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  • That Was Genius Team

Episode 81 - A Long Wait for 15 Seconds of Action (Things That Never Happened Week)

Updated: Oct 12, 2020

Sam's Notes: English as she is spoke

Well, Tom, today I'm not going to talk about an event that never happened, I'm going to talk about a skill. In particular, a man who promised he could speak English, and very, very much couldn't. Which makes it all the more silly that he decided to write a phrase book.

This is 1855's English as She is Spoke by Pedro Carolino, a teacher from Portugal who wanted to help students of English master the language. Except... He didn't speak it himself. Which makes for a very, very silly book. But he did add the name of a famous portugese linguist, José da Fonseca, without his permission in an attempt to give the book some gravitas. So that counts, right?

I'm going to be honest, most of it just makes no sense, with handy phrases such as: “Since you not go out, I shall go out nor I neither.” “This room is filled of bugs!” and “Dress your hairs”. But there are some really, really funny phrases in there.

So the version I'm reading from today is, ironically, the first English translation of the book, English as she is Spoke, or A Jest in Sober Ernest from 1884, with a forward by a guy called James Millington, who introduces the book pretty well, so I'm going to quote here, slightly abridged.

From the time of Shakespeare downwards, wits and authors innumerable have made themselves and the public more or less merry at the expense of the earlier efforts of the student of the strange tongue; but it has been reserved to our own time for a soi distant instructor to perpetrate – at his own expense – the monstrous joke of publishing a Guide to Conversation in a language which it is only too evident is utterly strange to him.

It goes on: In short, the New Guide of Conversation in Portugese and English was written with serious intent, and for the purpose of initiating Portugese students into the mysteries of the English language...

A little consideration of the shaping of our author's English phrases leads to the conclusion that the materials used have been a Portugese-French phrase-book, and a French-English dictionary.

Now, according to Carolino's own introduction, he describes how the book was necessary because there wasn't a phrase book to help Bazilians and Portugese learn English. The first part of the book contains an alphabetical list of words and phrases, the second part, forty three texts described as idioms.

So, Tom. Without further ado, I'm just going to rattle through a few key words here, and then we can play a game of guess what the fuck we're talking about once you've got the gist of it.

So, firstly, under defects of the body, alongside blind, deaf, lame and the like, we have the following slightly offensive items being classed as disabilities. Left-handed, ugly, squint eyed, and bald.

Then, we move on to members of the family. Nurse, ok, that makes sense, like baby sitter. Fine. The quarter grandmother, erm... I guess maybe your wife's grandmother? No, that's just your wife, apparently. A quarter of a grandmother. Who else is in this family. The gossip, and gossip mistress. No idea who they are supposed to be. Bear in mind this list doesn't contain any actual family members. But it does feature widows, so there you go.

So, let's escape this increasingly weird dinner chat with your quarter-grandmothers BBF gossip mistress, and get to dinner. The tables set, with just three words in the dictionary for what you can see. Knives, groceries, and crumbs. Oh dear, looks like we forgot to actually cook anything, or clean. So let's go out for dinner.

And now we've gone into the restaurant section of the phrasebook, Tom. And what will we order? What delicious treats await? Well, let's start off with something more appetising sounding, some dainty dishes, followed by a mutton shoulder. So far so normal. But then we can wash it down with 'some wigs', an amulet, and a small mine.

Hmm, maybe we should look at the fish section, that sounds more appetising. What's your favourite kind of fish, Tom? Because I can guarantee it's not what Carolino has in mind... Among the delicacies of the deep, the Portugese student can ask for Hedgehog, snails, torpodoes, a wolf, or, quote: A sorte of Fishe...

Maybe we can go to church instead, where we'll find: The sides of the nef. The little cellar. A holywater pot. And the Bobby of the church. Hello bobby.

But frankly, Tom, I'm just throwing random words at you. So why don't I string them into nonsense sentences?

I like peaches, Tom. Do you like peaches? I doubt you like them as much as Carolino. Quote: These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in mouth.

Oh, then Tom, we get into a section on fighting talk, with such useful phrases as: He laughs at my nose, he jests at me! He has spit in my coat. He has me take out my hair. He does me some kicks!

In a section on walking with ladies, we find ourselves enjoying the sound of wildlife suffocating: “Do you hear the birds gurgling? Which pleasure! Which charm!

In a section on clothes shopping, it appears we've walked into a private moment in the dressing rooms: Where are their stockings, their shoes, her shirt and her petticoat? THAT WOMAN'S IN THE NIP!

