Can you recommend a good place to eat goat's brains?

If you've ever been a tourist, there's a good chance you've used a foreign phrase book. You know, these little pocketbooks that tell you how to say some of the most inane things known to man. Often, such phrases are ridiculously inappropriate, and thank Internet for someone collecting them on a Web site. I would comment on this weird phenomenon myself if I didn't know Dorothy Parker's 1931 review of the book The Ideal System for Acquiring a Practical Knowledge of French by one Mademoiselle Gaudel. Mrs Parker says it best:

Now you know perfectly well that at my time of life it would be just a dissipation of energy for me to learn the French equivalent of "Either now, or this afternoon at five." It is, at best, a matter of dark doubt that I shall ever be in any position in which it will be necessary for me to cry: "Although the captain is far from here, I always think of him." It is possible, of course, but it's a nasty wrench to the arm of coincidence that I shall find occasion for the showing-off of the phrase "Her marriage took place (eut lieu) on the 2nd of April, 1905"; or that it will be given me to slide gently into a conversation with "I admire the large black eyes of this orphan." Better rest I silent forever than that I pronounce: "In this case, it is just that you should not like riding and swimming"; or that I inquire: "Are you pleased that they will bring the cricket set?"; or that I swing into autobiography with the confession: "I do not like to play blindman's bluff"; or that I so seriously compromise myself as to suggest: "I propose that you breakfast with me and afterwards look for our friends."
The future is veiled, perhaps mercifully, and so I cannot say that never, while I live, shall I have occasion to announce in French: "It was to punish your foster-brother"; but I know which way I would bet. It may be that some day I shall be in such straits that I shall have to remark: "The friend of my uncle who took the quill feather bought a round black rice-straw hat trimmed with two long ostrich feathers and a jet buckle." Possibly circumstances will so weave themselves that it will be just the moment for me to put in: "Mr Fouchet would have received some eel." It might occur that I must thunder: "Obey, or I will not show you the beautiful gold chain." But I will be damned if it is ever going to be of any good to me to have at hand Mlle Gaudel's masterpiece: "I am afraid he will not arrive in time to accompany me on the harp."

75 years on, it's still hilarious.

Posted by cronopio at 01:24 PM, August 03, 2005