Saturday, January 08, 2011

Malaria prevails extensively

I am reading Schott's Almanac 2010, an excellent book Mum and Dad gave me for Christmas. Ben Schott collects a wide range of topical information, analyses the year in news, and then sometimes throws in things like this: from the 3rd edition of The Anglo-American Telegraphic Code (1891).

Like one of those old phrase books for dealing with difficult natives, this list of code words says a great deal about the circumstances where it was expected to be used. The heat is merciless, the jungle impenetrable, bribery is endemic and the white man has to bring civilization and extract a profit by any means at his disposal.
BARRACAN: A battle is reported to have begun.
FLANK: A fire is raging here. Please send engine.
KAVASS: A large number were killed.
MAHOGANY: Malaria prevails extensively.
MANNITE: The market should be manipulated.
RUSSET: Bank just robbed.
EDUCT: A large amount has been embezzled.
PANEL: Stocks have reached panic prices.
EXPEDITE: You can go to any extreme.
COMMITTER: Compulsion must be used if necessary.
ALOOFNESS: Agent is dead.
INSIDIATOR: How much is your life insured for?
But once the hinterland has been subdued, the swamp drained and the fire put out, there was time for the finer things.
HUB Can you recommend to me a competent housemaid?
CAUSSON Give liberally for charitable purposes.
TITMOUSE I accept with pleasure your invitation for the theatre tomorrow evening.

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