Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Review: In Other Words by Christopher J. Moore

I love words. I love them singly. I love them together. I am fascinated by the way that language originated and the way it is still changing today. I love idioms and word origins. I am tickled when I learn about words that have no translation and wonder why one culture needs a word to describe a certain phenomenon and why another culture doesn't. In short I am your stereotypical word nerd. So Christopher J. Moore's In Other Words was completely and totally the type of book I was guaranteed to buy, inhale, and enjoy.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of words and phrases that we don't use or have a translation for in English; it is more a sampling of those that Moore found most interesting. He showcases many different and diverse cultures' languages, offering tidbits of history or etymology in explaining the phrases. His phrases range from Turkish to Maori, Navajo to Gaelic, Greek to Norwegian, Yiddish to Mandarin, British English to Bantu, and more. Interestingly, some of the words Moore includes (and he originally published a very similar book with much of the same content in 2004) have made their way into English and no longer need to be included in the words that have no translation. They no longer need one because, as English is wont to do, we have appropriated them wholesale and use them cheerfully, having adopted them and embraced their concepts (hygge comes to mind here). The book is organized into roughly geographical or historical chapters with a few oddballs thrown in. The illustrations are simple and in a paper collage kind of style, leaving the words and phrases themselves to be the stars of the show. Because of the nature of the book, it is probably better as a thing to dip in and out of rather than reading straight through. It is entertaining and generally informative but could easily have be longer. It would be interesting to see what lexical gems Moore left out that someone else might think worth including. Over all though, this is a brief word nerd's delight, an amuse bouche of books.

1 comment:

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