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Descripción de editorial
What can Johnny Cash’s lyrics teach us about the little-known Tangut dialect? Is ‘tabernacle’ really a swear word in Quebecois? Which language has absolutely no verbs? What is Earth’s politest insult? And what is biting the wax tadpole actually a translation of?*
Prepare for a hilarious rollercoaster ride through hundreds of well-known, obscure, difficult, dead and even made-up languages. Elizabeth Little has waded through innumerable verb tables in every available mood and tense, untangled up to eighteen cases of noun, and wrestled with all kinds of complicated adjective, participles and glottal stops to bring you the best and most bizarre quirks of the ways people communicate all around the globe.
From the language that has no different word for ‘blue’ or ‘green’, to why Icelanders need official permission to name their children, from what makes a Korean TV hit to what people might think you’re saying if you order eggs in Spain, Biting the Wax Tadpole will ensure you’re never lost for words again.
*Coca-Cola, would you believe it?
In her debut book, writer and editor Little searches in "linguistic nooks and crannies" for the "quirks, innovations and implausibilities of the world's languages," threading witty pop culture references through tapestries of language trivia written with the not-so-linguistic reader in mind. (The title refers to the mistranslation in Chinese of "Coca-Cola.") Little strips linguistics of its academic drudgery, showing how the Tangut language uses verbs by translating phrases like Johnny Cash's lyric "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die"; referring to pop-culture icons like Al Gore, Jabba the Hutt and the Smurfs to get the point across; and covering every language from Yoruba, a West African language, to the verbless Kelen, invented as an experiment by a Berkeley undergraduate. The book contains charming anecdotes, witty sidebars, attractive illustrations (by Ayumi Piland) and comprehensive linguistics lessons on topics ranging from the well-known ("Verbs conjugate, nouns decline") to the obscure (the disjunctive adjective: "The most infamous English example is 'hopefully,' that famed b te noir of addled prescriptionist fussbudgets"). Little's strong sense of humor never overwhelms her love of languages in this fascinating yet educational introduction to linguistics for a wide, pop-savvy audience.