Friday 21 September 2012
I Never Knew There Was A Word For It, Adam Jacot de Boinod
Word-lovers are my kind of people. You know the type: people who are genuinely delighted by digging up a little-known, little-used or merely weird expressions. Sir Terry Pratchett springs to mind (with his obvious joy in using words like 'sussuration' or 'figgin'), but the world is full of word-o-maniacs of a lesser standing, too.
I Never Knew There Was A Word For It is a book just for them.
Three books, to be precise. The volume consists of three separate titles bound together: The Meaning of Tingo, Toujours Tingo and The Wonder of Whiffling. A bit of a bargain, really.
De Boinod's impressive collection is full of strange words and phrases with even stranger meanings, gathered from numerous languages from around the world (in case of the first two parts) and old/slang English (The Wonder of Whiffling). Let me give you a few examples (and I'm quoting directly):
kakobijin (Japanese) - the sort of woman who talks incessantly about how she would have been thought of as a stunner if she had lived in a different era, when men's tastes in women were different
Maurerdekoltee (German) - a bricklayer's cleavage (the part of a man's backside you can see when he stoops deeply and his trouser waistband goes down a little bit)
wosdohedan (Dakota, USA) - paths made by squirrels in the grass
As you can see, de Boinod's words are really strange sometimes.
Don't worry about the book's thickness (more than 700 pages) - it looks scary, but in reality it is full of drawings and averages about 15 lines of text per page. :)
I Never Knew There Was A Word For It is not really an exercise in foreign languages - you're unlikely to remember more than three expressions out of the whole brick-like book. It's more of a statue to the human ingenuity when it comes to inventing words. You can see how people's environment and lifestyle shapes their language, and also how intermingled languages really are. A true feast for people of philological persuasion.