Sunday, May 25, 2014

Living down to expectorations

I'm in Newcastle again (what? why?) at my parents and have had the chance to read over once again that fine work, B J Ratcliffe's and Sir Holward Elphinstone's English-Swahili Phrase Book. You might be wondering why my parents come to be in possession of an English-Swahili Phrase Book, but the answer is simple: I bought it at a school fair once as a joke present at a school fete for Mum.

Part of the fun of reading any such phrase book, of course, is to find ridiculously specific phrases like the Monty Python classic, "My hovercraft is full of eels", and there are a few like that in here: "I want also two cucumbers for afternoon tea", "I want you to bring four sheeps' tongues". But the really odd thing about this phrase book is just what phrases it assumes will be useful; almost all are orders of one sort or another. Look at the beginning to Chapter III, The House:

I want a good house-boy
One who knows house-work
One who has good manners
Have you a registration certificate? 

Soon the bearer of the phrasebook is ordering his house-boy:

Do not leave the house without permission
Come and ask if you want to go out

I especially like the opening question in the last chapter, Chapter VIII, Sickness:

What is the matter with you? 

An exceedingly useful phrase that, not to mention

Do not expectorate about here

There's something in that for all of us.

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