Some more books reviews ... 1. "The Meaning of Tingo (And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World)" by Adam Jacot de Boinod <http://www.amazon.com/Meaning-Tingo/dp/1594200866> This is a fun book about interesting, amusing, and very specific words and phrases from various languages. Last year I briefly mentioned an article about the book in a B-List post. Many of the words are chosen because they have no direct equivalent in English. That was my main interest. Other phrases appear to provide stark contrasts between cultures. It's interesting to see how circumstances affect language: for example, there's the well known Inuit fascination with different types of snow, as well as the lesser known precision with which Albanians use to identify eyebrows and moustaches. However, reading some of the reviews, the rigour of the author may be in question. I did some googling and in some cases the only places the words appear are in pages about the book, so it seems the author is either making some of them up, or has been a little sloppy. But I guess if you take the book with a pinch of salt, you're bound to find something that will appeal you. It's divided into themes, e.g. work, food, weather etc. Here are some words I found interesting that I've been able to verify on the web: * ataoso = "one who sees problems with everything" (Central American Spanish) * mokita = "the truth that all know but no one talks about" (Kiriwani, Papua New Guinea) * nedovtipa = "one who finds it difficult to take a hint" (Czech) * Shadenfreude = "the feeling of malicious pleasure in someone else's misfortune" (German) * Weltschmerz = "a sense of sorrow at the evils of the world and a yearning for something better" (German) * jeito = "to find a way to get something done, no matter what the obstacles" (Brazilian Portuguese) * sprezzatura = "the effortless technique of a great artist" (Italian) The author has set up a blog to promote the book: <http://themeaningoftingo.blogspot.com/> It includes snippets from the book, plus new material. A couple of articles about the book: * "Tingo, nakkele and other wonders" <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4248494.stm> * "Tingo and other lingo" <http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/002500.html> 2. "Metamorphosis" by Franz Kafka <http://www.amazon.com/Metamorphosis-Franz-Kafka/dp/0553213695> The book starts with the opening sentence: "When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself changed into a monstrous cockroach in his bed." Given that intriguing opening, and with the book being only 78 compact pages, I decided to look into the writings of Kafka. I'm sure millions of words have been written about this story. In fact, the edition described on the Amazon page above includes 9 essays about the story that dwarf the length of the work itself. Many reviewers see the story as a savage indictment of the bourgeois lifestyle, and Gregor's story as the battle against egocentric parents and cruel bosses. I can accept these arguments. Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but one of the things I found interesting about the story was how Gregor's metamorphosis into a hideous cockroach triggered trans- formations in those around him, in particular his younger sister (who briefly took on the role as carer and provider for Gregor), and to some extent the father (who found a job to support the family now that Gregor could no longer work). So, by changing oneself (whether by intention or not), it is possible that those around you will also be changed to some extent. BTW, the edition that I read is depicted here: <http://www.amazon.com/Metamorphosis-Franz-Kafka/dp/0141023457> and includes another short story by Kafka. 3. "Sette racconti" ("Seven Tales") by Alberto Moravia <http://www.amazon.com/Racconti-Romani-Moravia/dp/8845248976> This is a collection of seven short stories from the larger collection "Racconti Romani" (Roman Tales). The stories are written about the post-war period in Rome. They share a common theme of people living in hard times, sometimes day-to-day, trying to get by however they can. But the stories are not all bleak, as there are little moments of humour and farce, as well as some glimmers of hope. I'll highlight a couple of my favourites. "La ciociara" is about an archaeology professor who wants to hire a peasant girl to be his house- keeper, believing that she would have a cheerful disposition and be a good cook. Unfortunately, it doesn't take her long to trade her country clothes and looks to take up the style of a city girl. Her cooking skills, or lack thereof, disappoint her employer. She starts going out with an unsavoury character, and they conspire to steal some books. The theft is later uncovered by a friend of the professor, and she tries to make things right by replacing them. Unfortunately, she can't read, so instead of books on archaeology she gets books about law instead. The professor finds out, and when confronted the girl says the books are the same size and have the same weight as the ones she took - in fact, they even look better! The professor initially laughs, but then complains that the girl is perhaps too rustic after all. "Quant'è caro" is about friendship, or rather the appearance of friendship. Luigi has some luck and help to open up a successful butcher shop. His friend Arturo is not so lucky, trying to raise his family in difficult times. After his shop takes off, Luigi decides to buy a car, and takes Arturo along to the dealership. Tensions appear, and Luigi's wife suggests that Arturo is jealous of his success. Such fears are calmed, when Luigi announces his first child is due, and Arturo seems genuinely happy for him. But later, when Luigi takes Arturo to see the flash new apartment he has bought in a well-to-do neighbourhood, Arturo utters "quant'è caro" - "how dear it/he is". Luigi takes offence, accusing Arturo of being overcome with jealousy. Arturo leaves in a huff, the friendship apparently in ruins. Luigi's wife claims she was right all along, but Luigi realises he may have been at fault. Perhaps he gloated too much about his success, subconsciously rubbing Arturo's nose in it every chance he could. I think what Arturo meant by the comment "quant'è caro" is how costly his friendship to Luigi has been. Over many years he repeatedly forgave the behaviour of his inconsiderate, show-off friend, but in the end it went beyond the pale and he could no longer accept it.