Thursday, April 26, 2012

Laughing Out Loud

I don’t know when I’ve laughed out loud so often reading a book as I have with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. (Maybe Down the Garden Path, Our Hearts Were Young and Gay, or Cheaper By the Dozen?) There are so many hilarious selections, but this one slayed (slew?) me. The Connecticut Yankee has traveled back in time to the day of King Arthur, and he is incongruous with the setting in every way. At this point in the book, he is riding on a quest with a damsel in distress. This non-stop-talking damsel, Sandy, has just uttered a 297 word sentence full of flowery language in which no point is apparent. And Hank writes:

“I was gradually coming to have a mysterious and shuddery reverence for this girl; nowadays whenever she pulled out from the station and got her train fairly started on one of those horizonless transcontinental sentences of hers, it was borne in upon me that I was standing in the awful presence of the Mother of the German Language. I was so impressed with this, that sometimes when she began to empty one of these sentences on me I unconsciously took the very attitude of reverence, and stood uncovered; and if words had been water, I had been drowned, sure. She had exactly the German way; whatever was in her mind to be delivered, whether a mere remark, or a sermon, or a cyclopedia, or the history of a war, she would get it into a single sentence or die. Whenever the literary German dives into a sentences, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.”

Mark Twain is a master.


Laura at By the Bushel said...

I have been eyeing this book in my stack beside the bed... Now I've got to pick it up. Thanks!

CC Jen said...

LOL! Love Twain's way with words.

Katie said...

Ah, German. I may not know how to diagram a sentence, but I did learn German! Every German sentence is an exercise in diagramming.

Anonymous said...

(visiting from WTM) Last week I stumbled upon something from Twain that I'd never read, even though I thought I'd read it all. I laughed myself sick at this, as a former German student and the great-granddaughter of native German speakers: "The Awful German Language," by Mark Twain. ~Tibbie Dunbar