What a Wonderful Phrase

What a Wonderful Phrase
Nicola Edwards and Manu Montoya
Little Tiger

Nicola Edwards and illustrator Manu Montoya take readers on a world tour looking at idioms from far and wide, including such places as Sweden, South Africa, Korea, Nigeria and Greece. There’s even this: ‘Nuces relinquere’, Latin for ‘To Give Up Nuts’ which to the Ancient Romans meant to give up childish ways. Fascinating, as are all the other idiomatic phrases in this book, each of which is explained in a gently humorous manner in this compilation of curious utterances.

We learn the cultural and historical facts behind for instance, ‘Putting Watermelons Under Someone’s Arms’. Originating in Iran (then Persia) and also found in Azerbaijan and Turkey, it translates as ‘conning someone into doing a tiresome or stupid task for you’.

I was surprised at how many of the idioms mention food.

Can you guess the meaning of ‘To split open the crocodile’s intestine’ a phrase sometimes said by Izon speakers living around the Niger Delta. If your home language is English you’ll surely be familiar with ‘to butter someone up’ and ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ but unless you speak Dutch you aren’t likely to have come across ‘a monkey sandwich story’.

I couldn’t help but laugh at this Icelandic one that translates as ‘peeing in your shoes will only keep you warm for a short while’. Really? However the accompanying bit about an unusual delicacy said still to be consumed by some did not appeal to my vegan sensibilities. Gross!

As well as being amusing, this delightfully illustrated book is an exploration of the diversity of language and a presentation of snippets from many different cultures that readers of all ages can enjoy sharing and discussing.

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