To Craunch the Marmoset

A bit more than a week ago, Futility Closet had a post concerning a phrasebook from the Borneo Literature Bureau containing phrases considered useful when traveling in Borneo.

It put me in mind of two things: first, the phrasebook English as She is Spoke, famous (infamous? notorious?) for its ineptitude. You can view excerpts from it on Google Books.

The second is a book in my personal library, the Handbook of Japanese Conversations, by Morio Takahashi. It contains sample conversations on a number of topics, such as:

  • Greetings, Polite Expression, etc.
  • How to Apologize
  • How to Ask Somebody to Do Something
  • Salutation and Inquiries Concerning Health
  • Meals
  • At the Post and Telegraph Office

And many more.

This book was published in 1951, but appears to have been written much earlier, or perhaps developed over a number of years with an upper-class Englishman as the reference for the English language. I say that because of some of the references, as well as the style of speech:

    Is there a Marconi apparatus on board?
    Kono fune ni wa musen denshin ga ari masu ka.

    Whew! but they make a deuce of noise!
    Yaa, mattaku oosawagi wo shite i masu ne.

    Let us hope that it will occasion no shipwrecks.
    Soonan-sen ga nakereba yoi desu ga ne.

It also has some interesting vocabulary words that aren’t used in sample conversations, such as assassin, cutpurse, poaching, contraband, smuggler, and poison. Not to mention this sentence, which is part of a dialogue:

    It will require killing.
    Koroshite shimawa nakereba nari masen.

Let us hope that a visit to Japan will occasion no incident requiring the use of such vocabulary.

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