Study of Beelzebub's Tales

Chapter.Page

Chatterlitz

 

42 Beelzebub in America

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“But from the very first day of my arrival in the capital of this North America, I already experienced great inconvenience in my ‘verbal intercourse’ because, as it turned out, although these beings use this English tongue for verbal intercourse among themselves, this English tongue of theirs is rather special and in fact quite peculiar.

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“So, having felt the inconvenience, I made up my mind to learn this peculiar ‘conversational English’ of theirs also.

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“On the third day after my arrival there, as I was on my way to my newly acquainted Mister specially to ask him to recommend me a teacher for this ‘English tongue,’ I suddenly saw reflected on the sky, by projectors, an ‘American advertisement’ with the words:

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‘SCHOOL OF LANGUAGES BY THE SYSTEM
OF MR. CHATTERLITZ
13 North 293rd Street’

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“The languages and the times when they were taught were set forth and, of the ‘American English language’ in particular, it was stated, among other things, that it could be learned in from five minutes to twenty-four hours.

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“At first I could not make head or tail of it, but I decided all the same to go the next morning to the address indicated.

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“When the next day I found this Mr. Chatterlitz, he received me himself in person, and when he heard that I wished to learn the ‘American English language’ by his system, he explained to me first of all that this conversational language could be learned by his system in three forms, each form corresponding to some special requirement.

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“‘The first form,’ he said, ‘is the conversational language for a man who is obliged to earn here among us our American dollars.

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“‘The second form is required for a man who, although not in need of our dollars, nevertheless likes to do dollar business and, furthermore, in order that in his social relations with our Americans everybody will think that he is not “just a nobody” but a real “gentleman” with an English upbringing.

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“‘As for the third form of the English language, this form is required by anybody who wishes to be able to procure here, there, and everywhere and at any hour—Scotch whisky.’

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“As the time for learning the second form of the English language by this system suited me best, I decided to pay him immediately the dollars he charged in order to know the secret of his system.

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“When I had paid him the dollars he charged and he had, seemingly quite casually, but in reality not without that avidity which has also already become proper to all the beings of your planet, placed my dollars in an inside pocket, he explained to me that in order to learn this second form, only five words had to be memorized, namely:

1. Maybe
2. Perhaps
3. Tomorrow
4. Oh, I see
5. All right

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“Although the system of this highly esteemed Chatterlitz was very original and meritorious, yet I never had occasion to put it into practice.

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“And the occasion did not arise, because the next day I met by chance in the street an old acquaintance, an, as he is called, ‘editor,’ from the continent of Europe who in conversation confided to me an even more ideal secret for the American language.

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“When I told him, among other things, that I had been the day before to Mister Chatterlitz about the local language and had told him a little about the system, he replied:

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“‘Do you know what, my dear doctor? As you are a subscriber to our paper over there, I cannot help revealing to you a certain secret of the language here.’

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“‘Knowing several of our European languages, you can by employing this secret of mine be master of the language here to perfection, and indeed converse about anything you wish, and not simply make others think that you know the English language—for which purpose, I do not deny, the system of this Chatterlitz is indeed excellent.’

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“He explained further that if, when pronouncing any word taken from any European language, you imagine that you have a hot potato in your mouth, then some word of the English language is in general bound to result.

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“And if you imagine that this same hot potato is furthermore well sprinkled with ground ‘red pepper,’ then you will already have the pronunciation of the local American English language to a tee.

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“He advised me moreover not to be timid in choosing words from the European languages, since the English language in general consisted of a fortuitous concourse of almost all the European languages, and hence that the language contained several words for every ordinary idea, with the consequence that ‘you almost always hit on the right word.’

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“‘And suppose that, without knowing it, you use a word entirely absent from this language, no great harm is done; at worst your hearer will only think that he himself is ignorant of it.

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“‘All you have to do is just to bear in mind the said hot potato and… no more “boloney” about it.

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“‘I guarantee this secret, and I can safely say that if, on exactly following my advice, your “language” here does not prove to be ideal, then you may stop your subscription.’