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The Meaning of Tingo.

The Meaning of Tingo by Adam Jacot de Boinod Penguin, hb, pp216, 10 [pounds sterling]

Adam Jacot de Boinod scoured 280 dictionaries and 140 websites, translating more than two million words and phrases in the process of putting together this book. Organised into sections such as falling in love, food, greeting people and trading insults, The Meaning of Tingo compares how cultural attitudes to universal situations differ by studying some of the world's more unusual words. For example, Albanians have 27 words for moustache and the same again for eyebrows. The Dutch have a verb solely to describe the act of walking in windy weather for fun and the Spanish phrase for dancing close together translates literally as 'polishing belt buckles'.

The concept behind the book is an interesting one, and Jacot de Boinod does a good job of translating his love of languages onto the page. However, The Meaning of Tingo fails to hold the attention throughout--after a while you begin to feel as though you might as well just be reading a dictionary. Thankfully, a series of interesting snippets break up the chapters, in which bite-sized chunks of trivia provide insights into the way in which languages change and evolve. But, sadly, even this isn't enough to grip anyone bar the most dedicated linguist for any length of time.

Ultimately, The Meaning of Tingo is a good novelty book that would make an excellent stocking filler, but the fact remains that it's a one-trick pony, and that probably means the same in whatever language you care to choose.

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Author:Sargent, Jo
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2005
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