Some Itanglish in a Dryden comedy

One José María Trilladas has apparently been combing the accounts of the black card looters of Caja Madrid and has discovered that between them the great and the good, lefties and righties, spent everything on, to put it mildly, wine, women and song, and not a single cent on the printed word. But let that not deter us good Lutherans from reading whatever shite comes to hand.

There are three main types of Itanglish:

  1. That improvised by Italian migrants in a broadly English-speaking environment. Rita Susi at writes:

    Itanglish is a language founded by Italian immigrants. Only Italian immigrants and their children understand it. Recent additions to our vocabulary list come from South Hackensack (NJ), from Staten Island (NY) representing what is described as the “Sicilian/Brooklyn” dialect, and from Newton (MA) where most of the residents come from Central Italy, particularly the village of San Donato Valle di Comino and Atina, both in the Frosinone Province of the Lazio region of Italy.

  2. That concocted ad hoc and with a much lower social component by Anglophones engaged in hand-to-hand struggle with Neapolitan cab-drivers, etc., which inevitably end with invocation in ruptured Tuscan of the Guardia di Finanza.
  3. Joe Dolce:

I found a pleasing case of British Italian the other night in Limberham, a libellous high-society satire by Dryden which the editor says is “not absolutely without humour, but is so disgustingly coarse, as entirely to destroy that merit.” Woodall disguises his identity from Limberham by speaking Itanglish, only for the latter to join him in what he refers to as lingua franca:

Trick. [A noise within.] Heavens! I hear Mr Limberham’s voice: he’s returned from Barnet.

Wood. I’ll avoid him.

Trick. That’s impossible; he’ll meet you. Let me think a moment:—Mrs Saintly is abroad, and cannot discover you: have any of the servants seen you?

Wood. None.

Trick. Then you shall pass for my Italian merchant of essences: here’s a little box of them just ready.

Wood. But I speak no Italian; only a few broken scraps, which I picked from Scaramouch and Harlequin at Paris.

Trick. You must venture that: When we are rid of Limberham, ’tis but slipping into your chamber, throwing off your black perriwig, and riding suit, and you come out an Englishman. No more; he’s here.

Enter Limberham.

Limb. Why, how now, Pug? Nay, I must lay you over the lips, to take hansel of them, for my welcome.

Trick. [Putting him back.] Foh! how you smell of sweat, dear!

Limb. I have put myself into this same unsavoury heat, out of my violent affection to see thee, Pug. Before George, as father Aldo says, I could not live without thee; thou art the purest bed-fellow, though I say it, that I did nothing but dream of thee all night; and then I was so troublesome to father Aldo, (for you must know he and I were lodged together) that, in my conscience, I did so kiss him, and so hug him in my sleep!

Trick. I dare be sworn ’twas in your sleep; for, when you are waking, you are the most honest, quiet bed-fellow, that ever lay by woman.

Limb. Well, Pug, all shall be amended; I am come home on purpose to pay old debts. But who is that same fellow there? What makes he in our territories?

Trick. You oaf you, do you not perceive it is the Italian seignior, who is come to sell me essences?

Limb. Is this the seignior? I warrant you, it is he the lampoon was made on.
[Sings the tune of Seignior, and ends with,
Ho, ho.

Trick. Pr’ythee leave thy foppery, that we may have done with him. He asks an unreasonable price, and we cannot agree. Here, seignior, take your trinkets, and be gone.

Wood. [Taking the box.] A dio, seigniora.

Limb. Hold, pray stay a little, seignior; a thing is come into my head of the sudden.

Trick. What would you have, you eternal sot? the man’s in haste.

Limb. But why should you be in your frumps, Pug, when I design only to oblige you? I must present you with this box of essences; nothing can be too dear for thee.

Trick. Pray let him go, he understands no English.

Limb. Then how could you drive a bargain with him, Pug?

Trick. Why, by signs, you coxcomb.

Limb. Very good! then I’ll first pull him by the sleeve, that’s a sign to stay. Look you, Mr Seignior, I would make a present of your essences to this lady; for I find I cannot speak too plain to you, because you understand no English. Be not you refractory now, but take ready money: that’s a rule.

Wood. Seignioro, non intendo Inglese.

Limb. This is a very dull fellow! he says, he does not intend English. How much shall I offer him, Pug?

Trick. If you will present me, I have bidden him ten guineas.

Limb. And, before George, you bid him fair. Look you, Mr Seignior, I will give you all these. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10. Do you see, Seignior?

Wood. Seignior, si.

Limb. Lo’ you there, Pug, he does see. Here, will you take me at my word?

Wood. [Shrugging up] Troppo poco, troppo poco.

Limb. A poco, a poco! why a pox on you too, an’ you go to that. Stay, now I think on’t, I can tickle him up with French; he’ll understand that sure. Monsieur, voulez vous prendre ces dix guinees, pour ces essences? mon foy c’est assez.

Wood. Chi vala, amici: Ho di casa! taratapa, taratapa, eus, matou, meau!—[To her.] I am at the end of my Italian; what will become of me?

Trick. [To him.] Speak any thing, and make it pass for Italian; but be sure you take his money.

Wood. Seignior, io non canno takare ten guinneo possibilmentè; ’tis to my losso.

Limb. That is, Pug, he cannot possibly take ten guineas, ’tis to his loss: Now I understand him; this is almost English.

Trick. English! away, you fop: ’tis a kind of lingua Franca, as I have heard the merchants call it; a certain compound language, made up of all tongues, that passes through the Levant.

Limb. This lingua, what you call it, is the most rarest language! I understand it as well as if it were English; you shall see me answer him: Seignioro, stay a littlo, and consider wello, ten guinnio is monyo, a very considerablo summo.

Trick. Come, you shall make it twelve, and he shall take it for my sake.

Limb. Then, Seignioro, for Pugsakio, addo two moro: je vous donne bon advise: prenez vitement: prenez me à mon mot.

Wood. Io losero multo; ma pergagnare il vestro costumo, datemi hansello.

Limb. There is both hansello and guinnio; tako, tako, and so good-morrow.

Trick. Good-morrow, seignior; I like your spirits very well; pray let me have all your essence you can spare.

Limb. Come, Puggio, and let us retire in secreto, like lovers, into our chambro; for I grow impatiento —bon matin, monsieur, bon matin et bon jour.
[Exeunt Limberham and Tricksy.

Wood. Well, get thee gone, ‘squire Limberhamo, for the easiest fool I ever knew, next my naunt of fairies in the Alchemist[4]. I have escaped, thanks to my mistress’s lingua França: I’ll steal to my chamber, shift my perriwig and clothes; and then, with the help of resty Gervase, concert the business of the next campaign. My father sticks in my stomach still; but I am resolved to be Woodall with him, and Aldo with the women.

This reminds me of a time when in Holland I was auditioning drummers for a wedding band. A splendidly hairy cook turned up brandishing a vaguely British name and a rather curious accent, and I said as much, but he was non-committal, so I left it at that. It was only when we’d been working together in Dutch for a couple of months that I discovered that he was a Bangor philosopher. We have lost touch – I think he never forgave me for repeatedly climbing through his bathroom window while he was out or asleep and eating all his food – which is a shame.

I was a bit negative about Dryden the other year, but I fear I was prejudiced against him by the powerful academic clique of grammar Rousseauians (essentially left-wing grammar Nazis), who will never forgive him for a chance remark about preposition position. So I will read on.

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