P.G.WODEHOUSE AS A LANGUAGE LEARNING SOURCE

In my student’s days big reels with magnetic tapes were kept under lock and key in book cases of our phonetic lab. The tapes often broke and each time we rushed to the lab assistant for the acetone glue to stick them together. The quality of recordings also left much to be desired, but there were two tapes which sounded perfect: one was “The Importance of Being Earnest” and the other “The Truth About George.” While Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece didn’t need any special introduction, neither the work that was the literary basis for “The Truth About George” nor its author was known to us. It was much later that I came to know about P.G. Wodehouse. The reason why he was not so much popularized (especially in the Soviet Union) might have been his cooperation with German periodicals in WWII to which he had contributed some of his stories. Accusations of that cooperation made him eventually emigrate from the U.K. to the U.S.A. in 1946. This way or another, but, not knowing the author, we knew his work (or, rather, the audio adaptation of his work) which we called “The Stammerer” for short. Why did we like it? Certainly, the first reason was its Englishness: the characters, their speech, the social environment, the famous English understatement, the humor of it. And then… it was about the power of the word, I guess. I’m not sure if our fluency in English was much better at that time than George’s was in the beginning of the story, but by the end, George and his bride spoke the most exquisite English we were after. Any of us who could approach that ideal of language command would be on top. And all of us wanted to be the best.

For those who may not be acquainted with the plot of P.G. Wodehouse’s story, I give its overview as I picked it up from Wikipedia:

George Mulliner, a nephew of Mr.Mulliner, was cursed with a terrible stammer but was not terribly concerned about it until he fell in love with Susan Blake, the daughter of the vicar of East Wobsley, the Worcestershire village in which they lived. Determined to get rid of the stammer, he visits a specialist in London who advises him to go and speak to three perfect strangers each day as a confidence building measure. George decides to do this immediately on the train back to London. Unfortunately, the first person he meets also stammers and to stammer back at this man ‘would obviously be madness’. The second person he meets turns out to be a lunatic runaway from the local asylum who thinks he is the Emperor of Abyssinia and wishes to perform a human sacrifice with George playing the lucky lamb. George manages to escape and takes refuge under a bench seat in a railway carriage. A woman takes a seat in the same compartment, and when George emerges from under the bench and tries to speak to her, she assumes that George must be the escaped lunatic. When George, unable to speak, decides to sing instead she faints. When a thermos falls and shatters as the train passes over some points, she leaps up and pulls the emergency cord, bringing the train to a halt. When a host of rustics appear, George decides to remove himself and does so at a high speed followed by twenty-seven rustics headed by a bearded man with a pitchfork.

Late that night, a bedraggled George appears at the vicarage and presents himself to Susan Blake. Cured of his stammer, he proposes and she accepts. The mob arrives and George removes himself again at top speed but his stammer is cured for ever.

So, when I came across the 1975 BBC adaptation of “The Truth About George” with John Alderton as George and Pauline Collins as Susanne, I decided to share the YouTube address.

Enjoy!

 

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