[anecdote] misuse of slang in 1828 (UNCLASSIFIED)

Mullins, Bill AMRDEC Bill.Mullins at US.ARMY.MIL
Thu Nov 29 15:00:06 UTC 2007

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Sounds like an early inspiration for Monty Python's Dead Parrot bit.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society
> [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Jonathan Lighter
> Sent: Wednesday, November 28, 2007 8:14 PM
> Subject: [anecdote] misuse of slang in 1828
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
> Subject:      [anecdote] misuse of slang in 1828
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> -----------------
> _The Night Watch_ (London: Henry Colburn, 1828), 2 vols., is
> an anonymous collection of humorous and sentimental nautical
> yarns cited occasionally by Partridge (via the late Col.
> Alfred Moe, USMC, ret.) but not, I think, by OED.  The
> author's name seems to be nowhere verifiable, but the two
> volumes I have at hand from the Main Library of the U. of
> Illinois at Champaign-Urbana each bear the fly-leaf
> autograph, "W S Witham / With the Authors Compts."
>   The following amusing anecdote suggests that "slang books"
> could be ready to hand even in well-to-do homes of the
> period. It shows that the inappropriate use of slang sounded
> just as ridiculous then as now, though it is hard to know
> whether the inappropriateness here is stems from the diction
> itself or from the fact that the speaker is a Frenchman at a
> time when Britons found the French especially ridiculous.
> Probably both. Vol. II, pp. 91-92:
>   "Since I saw you, the butler told the French valet that I
> was a widow, and he had somewhow or other picked up a slang
> book in the house; and when Mister Crapaud came to me
> yesterday,...I saw the book in his waistcoat pocket, half
> open by three of his fingers. 'Madame,' said he, 'I am sorry
> very moach, but on dit, but dey say, Madame (and I saw him
> look in his pocket), dat your husband have kicked de
> bocket....dat is, Madame, he has hopped de twig; dat is, I
> say, he is gone to Davy's locker.' I screamed and ran off in
> a fit, and he called after me, 'Mort! mort! mort!' Oh, how I
> laughed, Thomas. I wish you had been there."
>   JL
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