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Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Craunching the Marmoset, or "Do You Waaaant To Come Back To My Place, Bouncy, Bouncy?"

Doing WHAT!?

And now for something completely different...a change of pace from all the grim news of flood and famine, fire and fear.

I remember seeing the phrase, "to craunch the marmoset" used somewhere when I was a teenager and, captivated, tried to find where it came from. Fortunately, I had the aid of a living Google: friend and intellectual mentor Fred Foster knew everything there was to know about the history of English (among other things). He not only knew about the phrase, he had a copy of the book it came from and quoted Mark Twain's comment on it ("Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect").

The book is indeed a marvel. I quote from the jacket notes to the current print edition:

In 1855, when Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino wrote an English phrasebook for Portuguese students, they faced just one problem: they didn't know any English. Even worse, they didn't own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What they did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French dictionary, and a French-to-English dictionary. The linguistic train wreck that ensued is a classic of unintentional humor, now revived in the first newly selected edition in a century. Armed with Fonseca and Carolino's guide, a Portuguese traveler can insult a barber ("What news tell me? All hairs dresser are newsmonger"), complain about the orchestra ("It is a noise which to cleve the head"), go hunting ("let aim it! let make fire him"), and consult a handy selection of truly mystifying "Idiotisms and Proverbs."

According to Fred, the dual attribution is an error: Fonseca just published phrasebooks; Carolino was solely responsible for the mess, which is to English phraseology what a Southern Decadence parade is to Judeo-Christian morality: twisted in ways you can't even imagine. And pretty funny, too.

Here are a few choice "Idiotisms and Proverbs" from English As She Is Spoke:

Few, few the bird make her nest
He is not valuable to breat that he eat
Cat scalded fear the cold water
With a tongue one go to Roma

I think this was originally, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do."

The shurt him the doar in face
He has fond the knuckle of the business
He is not so devil as he is black
To look for a needle in a hay bundle

That one's pretty obvious. And, of course...

To craunch the marmoset

Absolutely. No. Earthly. Clue.

Here are a few "Handy Phrases:"

Have you understand that he says?
Put your confidence in my
Dress your hairs
How do you can it to deny?
He has spit in my coat
He was wanting to be killed
He do the devil at four

Is the last a consequence of the one before it?

I am catched cold in the brain
I have mind to vomit

Me too.

Here's a useful list of "Defects of the Body:"

A blind
A left handed
A lame
An ugly
A bald
A squint-eyed
A deaf

I think the inclusion of "a left handed" is interesting. ("I've been Rolling Stoned and Beatled 'til I'm blind / I've been Ayn Randed and nearly branded / a communist 'cause I'm left-handed / That's the hand we use....well, never mind!")

And speaking of the Rolling Bones, this sweet neocon finds a couple of Carolino's handy phrases particularly apt:

The stone as roll not heap up not foam
It is a noise which to cleave the head

Hideous undead creature rises from grave,
seeks to cleave heads

Finally, we have this "Familiar Dialog," which Fonseca might actually have had with Carolino:

The french language.

Do you study?
Yes, sir, I attempts to translate of french by portuguese.
Do you know already the principal grammars rules?
I am appleed my self at to learn its by heart.
Do speak french alwais?
Some times; though I flay it yet.
You jest, you does express you self very well

Hees speeeek de Eenglish very good, too -- he leearn eet from a boook.

Today, with the aid of the computers that make our lives so much easier, we no longer need to learn it from a book. Here is Babelfish's stab at some of the phrases Carolino tried his hand at:

Barriga cheia, cara alegre.
A full stomach makes for a content face.
EaSIS: After the paunch comes the dance.
Babelfish: Full, expensive belly glad.

A cavalo dado não se lhe olha para o dente.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
EaSIS: A horse baared don't look him the tooth.
Babelfish: The given horse if does not look at to it for the tooth.

Sometimes it's hard to fathom how far we've come.

"Learning eet from a boook" puts me in mind of John Cleese, which puts me in mind of another of my favorite phrasebooks:

(Set: A tobacconist's shop.)

Text on screen: In 1970, the British Empire lay in ruins, and foreign nationalists frequented the streets - many of them Hungarians (not the streets - the foreign nationals). Anyway, many of these Hungarians went into tobacconist's shops to buy cigarettes....

A Hungarian tourist approaches the clerk. The tourist is reading haltingly from a phrase book.

Hungarian: I will not buy this record, it is scratched.
Clerk: Sorry?
Hungarian: I will not buy this record, it is scratched.
Clerk: Uh, no, no, no. This is a tobacconist's.
Hungarian: Ah! I will not buy this *tobacconist's*, it is scratched.
Clerk: No, no, no, no. (holds up a pack).
Hungarian: Ya! See-gar-ets! Ya! Uh...My hovercraft is full of eels.
Clerk: Sorry?
Hungarian: My hovercraft (pantomimes puffing a cigarette) full of eels(pretends to strike a match).
Clerk: Ahh, matches!
Hungarian: Ya! Ya! Ya! Ya! Do you you come back to my place, bouncy bouncy?
Clerk: Here, I don't think you're using that thing right.
Hungarian: You great poof.
Clerk: That'll be six and six, please.

So please go enjoy Monty Python and English As She Is Spoke and then perhaps you can build your own castles in Espagnish...

To as to all ways being the Monk (whose nipples explode with delight)

Update: Kanh thinks I've gone off the deep end, or at least am seriously underemployed....

Do you have nothing to do?! Maybe since the 16th anniversary of Fred's death is this month, you had to pay homage to the genius that was. Although I don't have time to figure out all that you are talking about right does put me in mind of that horrible play we saw at the Kennedy center. All I remember about it is that it had something to do with Gertrude Stein and there wasn't enough champagne in the fridge of the President's box to help us understand it!


Yeah, I guess you have to know some Monty Python, some Fawlty Towers, some Simon & Garfunkel, and have heard of the new Stones tour & album, but hey, I thought it was funny. If you didn't, sorry. It's my blog.

Truth to tell, I've just been looking for an excuse to use the picture at the top for months now...


Update 12 Sep 05
: Chefchef says,

I thought it was pretty cool. The marmoset picture is funny, too. The bunny picture is just plain weird. I bet it's European.


Yeah! So there!

Thanks, Chefjef, and thanks also for the straight line. [begin obscure Monty Python reference]Yes, of course it's a European bunny. You can tell by the fact that it has only two pancakes on its head. The African variety can carry at least twice as many pancakes...more, if you string a line between two of them, held just under the dorsal guiding muscles at the back of the forelegs. [/obscure Monty Python reference]

[Google "monty python swallow."]

In fact, the picture is one of many that I have collected in the last few months, intended to answer moonbats who go off the deep end when commenting on posts or who make allusions almost as obscure and confusing as my own. However, since none but a few brave and deeply warped souls read my site, I haven't had occasion to use them yet. I yearn for an Instalanch, of course, as do all authors of terminally obscure blogs, but even more I yearn for a Kosunami -- a swarm of ichabodniki and their ilk descending on me to yell blogoshperic obscenities and proclaim me the Greatest Threat to Human Liberty since, well.....Dark Devil Dubya himself. So......until that happens, such pictures will be reserved for those times when Kanh and others wonder why and how I am still collecting a paycheck.


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