Going back to Peter Ustinov (the 5 March blog), and the career analyst who recommended he become an airline steward, it’s possible that some of the factors the analyst took into account (other than the distinct possibility that PU was playing games) were his easy way with people, his wish to make others feel good, and his multilingual skills: he spoke English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian fluently, as well as some Turkish and modern Greek. One can only envy …
Ustinov was a master in making language humorous, in mimicking accents, and in using out-of-date expressions to get people laughing. It set me thinking. Yesterday I opened, for the first time in almost 50 years, my Collins Greek phrase book 1966 edition, and my Collins Italian phrase book published in 1970. What has changed since then?
As expected, vast changes in resources, attitudes, situations, communications, services etc. And with those changes our English language has moved. For a bit of fun here are some expressions from the 1960’s in those phrase books. How many would we use today? Peter Ustinov would have a field day.
That man is following me everywhere We do not want retsina Put some distilled water in the battery please Excuse me, that seat is mine Bring me some cotton wool please I cannot fasten my seat belt The sheets are dirty Please don’t push The chambermaid never comes when I ring Bring me some hot water for shaving I have two pairs of socks for mending Can I hire a donkey? There are too many mosquitoes I would like some brilliantine My watch needs cleaning I would like to see hand-embroidered skirts I have been stung by a bee I have trodden on a sea urchin
Take my seat, madam Leave me alone He’s a trump I don’t care a fig Cheese it! Make it snappy This is a rum go That’s all bunkum (tosh) That’s the giddy limit That’s the ticket This wine is corked I cannot find my porter I am expecting a young lady The chambermaid never comes when I ring I have two pairs of socks to be mended Can I have an English breakfast? I can’t dance the twist. This stocking is laddered