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A phrase book or phrasebook is a collection of ready-made phrases, usually for a foreign language along with a translation, indexed and often in the form of questions and answers.
While mostly thematically structured into several chapters like interpersonal relationships, food, at the doctor, shopping etc., a phrase book often contains useful background information regarding the travel destination's culture, customs and conventions besides simple pronunciation guidelines and typically 1000–2000 words covering vocabulary. Also common are a concise grammar and an index intended for quick reference.
A phrase book generally features high clarity and a practical, sometimes color-coded structure to enable its user to communicate in a quick and easy, though very basic, manner. Especially with this in mind a phrase book sometimes also provides several possible answers to each question, to let a person respond in part by pointing at one of them. Additional audio material is often included to help pronunciation and comprehension. This kind of phrase books is often referred to as a talking phrase book or voice translator.
Hand-written phrase books were used in Medieval Europe by pilgrims to the Holy Land; major European languages, Greek, and Hebrew were covered.By the 15th century, phrase books designed for merchants involved in the international trade are attested as well. The earliest known example of this genre is a 1424 manuscript compiled by one Master George of Nuremberg, and intended to help Italian merchants to use High German.
Printed phrase books appeared by the late 15th century, exemplified by the Good Boke to Lerne to Speke French (ca. 1493-1496).
In Asia, phrase books were compiled for travelers on the Silk Road already in the first millennium AD, such as a Dunhuang manuscript (Pelliot chinois 5538) containing a set of useful Saka ("Khotanese") and Sanskrit phrases.
Since the 21st century, Lonely Planet has covered more phrase books than any other publisher. They are designed for travelers to communicate with locals learning social phrases and words in more than 120 different languages.
James Thurber wrote a satirical essay, "There's No Place Like Home," concerning a phrase book he came across in a London bookstore "Collin's Pocket Interpreters: France." The essay appeared in The New Yorker of August 14, 1937,and was later collected in his book My World and Welcome To It.
The British comedian group Monty Python featured a phrase book containing wrong translations in two of their sketches.English as She Is Spoke is a comic classic of unwittingly incompetent translation.
The expression "My postillion has been struck by lightning", supposedly included in some phrasebooks, is used to describe some of the less likely to be useful phrases found in some books. Dirk Bogarde published a memoir with this title.
The 1972 short story by Joanna Russ, "Useful Phrases for the Tourist", takes the form of an excerpt from a phrase book. Since its initial appearance it has been reprinted nine times, and has been translated into Italian and French.
Phrasebooks exist not only for living languages, but also for languages that are no longer spoken natively by anyone, such as Meissner's Latin Phrasebook.
James Grover Thurber was an American cartoonist, author, humorist, journalist, playwright, and celebrated wit. He was best known for his cartoons and short stories, published mainly in The New Yorker and collected in his numerous books.
Monty Python were a British surreal comedy troupe who created the sketch comedy television show Monty Python's Flying Circus, which first aired on the BBC in 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series. The Python phenomenon developed from the television series into something larger in scope and influence, including touring stage shows, films, albums, books and musicals. The Pythons' influence on comedy has been compared to the Beatles' influence on music. Regarded as an enduring icon of 1970s pop culture, their sketch show has been referred to as being "an important moment in the evolution of television comedy".
"Spam" is a Monty Python sketch, first televised in 1970 and written by Terry Jones and Michael Palin. In the sketch, two customers are lowered by wires into a greasy spoon café and try to order a breakfast from a menu that includes Spam in almost every dish, much to the consternation of one of the customers. As the waitress recites the Spam-filled menu, a group of Viking patrons drown out all conversations with a song, repeating "Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam… Lovely Spam! Wonderful Spam!".
Eric Idle is an English actor, musician, writer and comedian. Idle is a former member of the British surreal comedy group Monty Python and the parody rock band The Rutles, and is the writer of the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical Spamalot.
"The Lumberjack Song" is a comedy song by the comedy troupe Monty Python. The song was written and composed by Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Fred Tomlinson.
