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Saturday 20 August 2011

Saturday Rave: Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K Jerome.

This is the second book featuring Harris, George and J. Their first, more famous, outing is described in Three Men in a Boat, where the three men (to say nothing of the dog) row up the Thames towards Oxford - and fail to get there.

Three Men on the Bummel describes a bicycling holiday to Germany, and I love it even more than Three men in a Boat. Three Men on the Bummel doesn't feel the need for sentimental interludes, for one thing, and it is also really shockingly prescient (it was published in 1900) on the subject of Germany's potential for following any leader who presents himself to the country.

And Jerome has such fun. Here he is on the difficulties of pronouncing a foreign word.

'Press your tonsils against the underside of your larynx. Then with the convex part of the septum curved up so as to almost - but not quite - touch the uvulva, try with the tip of your tongue to reach your thyroid. Take a deep breath, and compress your glottis. Now, without opening your lips, say "Garoo".

And when you have done it they are not satisfied.'

Word To Use Today: bummel. I must admit this hasn't really become an English word, but I do wish it had. We used to have the lovely batie-bummil, which means an idle fellow, and the Americans among us still have bum, meaning what in Britain we would call a tramp. 

A bummel is a journey made with no particular purpose, and both it and bum probably come from the same German word, bummeln, which means to loaf.

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