuable his weight's gold.

A facsimile of the first edition of English as She is Spoke is available here:
Project Gutenberg has the text in various formats here:

Categories: General

1 Comment

I have a lot of problems understanding Britains. The words just being swallowed.

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