Sir Dirk Bogarde was an English actor, novelist and screenwriter. Initially a matinée idol in films such as Doctor in the House (1954) for the Rank Organisation, he later acted in art-house films. In a second career, he wrote seven best-selling volumes of memoirs, six novels and a volume of collected journalism, mainly from articles in The Daily Telegraph.
Neil James Innes was an English writer, comedian and musician. He collaborated with Monty Python and played in the Rutles and the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.
And Now for Something Completely Different is a 1971 British sketch comedy film based on the television comedy series Monty Python's Flying Circus featuring sketches from the show's first two series. The title was taken from a catchphrase used in the television show.
O novo guia da conversação em portuguez e inglez, commonly known by the name English as She Is Spoke, is a 19th-century book written by Pedro Carolino, with some editions crediting José da Fonseca as a co-author. It was intended as a Portuguese–English conversational guide or phrase book; however, as the "English" translations provided are usually inaccurate or incoherent, it is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour in translation.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1939) is a short story by James Thurber. The most famous of Thurber's stories, it first appeared in The New Yorker on March 18, 1939, and was first collected in his book My World and Welcome to It. It has since been reprinted in James Thurber: Writings and Drawings, is available on-line on the New Yorker website, and is one of the most anthologized short stories in American literature. The story is considered one of Thurber's "acknowledged masterpieces". It was made into a 1947 film of the same name, with Danny Kaye in the title role, though the film is very different from the original story. It was also adapted into a 2013 film, which is again very different from the original.
Monty Python's Fliegender Zirkus are a pair of 45-minute Monty Python German television comedy specials produced by WDR for West German television. The two episodes were respectively first broadcast in January and December 1972 and were shot entirely on film and mostly on location in Bavaria, with the first episode recorded in German and the second recorded in English and then dubbed into German.
"Argument Clinic" is a sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman. The sketch was originally broadcast as part of the television series and has subsequently been performed live by the group. It relies heavily on wordplay and dialogue, and has been used as an example of how language works.
"Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" is a Monty Python sketch. It first aired in 1970 on Monty Python's Flying Circus as part of Episode 25. Atlas Obscura has noted that it may have been inspired by English as She Is Spoke, a 19th-century Portuguese—English phrase book regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour, as the given English translations are generally completely incoherent.
UniLang or UniLang Community is a multilingual online collaboration website, with online language resources publicly accessible.
A Thurber Carnival is a revue by James Thurber, adapted by the author from his stories, cartoons and casuals, nearly all of which originally appeared in The New Yorker. It was directed by Burgess Meredith. Following a six city tryout, during which Thurber continued to rewrite the show, it premiered on Broadway on February 26, 1960, and ran for 223 performances, with a break from June 25 to September 5. It closed on November 26, 1960. The title is similar to that of The Thurber Carnival (1945), Thurber's most successful collection of stories and drawings.
"My postillion has been struck by lightning", "our postillion has been struck by lightning", and other variations on the same pattern, are often given as examples of the ridiculous phrases supposed to have been found in phrase books or language instruction in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The word postillion may occur in its alternative spelling postilion.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus is a British surreal sketch comedy series created by and starring the comedy group Monty Python, consisting of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam, aka the "Pythons". The first episode was recorded at the BBC on 7 September 1969 and premiered on 5 October on BBC1, with 45 episodes airing over four series from 1969 to 1974, plus two episodes for German TV.
La plume de ma tante is a phrase in popular culture, attributed to elementary French language instruction and used as an example of grammatically correct phrases with limited practical application that are sometimes taught in introductory foreign language texts. As Life magazine said in 1958, "As every student knows, the most idiotically useless phrase in a beginner's French textbook is la plume de ma tante ." The phrase is also used to refer to something deemed completely irrelevant. The term lent its name to the musical play La Plume de Ma Tante, which won a Tony Award in 1959.
Monty Python Live! is a book detailing the various live performances of the Monty Python team between 1971 and 1980.
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