Tuesday, January 27, 2009

At the Tobacconist, part one

So, here's the text for the first half of the first of Tolkien's two contributions to the Linguaphone Institute set of English language lessons from circa 1930. So far as I can tell, Tolkien is not the author of these lines; I suspect all thirty scripts were written by Prof. A. Lloyd James (Professor of Phonetics, Univ. of London), who seems to have supervised the entire project. However, James is careful to note in his Introduction to the accompanying booklet that the speakers had input and could add to or modify their parts, so there may be some genuine Tolkienian details or turns of phrase. Here's how James describes it (emphasis mine):

"This Linguaphone Course contains the language that educated people in England use to-day; and every effort had been made to ensure that the language shall be natural. None of the nine speakers has been asked to say anything that he or she would not or could not say in the circumstances; they have all been given an entirely free hand in emending their lines. We believe that as a result, students of English now have for the first time a course that is unique in that it embodies the actual living idiom spoken by educated English men and women of the early part of the twentieth century . . ."

Lesson Twenty: "At the Tobacconist"


If anybody were to ask me which shop-windows I found the most interesting in London, I should find it very hard to answer. My wife, I know, would be all in favour of the drapers, the milliners, and the jewellers. My eldest son would be all for the sports shops, with their golf clubs, tennis rackets, cricket bats, and footballs. The children would vote for the toy-shops -- and I -- well, I must confess to a weakness for the tobacconist's window.

Not that I smoke a lot, but there's something fascinating about seeing the neat little piles of different coloured tobaccos, the beautifully polished briar pipes, the attractive boxes of cigars and cigarettes. If you smoke a pipe, you have the choice of dozens of excellent brands of pipe tobacco; if you are fond of cigars, then you can get them at any price you care to pay; and if you prefer cigarettes, then you may have Virginian, Turkish, or Egyptian, whichever you like. Virginian cigarettes are, of course, those made of Amerian tobacco.

Matches are good and cheap, and you'll find all kinds of articles for smokers such as tobacco pouches, cigar and cigarette cases and holders, lighters, and so on, in every tobacconist's window. Many tobacconists, especially in the suburbs, are at the same time newsagents, stationers, and booksellers, so that you can also buy books, magazines, newspapers, picture postcards, and other stationary -- notepaper, envelopes, and so on.

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