Not a good book review

These non-sentences are at least intelligible. Much of Ms. Badkhen’s prose is not. Are you annular, gracile, eldritch or polypous? Do you want to learn what thurls, anabranches and alkahests are, or how to adumbrate or anastomose? Fear not: You don’t have to go all the way to Mali. Just send someone there to learn the local language and then write back in English. Presto: everyone will think you’ve learned Fulani, but you are actually still speaking the mother tongue.

Frequently, when the Scrabble dictionary fails to provide a word of sufficient obscurity, the author will simply invent one, each more pretentious and unnecessary than the last. Something that is gray-blue in color is “grayblue”; a cooking fire is a “cookingfire”; herding at night is “nightherd.” English is blessed with more words than any other language. There is no need to borrow from our German friends the horrors of compound wordmacht.

Will Self has a lot to answer for…..

16 thoughts on “Not a good book review”

  1. English has thousands of compound nouns (slaughter house, door bell, bath room, earth worm, etc. etc.) In fact we also do compound verbs and adjectives which German does less of. It just takes a few decades for them to become accepted , whereas in German new ones are invented on a daily basis, no questions asked.

  2. @BiG, not only that, we compound words without even realising we’re doing it – we delude ourselves that we don’t because we tend to leave the spaces in there or hyphenate.

    Spring cleaning, for instance. Spring ain’t an adjective modifying the noun “the cleaning”… And the French don’t do this – “ménage de printemps” – “cleaning of spring”, since they don’t stack nouns to compound them.

    Once of the nice things about getting a good grip on German is that you get so much insight as to the hows and whys of a lot of English grammar (which we were never taught in school), even if a lot of our vocab comes from French.

    And talking of inventing nice Germans ones, how’s about this one for the LHTD: Gleichschaltungslust

  3. @BiG

    The literally-translated title for the German translation of his next book: Steuerfreude

    I think that sounds suitably creepy….

  4. I can’t remember where I saw it (might’ve been Bill Bryson), but I really like this

    English doesn’t so much borrow words; rather it drags other languages into a dark alley and mugs them for their vocabulary

  5. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Joyce is for ostentatiously carrying on the bus to show “look how clever I am.” Make sure you angle the cover so that everyone can see.

  6. Joyce is for ostentatiously carrying on the bus…

    I have been called for Jury duty a couple of times, and while it may be a civic obligation to serve, the financial penalty for a self-employed person is excessive. In each case I took care to wear a suit and (expensive) tie, and take my weekly copy of the Economist. One; it was for reading, but Two (and mainly); it was for signalling to the Crown prosecutor how much he would like to have me on the jury, and to signal the exact opposite to the defense counsel. The nice red rectangle in the top-left corner remains wonderfully visible when the magazine is casually folded when each prospective juror is evaluated…

  7. If I wrote romance novels, I would use the nom de plume “Joyce James”. It has a very romance novel ring to it.

    The Torrid Heart by Joyce James.

    Mmm, lovely.

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