Can You Do Without Soap?

Heinrich Ollendorff meant well. The grammarian intended his phrasebooks to teach German, French, Danish, and Russian to a new generation of language students. But who would ever need to speak these sentences?

  • Stop, the postilion has been struck by lightning!
  • A man is drowning. Is there a life buoy, a rope, a grapnel at hand?
  • Unhand me, sir, for my husband, who is an Australian, awaits without.
  • After having lost all my money, I was beaten by bad-looking men; and, to my still greater ill luck, I hear that my good uncle, whom I love so much, has been struck with apoplexy.

Ironically, he’s remembered today in the adjective ollendorffian, which means “in the stilted language of foreign phrasebooks.”