Tuesday, October 01, 2013
Little wonder then if the political world enjoys but low esteem in naval circles. I had at one time a ship's interpreter—an illiterate youth, but quick of ear and intelligible in four or five languages—who summarised our feelings with innocent accuracy. "A gen'leman demands to see you, sir," he announced one day. "What sort of gentleman, Manóli?" I asked. "A dampol'tician, sir," he replied. "A what?" "C'est un député, Monsieur, qui demande à vous voir." "Oh, I see; a dam' politician. Your English is getting on, Manóli; where did you learn that word?" "I listen the officers how they speak, sir. They not say député, they say always 'dampol'tician.'" "And when the men are talking, Manóli, what do they say?" But Manóli blushed, and I made haste to proceed: "Well, never mind what the men say; go on studying the officers' good language; you can [sic, read can't or cannot] improve on 'dampol'tician'; c'est le mot juste." Whereon Manóli blushed again, but this time with pleasure at my commendation, and always thereafter enabled me to greet the least welcome visitor with a smile of delight, by his announcement of "a dampol'tician, sir."
From Ian Jackson:
Your first conjecture is correct. In my copy of the British original of Tales of Aegean Intrigue (Chatto & Windus, 1920), the verb is printed "can't". The Dutton edition on Google Books appears to reprint the original text page for page, but not line for line. (It also lacks the 8 half-tone plates). In the paragraph you quote, the American compositor has succeeded in avoiding the British break of "study-ing" between two lines, but in so doing has not found space for "'t" in the next line. Presumably he expected to do something about it but forgot and moved on.