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Biting the Wax Tadpole: Confessions of a Language Fanatic

Elizabeth Little. Ayumi Piland, illus.
Publisher Spiegel & Grau  
Format paperback
Product Dimensions 8.25 x 7.1 x 0.5 inches
ISBN 9780385527743
Pages/Publication Date 186/2007
Daedalus Item Code 42306
List Price: $14.95
Sale Price: $3.98
You Save: $10.97
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When Chinese shopkeepers tried to transcribe Coca-Cola, one set of characters they chose was pronounced "ke-kou ke-la"; it sounded right, but it literally translated as "bite the wax tadpole." Language is much like travel itself, says Elizabeth Little; it is always stranger than we expect and often more beautiful than we imagine. Also the author of Dear Daughter, and a confessed klutz at foreign tongues, Little takes a decidedly unstuffy and entertaining tour of grammar via the languages of the world (complete with cute cartoons), from Lithuanian noun declensions and imperfective Russian verbs to what, exactly, the Swedish names of IKEA products mean.

"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. 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.... 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."Publishers Weekly

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