I'm reading "A Tramp Abroad" for the first time, and couldn't resist sharing this with the Leonites. He had sent his agent Harris on a hike through Switzerland, and had Harris write up a report on the trip. This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
You have done well, Harris; this report is concise, compact, well expressed; the language is crisp, the descriptions are vivid and not needlessly elaborated; your report goes straight to the point, attends strictly to business, and doesn't fool around. It is in many ways an excellent document. But it has a fault—it is too learned, it is much too learned. What is 'DINGBLATTER'?
"'DINGBLATTER' is a Fiji word meaning 'degrees.'"
"You knew the English of it, then?"
"What is 'GNILLIC'?
"That is the Eskimo term for 'snow.'"
"So you knew the English for that, too?"
"What does 'MMBGLX' stand for?"
"That is Zulu for 'pedestrian.'"
"'While the form of the Wellhorn looking down upon it completes the enchanting BOPPLE.' What is 'BOPPLE'?"
"'Picture.' It's Choctaw."
"What is 'SCHNAWP'?"
"'Valley.' That is Choctaw, also."
"What is 'BOLWOGGOLY'?"
"That is Chinese for 'hill.'"
"'But we were again overtaken by bad HOGGLEBUMGULLUP.' What does 'HOGGLEBUMGULLUP' mean?"
"That is Chinese for 'weather.'"
"Is 'HOGGLEBUMGULLUP' better than the English word? Is it any more descriptive?"
"No, it means just the same."
"And 'DINGBLATTER' and 'GNILLIC,' and 'BOPPLE,' and 'SCHNAWP'—are they better than the English words?"
"No, they mean just what the English ones do."
"Then why do you use them? Why have you used all this Chinese and Choctaw and Zulu rubbish?"
"Because I didn't know any French but two or three words, and I didn't know any Latin or Greek at all."
"That is nothing. Why should you want to use foreign words, anyhow?"
"They adorn my page. They all do it."
"Who is 'all'?"
"Everybody. Everybody that writes elegantly. Anybody has a right to that wants to."
"I think you are mistaken." I then proceeded in the following scathing manner. "When really learned men write books for other learned men to read, they are justified in using as many learned words as they please—their audience will understand them; but a man who writes a book for the general public to read is not justified in disfiguring his pages with untranslated foreign expressions. It is an insolence toward the majority of the purchasers, for it is a very frank and impudent way of saying, 'Get the translations made yourself if you want them, this book is not written for the ignorant classes.' There are men who know a foreign language so well and have used it so long in their daily life that they seem to discharge whole volleys of it into their English writings unconsciously, and so they omit to translate, as much as half the time. That is a great cruelty to nine out of ten of the man's readers. What is the excuse for this? The writer would say he only uses the foreign language where the delicacy of his point cannot be conveyed in English. Very well, then he writes his best things for the tenth man, and he ought to warn the nine other not to buy his book. However, the excuse he offers is at least an excuse; but there is another set of men who are like YOU; they know a WORD here and there, of a foreign language, or a few beggarly little three-word phrases, filched from the back of the Dictionary, and these are continually peppering into their literature, with a pretense of knowing that language—what excuse can they offer? The foreign words and phrases which they use have their exact equivalents in a nobler language—English; yet they think they 'adorn their page' when they say STRASSE for street, and BAHNHOF for railway-station, and so on—flaunting these fluttering rags of poverty in the reader's face and imagining he will be ass enough to take them for the sign of untold riches held in reserve. I will let your 'learning' remain in your report; you have as much right, I suppose, to 'adorn your page' with Zulu and Chinese and Choctaw rubbish as others of your sort have to adorn theirs with insolent odds and ends smouched from half a dozen learned tongues whose A-B ABS they don't even know."
When the musing spider steps upon the red-hot shovel, he first exhibits a wild surprise, then he shrivels up. Similar was the effect of these blistering words upon the tranquil and unsuspecting Agent. I can be dreadfully rough on a person when the mood takes me.