Unfortunately it doesn't look like she was enjoying herself too much, because in an attempt to say: “You don't visit me enough”, we have... Can you guess? “You come too rare”.

We've got a few proverbs now, let's play a guessing game: A horse barred, don't look him in the tooth. The stone as roll don't heap up don't foam. (confused moss and mousse)To crunch the marmoset. - To chew the fat.

And I'm just going to finish, Tom, with a couple of classic English dialogues to practice my new found language skills.

The weather (page 27)With a hair dresser (page 29)

Tom's Notes; Drunkard Punishments


I promised Nathan that we’d mentioned some good places for getting a hold of historical sources. Perseus is great for classical texts, Project Gutenberg is good for everything, Librivox has lots of free audiobooks and Wikisource is also very useful.

I’ve made a crab apple jelly; hugely satisfying because if done correctly, you create this beautiful, translucent, amber jelly. Great stuff. I feel myself slowly turning into one of those American apocalypse weirdos, spouting shit about if HICK ACCENT Biden become president there’s gonna be a war, and we better be prepared! I know where all the crab apple trees are and we got ourselves some guns!

I also replaced all of my ill-fitting and boxers with briefs. I’ve reached that age. Not quite cotton y-fronts but it’s a step in that direction.

As with most weeks, my research began with the discovery of a few excellent topics that are probably too well known, but eventually I dug deep enough to find something a bit more original.

I almost settled with the Satyricon by Patronius, which I’ve alluded to before in this podcast (Hobbies week, Portable Antiquities Scheme, episode 69) which is wonderfully rude and silly, but I didn’t think it fitted quite right with the topic, and, it’s classical, and I need to stop falling back on classical shit. I promise I’ll talk about this source at some point in the future though.

What I have instead is a book from 1899; a year famous for being the first of 100 years where people said “we’re going to party like its 1999”; previously people had said “we’re going to party like its 1899”, but when they actually got there, it wasn’t any more party-filled than any of the previous years, and so the mystical, prophesised year of party-promise was moved forward a century.

The book is called ‘Bygone Punishments’ by William Andrews and it’s 300 pages of tortuous titillation and tremendous torment, with chapter headings such as The Halifax Gibbet, Riding the Stang and The Scottish Maiden, not to be confused with Riding a Scottish Maiden in Halifax, something undoubtedly disappointing, both geographically and sexually.

For reference, the Halifax Gibbet was basically a guillotine for thieves in Halifax, Yorkshire. The onlookers would pull a long rope attached to the raised axe part of the contraption, releasing the sharp bit which would then fall at great speed upon the neck of someone who pinched a mars bar. It dates to the 16th and 17th centuries. Even back then, this was considered a bit excessive so boring, boring Oliver Cromwell had it dismantled and probably replaced by something more boring, like bible studies. The Scottish Maiden was also a quillotine-like device inspired by the Halifax Gibbet and used in Edinburgh.

Riding the Stang, in various forms and with slightly different names, took place in British and apparently European town as a form of public humiliation. A man who had beaten his wife, or was allowing himself to be hen-pecked, would be the target of this humiliation. A great crowd would gather, the funniest man in the town would be raised above the crowd on a ladder or something similar, and the crowd would raucously proceed through the town making an absolute racket letting the world know about this man’s naughty behaviour. William Andrews even records a song:

"Ran, tan, tan; ran, tan, tan,

To the sound of this pan;

This is to give notice that Tom Trotter

Has beaten his good woman!

For what, and for why?

Because she ate when she was hungry,

And drank when she was dry.

Ran, tan, ran, tan, tan;

Hurrah—hurrah! for this good wo-man!

He beat her, he beat her, he beat her indeed,

For spending a penny when she had need.

He beat her black, he beat her blue;

When Old Nick gets him, he'll give him his due;

Ran, tan, tan; ran, tan, tan;

We'll send him there in this old frying-pan;

Hurrah—hurrah! for his good wo-man!"

Anyway, enough of this, let’s talk drunkards! Let’s start with the most fun of all, the Drunkards Cloak!

According to William Andrews, this particular form of punishment was imported to England from the Americas. It was practiced most commonly in Newcastle Upon Tyne although it’s use is rumoured to have been a bit more widespread particularly during the Commonwealth (it’s sounds like the only fun thing that Cromwell endorsed).

In essence, a drunkard was paraded through Newcastle wearing a barrel with small holes for the drunkard’s arms and legs. People would presumably come out to laugh and poke fun at the stupid Geordie who continually drinks too much and behaves in a boorish manner. Thank God people would never dream of doing such a thing today *COUGH* Geordie Shore.

