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Singing My Little Song

Posted by Dirck on 10 January, 2013

I believe I’ve mentioned now and again that I’m not as smart as I let myself think I am.  This is the sort of thing that allows of elegant petard-hoisting now and again.

A little before Christmas, I allowed myself to bid on a Parker “51” that appeared on eBay from a user in Belgium.  “Appeared” is the operative word, since my pursuing it was based on the strength of there being little time left on the auction, a relatively low current bid, and this picture:

Well... that looks OK.  Right?

Well… that looks OK. Right?

I also glanced at the written description, but a glance was all I took, as it was entirely in French.  I’m a… well, I’m a bad Canadian.  I have not learned both official languages.  So, when confronted with a block of text in French, rather than diligently apply myself to engage the bare smattering that one gets from living with cereal boxes and government forms printed in two languages, I took away only this:

Stylo ploom argle “PARKER 51” . Glalpl æ diplr.  casdlter or  1/1012 CT R. GOLD , copse grez vωrt.


PUDDY TAT: ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn 4mm dan dan fielding.

Some time passes, and the item appears in the mail.  Now, as I’d know it must, it came from Wallonia rather than Flanders, and when I opened it I instantly remembered my past immoderate statements about people who are French, and realized that I may have to extend them to the merely ethnically French.  The pen was sent in a very slightly padded envelope, wrapped in a thickish piece of paper which had been folded over.  Twice.

…but it was largely intact for all that.  Just a small, forgivable, undo-able dent in the cap.  A sigh of relief followed, and then a brief struggle to get the all-too-firmly applied cap free.  Sigh of relief’s successor was gasp of horror.

Peace? Victory? Two? Long live and prosper?  No... it's that rude British gesture.

Peace? Victory? Two? Long live and prosper? No… it’s that rude British gesture.

A big chip out of the hood!  The point all bent up!  A red mist descended, and I was heard to mutter something along the line of, “Wretched…! Why I oughta…!  Mundane noodle! Glpsx!  WALLOON! ”  and then an oath to leave some quite stinging feedback on the transaction.

Happily, a day passed and I didn’t act in the grip of emotion.  I had another glance at the text, but this time with “I might be able to comprehend this” in place as a filter.  The previous data was thus transformed to:

Stylo plume ancien  “PARKER  51”  . Capuchon à clipser. capuchon  or 1/1012 CT R. GOLD ,  corps gris vert .


ETAT : la plume est déformée et il y a un très petit manque de matière près de celle ci. Un léger enfoncement sur 4 mm dans le capuchon.

…and that third line turns the tables on me.  I dare not attempt an actual translation, because a lifetime of “Valeur nutritive– % valeur quotidienne” doesn’t really set one up for that, but in essence, everything that is wrong with the pen is laid out right there.  The point is deformed.  There’s a manky bit on the hood.  The shallow dent on the cap is indeed about 4mm across.

I left positive feedback, with a small note about the scanty padding.  It was all I could do in the face of the evidence, and as I did, I composed a short song to the tune of a song popular in the 1950s:

Polyglot, polyglot, wish I was polyglot!

Polyglot, polyglot, wish I was polyglot!

Polyglot! Dumb dumb dumdumb.

Vulpen van de dag: Hero 100
L’encre de jour: Herbin’s Bleu Myosotis


5 Responses to “Singing My Little Song”

  1. Andrew said

    You got it, except the “manky bit on the hood”

    A more or less direct translation (I’ve taken some liberties, as I believe that the translation for ‘plume’ is ‘nib’ as opposed to the more direct translation ‘pen’ as ‘stylo’ would be a better word when making reference to the entire pen.)

    The nib is deformed and there is a small amount of material missing near it. A shallow 4mm dent in the cap.

    Should you find another pen for sale with a french description feel free to give me a shout — I’m sure you know where to find me. translate.google.ca is always a good fall back.

    Google provides the following translation:
    “CONDITION: the pen is distorted and there is a very small area near lack of thereof. A slight depression of 4 mm in the cap.”

    The syntax is off, but it should help you get the gist of the description. Clicking on the words results in ‘nib’ as a possible correct translation for ‘plume’

    • There are some lessons one is proof against, and I’m sure I’ll repeat this foolishness with slight variations time and again. It’s not unlike trapping a monkey by putting a treat inside a hole only just big enough for a monkey’s paw to pass through; holding the treat, it can’t withdraw, and so the monkey remains stuck, reputedly too silly to drop the treat even as the trapper approaches with his machete.

      In the instant case, I’m worried mainly about the missing bit on the hood, as the hood has a role in flow in the “51”, so even if I reshape it to look a little less horrid it may not run right. I know a chap with a large stock of parts, so that’s not insurmountable, and the price was still pretty good.

  2. Maja said

    The “la plume est déformée” set off my alarm bells, but then again, it’s so easy to miss things in an eBay description, and unless the seller posts a close-up of the damaged area(s), it is even easier to miss. Hope you can get a spare hood and get that Parker 51 up & running!

    • I’m intent on reshaping the hood as a first step. I’m actually fairly confident of rehabilitation… in the pen, at least. In myself, it’s more “unfounded optimism” than confidence.

      • Maja said

        I’m sure you’re more than capable of doing it, although it sounds like a daunting venture to me 🙂

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