Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lost In Translation

Sanders, Ella F. (2014), Lost In Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

All Ages / Non-Fiction / Language

I gave this book 4 out of 5 Stars.

I must start off by clarifying that I would have given this book SIX STARS (yes, more than possible) because I love the idea and the selection of words that Ella Frances Sanders found and shared -- and the book's colors and illustrations are beautiful and fun. I love language, pure and simple. Why not six stars then? I will get to that, but first I must gush. 
"The road-like reflection of the moon in the water." There's a word for that!
Here is a beautiful picture I took on the beach in Galveston, TX in the summer of 2013. I love how the moon reflects down on the water, like it's a path put in front of me, begging me to follow it. (Then I remind myself about the sharkie-sharks that live out there and the moment is gone.) The Swedish have a word for this whole scenario - mangata. Mangata!  I love seeing mangata and mangata loves me! Sanders connected me to this word that I will now use every occasion I am fortunate enough to witness it. 

Another favorite word from the book is 'akihi, which is an affliction I have and sadly, all of the males in my house have it as well.  'Akihi is listening to directions and then immediately forgetting them. It's really an international crisis, so why shouldn't we use the name it was rightfully given?  As an aside, I'm not surprised that the Hawaiian's have this word; I have visited Hawaii many times and asked for directions many more, and suffered 'ahiki pert near every time.

Why not a SIX STAR REVIEW, you ask?  This isn't the answer, but I have to share this because anyone who knows me and my grammar police freakishness will understand. I opened the book to the introduction, and the (tiny little printed) title read, "How you do introduce the untranslatable?" "How YOU DO introduce the untranslatable?" Whaaahuuuhh?? A goof in the very first (tiny little printed) sentence of the book? I was dangerously close to closing the cover right then. Thankfully, I got over that issue, and the only real problem I found with the book is in the choice for the color/font/size combination that was used to define each word -- the combo was okay when it had a completely white background (okay), but with colors and textures behind it, I had to spend too much time figuring out what was being said.  Here's an example from the book, defining the Arabic word ya 'aburnee, which incidentally, is the deal I have with my husband, whether he likes it or not.
Maybe it's just my old eyes -- certainly, that doesn't help -- but this was just tough to read, and it's a fabulously useful word for me. 

How I wish there had been a pronunciation guide to go along with the words, but that would have made the book way too serious for most people. Most people, I do understand, are not like me with language.  And truly, what Sanders provides is enough to delight any reader. Happily, I have Swedish, Hawaiian, and Arabic connections to help me with my three favorites, but finding native speakers of Tulu, Tagalog, and Urdu might prove more challenging!

Thank you to Blogging For Books for providing me a hardcover copy (to have and hold forever!) in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.


  1. I knew there had to be a word for it! 'Akihi is something I really struggle with. The words just seem to turn into noises as soon as I hear them; it doesn't matter how many times it's repeated. Maybe it's a 'bloke thing'. Give me a map any day, verbal directions really do get lost in translation.

    Israel Oliver @ Atlas Translations

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I think it's a widespread phenomenon and gender ignorant(since I'm no bloke and suffer akihi on a regular basis).