Sunday, 16 July 2017

polyglotinous or said no one ever

A linguistic curiosity plucked from the vast archives of Futility Closet comes in the form grammarian and instructor Heinrich Gottfried Ollendorff whom, following the cues of education reformer Jean Manesca who believed that the classic scholastics that taught moribund languages like Latin and Ancient Greek was not the best approach for imparting fluency in pupils of a living one, refined his methods and published his grammars and foreign study guides in the 1840s that contain the familiarly stilted and strange sounding scenarios that one is unlikely to encounter outside of a foreign language class or ever utter verbatim.

One wonders if bi-lingualism was not frowned upon prior to Ollendorff, borne in part out of personal frustrations while travelling.  Sort of like a googlewhack—inputting a search-query that yields exactly one or zero results or a hapax legomenon, those practise sentences (you know the sort) that are well-intended and for Ollendorff’s students at least accurate and possibly memorable for their strangeness—and not like those one might find in that infamous Portuguese primer, “English as she is Spoke.” His signature, repetitive syntax earned him an immortal literary epithet in HG Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (a bit like something out of Dick and Jane but far more arch)—“Yesterday he bled and wept,” said the Satyr (presumable ESL). “You never bleed nor weep. The Master does not bleep or weep.” “Ollendorffian beggar!” said Montgomery, “you’ll bleed and weep if you don’t look out!”