I have an attention span of approximately four seconds, which is probably why I search Google about 50 times a day. If I’m really well behaved I can make it through a film without resorting to my laptop, but more often than not these days I have my TV and computer on simultaneously, and give each of them half of my attention. I’m your typical 21st-century consumer.
This is by way of explaining how, a few years ago, I came across a number of Blackadder transcripts full of delightful and sometimes endearingly outlandish typographical errors. I suspect they date from before the publication of the scripts in book form. In one of them Darling compares Melchett’s moustache to a ‘private hedge’. You can find them now on any number of websites if you look for them.
Here are some selected highlights from one episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, ‘Corporal Punishment’. I hope this post doesn’t come across as an opportunistic assault on the illiterate or, as I suspect was the case with the original transcriber, the foreign. My intention is merely to shed light on some of the difficulties of writing things down if you don’t understand the language; if it makes you smile then that is quite coincidental. Several of the mistranscriptions arise from a lack of knowledge of what Doctor Johnson famously called ‘demotic Anglo-Saxon’ (Blackadder the Third, ‘Ink & Incapability’).
Edmund: You’d like to book a table for three by the window for 9.30 PM, not too near the band, in the name of Obel-ointment Fungentula.
[Oberleutnant von Genschler]
Edmund: We have orders for six meters of Hungarian crushed velvet curtain material, four rock salmon and a ha’pence of chips and a cab for a Mr. Redgrave picking up from 14 Arnost Grove Raintop Bell.
[14 Arnos Grove, ring top bell]
George: Rather we don’t want those sort of orders, we want orders to Deck Old Glory.
[death or glory]
Edmund: (puts on a record) “A wandering minstral eye in the…(record goes off, Edmund speaks) ..on Gail Force Eight.
[‘A wand’ring minstrel I’ / gale force eight]
George: I say, come on, sir, what’s the message? I’m on tenderhooks, do tell!
Baldrick: Look, it’s got a little ring ’round it’s leg, there’s a novelity!
Edmund: Well, sir, call me a bluffo traditionalist, but I was always taught to wait for the order to attack before attacking.
[bluff old traditionalist]
Melchett: I don’t care if he’s been watering the Duke of York with a prize-winning leak!
[rogering / leek]
Edmund: Not when he’s the finest mind in English legal history. Ever heard of Bob Mattingburg?
George: But anyway, let me open up my defence straight away, by saying that I’ve known this man for three years, he’s an absolutely gawking chap.
Melchett: The case before us is that of the crown vs. Captain Edmund Blackadder, the flanderous pigeon murderer!
Melchett: Nonsence! He’s a hound and a rutter, and he’s going to be shot!
Firing Squad Leader: Ahh, wish I could pause, sir. I really wish I could, but I can’t, you see, cos I’m a tabler, you see.
George: Ah, I think this calls for a celebration, don’t you? What about a toss of old Morehen’s Shredded Sporum, which Mum has just sent over?
[a tot of Old Moorhen’s Shredded Sporran]
George: (awaking) Oh, my head! Ah, my head! Feels like the time I was initiated into teh Silly Buggers society at Cambridge. I misheard the rules and push a whole oberjing into my earhole.