Similar forms of punishment have been employed in the late medieval and early modern period in Denmark, where it was called a ‘Spanish Mantle’, in Germany and also in Holland. Samuel Pepys, the great fire-place dumper himself, talks about the Dutch variation of this punishment on 18th May 1660. Quote:

“After we had seen all, we light by chance of an English house to drink in, where we were very merry, discoursing of the town and the thing that hangs up in the Stadthouse like a bushel, which I was told is a sort of punishment for some sort of offenders to carry through the streets of the town over his head, which is a great weight. Back by water, where a pretty sober Dutch lass sat reading all the way, and I could not fasten any discourse upon her.”

DRUNK VOICE; “Oi, cloggy feet, fancy sitting my lap!? I bet I can make you windmill turn.”

I think it’s wonderful that in this paragraph, Pepys observes a form of punishment for drunks misbehaving, in between getting drunk and then misbehaving.

I mentioned a moment ago that the Drunkard’s cloak was introduced from the Americas, Andrews also mentions that drunkards in some areas of North America were made to walk around with a big ‘D’ hung from their neck. As a form of punishment, I think that this one could backfire, because the drunkard is thus advertised to the town inns, so when innkeepers see him walking passed, they can hook him in with a free drink.

Andrews refers to another form of punishment related to drinking that seems far more light-hearted. In Derbyshire there is a banqueting hall with iron rings attached to the wall, if during festivals someone refused to drink what was put in front of them, the individual was chained up and had the drink poured down their shirt, presumably whilst the rest of the hall was chanting ‘down his doublet, down his doublet, down his doublet’.

Drunkards from the Middle Ages onwards have been punished in the more common ways; i.e. time in the stocks and/or pillory. They are essentially the same thing as far as I understand. In fact, the Drunkard’s cloak was also known as a barrel pillory. The word ‘pilloried’ obviously derives from this form of punishment.

One chap called William was put in stocks in Ellesmere and a local onlooker came up with such a wonderful ditty that it was recorded for posterity:

"'A tailor here! confined in stocks,

A prison made of wood—a—,

Weeping and wailing to get out,

But couldna' for his blood—a—

"'The pillory, it hung o'er his head,

The whipping-post so near—a—

A crowd of people round about

Did at William laugh and jeer—a—'"

The strange ‘a’ sound being mockery of how William spoke when drunk.

In 1872 a man from Reading was put in the stocks for being a drunkard and general twirp. The stocks hadn’t been used for 26 years and so as they were being dusted off, rumour spread around the town very quickly. Mark Tuck spent 4 hours in the stocks being laughed at by the huge crowd that has gathered. The more unhappy he appeared, the more delighted the crowd.

Jougs were also used to punish drunkards in many places. Jougs are simply metal hoops that are fastened around a culprit’s neck at one end, and an immoveable object at the other end, such as a church or prison (they’re both fairly immoveable). Andrews refers to one incidence; quote;

“At Rothesay, a woman gave the members of the Kirk-Session a great deal of trouble through departing from the path of sobriety. Persuasion and rebuke were tried without avail. At last, in the year 1661, the Session warned her that "if hereafter she should be found drunk, she would be put in the jouggs and have her dittay written on her face."”

Quite what this dittay might have been is unfortunately lost to history, I can only hazard a guess at “It’s only a game show, better believe I’m right, I’m going to be snookering you tonight”.

Or perhaps something she would sing when staggering around pissed; “hey-diddly dee, a drunkards life for me, I drink my fill, get quite ill and vomit whilst having a pee!”.

The Brank or Scold’s Bridle is a form of punishment that many women had the misfortune of experiencing, and it’s pretty brutal. The stocks and drunkards cloak I imagine are mildly uncomfortable but very humiliating. The brank or scold’s bridal would have been humiliating and very painful I feel. It was used to punish nagging women, or scolds. It’s indirectly related to the topic today because, as is explicitly mentioned by Andrews, a woman could be punished with this device for telling off their husbands for returning home drunk.

It was an iron head piece with a framework that wrapped around the whole head. Part of the device was inserted into the lady’s mouth and was designed to prevent movement of the tongue, because this part of the device was usually very spikey. As with every other form of punishment mentioned, the brank was used from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The lady wearing the brank would then be marched through town on market day on a chain and then maybe hooked up to a building for a few hours for good measure.

Topics; hicks for the chap from Alabama. Civil war next week.

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