I will not buy this tobacconist’s, it is scratched

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Monty_Python,_Dirty_Hungarian_Phrasebook

Linguistic misunderstandings have often been a recurrent theme in comedy. One of the best sketches on this topic is the “Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook” by Monty Python. The sketch was first aired as part of the show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” in 1970 and then proposed again, slightly modified, in “And Now for Something Completely Different”, the first movie of the surreal comedy group.

The sketch begins with a surreal dialogue between a Tobacconist and a Hungarian tourist – mediated by a phrasebook where the translations are completely inaccurate and not resembling at all what the tourist wanted to say. In the second part of the sketch, the phrasebook’s publisher is taken to court where he tries “to plead incompetence” while accused of causing a breach of peace.

This sketch reminds us of the importance of accuracy in translation and phrasebooks, and nowadays, increasingly, in various applications for mobile devices. Toward the end of the sketch, a guard reminds us also of the importance of terminology…