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Biting the Wax Tadpole: Confessions of a Language Fanaticby Elizabeth Little
Synopses & Reviews
Charming anecdotes, witty sidebars, attractive illustrations.... 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
A delightful language scrapbook - the deliberately disjointed diary of a language lover. - Chicago Tribune
A tour of all the quirk and queerness to be found among the world's many dialects ... her meandering, highly-readable riffs on Finnish prepositions and Incan counting systems manage to be funny, earnest, and not funny because of their earnestness - something of a feat for a book that could be used as a grammar primer. - The Onion A.V. Club
A wrap-worthy language book. A multilingual voyage, exploring the 'quirks, innovations, and implausibilities' of the world's languages. - Boston Globe
This is a fun book for grammar and pop-culture lovers alike. Little provides grammar basics and little-known facts by incorporating stories of her travels, Star Wars, Dr. Seuss and other familiar icons. It's both a breezy read and a useful resource. - Pop Candy, USAToday.com
A] quirky, funny, intelligent little book ... complete with amusing illustrations. Little has packed her work chock-full of the world's tantalizing linguistic nuggets. - Newsday
It's clear that Elizabeth Little's omnivorous curiosity has suited her well... This short, neon-colored book walks readers through categories that on paper should seem dry, from pronouns to numbers, spicing everything up with cultural comparisons. - The Newark Star-Ledger
A] feisty romp through the world's languages. - Rob Kyff, The Word Guy
Witty, sassy, andlaugh-out-loud funny. Little convincingly demonstrates that, as she puts it, 'language is nothing less than a great adventure.' So is her book. - Kitty Burns Florey, author of Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog
If you like language, you'll love Biting the Wax Tadpole. Elizabeth Little has mused on, used, and even misused many of the planet's languages, and this fascinating and often hilarious book gives a full account of her adventures. - Ben Greenman, author of A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both and Superbad In a decidedly unstuffy look at the staid world of languages, Elizabeth Little uses her favorite examples from languages dead, difficult, and just plain made-up to reveal how language study is the ticket to traveling the world without leaving the comforts of home. Little's exploration of word travel includes Shona, a language lacking distinct words for blue or green, why Icelandic speakers must decide if the numbers 1-4 are plural, which language is the only one lacking verbs, and just what, exactly, the Swedish names of IKEA products mean. Fully illustrated with hilarious sidebars, Biting the Wax Tadpole also addresses classic cases of mistranslation. For example, when Chinese shopkeepers tried to find a phonetic written equivalent of Coca-Cola, one set of characters they chose were pronounced ke-kou ke-la. It sounded right, but it translated literally as bite the wax tadpole. Not quite what Coke had in mind, but in this off-kilter ode to the words of the world, it's just another example of language taking you someplace interesting.
Elizabeth Little is a writer and editor living in New York City. She has worked as a literary agent and as a writer and editor forthe travel guide Let's Go: China, and her writing has appeared in The New York Times. This is her first book.
Grammar fanatic Little shares all of the irresistible irregular verbs and evolutionary quirks that give languages their character. The fully illustrated book includes funny, informative sidebars about classic cases of mistranslation (e.g. the literal translation of Coca-Cola into Chinese is bite the wax tadpole).
In this delightful language scrapbook ("Chicago Tribune"), Grammar fanatic Little delivers an irresistible field guide to the hilarious and sometimes unbelievable quirks and oddities that abound in the world's languages.
When Chinese shopkeepers tried to find a written equivalent of 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, like travel, is always stranger than we expect and often more beautiful than we imagine. In Biting the Wax Tadpole Elizabeth Little takes a decidedly unstuffy and accessible tour of grammar via the languages of the world--from Lithuanian noun declensions and imperfective Russian verbs to Ancient Greek and Navajo. And in one of the most courageous acts in the history of popular grammar books, she attempts to provide an explanation of verbal aspect that people might actually understand. Other difficult and pressing questions addressed in Biting the Wax Tadpole include:
*Just what, exactly, the Swedish names of IKEA products mean
*Why Icelandic speakers must decide if the numbers 1-4 are plural
*How Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) was able to take an otherwise unexceptional pair of breakfast foods and turn them into literary fodder for generations
*Why Joanie Loves Chachi was Korea's highest rated television show ever
*Why Basque grammar seems downright kooky to just about anyone who isn't a native speaker
When Chinese shopkeepers tried to find a written equivalent of 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, like travel, is always stranger than we expect, and is often more beautiful than we imagine. In BITING THE WAX TADPOLE, Elizabeth Little takes a decidedly unstuffy and accessible tour of the world’s languages–from Lithuanian noun declensions and imperfective Russian verbs to Ancient Greek and Esperanto.
With exuberance and wit, Little reveals that daring to move beyond monolingual isolation leads to nothing less than an astonishing diversity of the human experience. Fully illustrated and including hilarious sidebars, BITING THE WAX TADPOLE is a must-have for the language lover’s bookshelf.
About the Author
ELIZABETH LITTLE is a writer and editor living in New York City. In 2003, she graduated from Harvard University with a degree in political science and language citations in Mandarin and Classical Chinese. She has worked as a literary agent and as a writer and editor for the Lets Go guide to China, and her writing has appeared in the New York Times. This is her first book.
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