The Book of Heroic Failures

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In my “Why this blog? post I mentioned a book by Stephen Pile – here is a tiny selection of the good stuff…

The Book of Heroic Failures – The Official Handbook of the Not-Terribly-Good Club of Great Britain has been one of my favourite books for as long as I can remember.

The final chapter ‘The Art of Being Wrong’ contains quotes of people who…er got it wrong – concluding with author Stephen Pile’s prophecy.

The Book of Heroic Failures

Language teachers and learners may wish to bask in the glory of ingenious linguistic dexterity described in the book. In 1883, faced with the problem of not speaking English, Pedro Carolino wrote a Portuguese-English phrasebook. He did however possess Portuguese-French and French-Dictionaries.

The results are delightful.

Familiar Phrases include:

Dress your hairs.

This hat go well.

Exculpate me by your brother’s.

Undress you too.

Do you cut the hairs?

She make the prude.


Anecdotes include:

“One eyed was laid against a man which had good eyes that he saw better than him. The party was accepted. I had gain, over said the one eyed; Why I see you two eyes, and you look me who one.”


As for Idiotisms and Proverbs (try to work them out):

A take is better than two you shall have.

The stone as roll not heap up not foam.

The dog than bark not bite.

He eat to coaches.

Nothing some money, nothing of Swiss.



Pile, S. 1979. The Book of Heroic Failures, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, London.


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