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.”

One-Note Sentences

Monotonous conversation from around the world:


Etsivät etsivät etsivät etsivät etsivät.
“The searching detectives are searching the searching detectives.”


¿Cómo como? ¿Cómo cómo como? Como como como.
“How do I eat? What do you mean, how do I eat? I eat how I eat.”


Ái á Á á á í á.
“A farmer named Ái, who lives on a farm by the name of Á, owns a female sheep that is in a river.”


Sayang, sayang sayang sayang, sayang sayang sayang?
“Darling, I love you, dear, do you love me?”


Stanca sta-n castan ca Stan.
“Stanca stood in a chestnut tree like Stan.”


A követ követ követ.
“The envoy follows a stone.”


Bababa ba? Bababa!
“Going down? It is!”

Jabberwocky Spell-Checked

`Twas billing, and the smithy toes
Did gyre and gamble in the wage:
All missy were the brogues,
And the mime rats outrage.

“Beware the Jabber Wick, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujube bird, and shun
The furious Bender Snatch!”

He took his viral sword in hand:
Long time the Manxwomen foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tutu tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in offish thought he stood,
The Jabber Wick, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffing through the tulle wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The viral blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And, has thou slain the Jabber Wick?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O crablouse day! Callow! Allay!’
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas billing, and the smithy toes
Did gyre and gamble in the wage;
All missy were the brogues
And the mime rats outrage.

Able Was I

One French Republican, by writing and analyzing, has produced the following:–,M1

Which, being arranged in the form of a sentence, gives, ‘Napoleon on o leon leon eon apoleon poleon‘–which is the Greek for ‘Napoleon, being the lion of the people, was marching on, destroying the cities!‘

— Appleton Morgan, Macaronic Poetry, 1872