Thursday, March 19, 2009
Sir, Do You Know German?
Lewis Carroll, The Vision of the Three T's
, chapter I:
PROF. Sir, do you know German?
PISC. It is my grief, Sir, that I know no other tongue than mine own.
PROF. Then, Sir, my answer is this, Warum nicht?
PISC. Alas, Sir, I understand you not.
PROF. The more the pity. For now-a-days all that is good comes from the German. Ask our men of science: they will tell you that any German book must needs surpass an English one. Aye, and even an English book, worth naught in this its native dress, shall become, when rendered into German, a valuable contribution to Science.
VEN. Sir, you much amaze me.
PROF. Nay, Sir, I'll amaze you yet more. No learned man doth now talk, or even so much as cough, save only in German. The time has been, I doubt not, when an honest English "Hem!" was held enough, both to clear the voice and rouse the attention of the company, but now-a-days no man of Science, that setteth any store by his good name, will cough otherwise than thus, Ach! Euch! Auch!