For linguists and readers truly thrilled by the meticulous study of languages.



Quirky facts about 60 European languages.

In his debut book in English, Dutch linguist and journalist Dorren, who speaks six languages and reads nine more, explores the origins, families, vocabularies, and grammars of 60 languages, dead (Dalmation), dying (Gaeltacht Irish), and alive. The political map of the continent appears as “a mass of solid monochromatic blocks,” the author writes, but a map of languages looks “more like a multi-colored mosaic in many places, while in other regions it resembles a floor that’s been sprinkled with confetti.” While he reveals many intriguing nuggets of information about languages from the familiar (French, German, Spanish) to the arcane (Manx, Ossetian, Sorbian), he assumes that readers have a fairly sophisticated knowledge of grammatical terms: absolutives, augmentatives, demonstratives, case, reflexive possessive pronouns, and ergative verbs may not be in every reader’s vocabulary. It helps to know the difference between subject and object, too, in order to grasp why the terms “agent” and “patient” are more appropriate to understanding Basque grammar. At the end of each chapter, Dorren cites a few words imported from that language into English: “anchovy,” from Portuguese; “avalanche” from Romansh (through French); “get” and “egg” from Early Norwegian. But nothing, sadly, from Latvian, or from Monégasque, a subdialect of Ligurian, spoken by about 100 people in Monaco. Besides borrowed words, Dorren suggests idiosyncratic terms that might well be taken up by English speakers: “Beloruchka,” Russian for a “ ‘white-hand person’; somebody who shirks dirty work”; or, from Slovak, “Proznovit,” “to make someone’s phone ring just once in the hope that they will call back.” The author describes his book as an “amuse-bouche,” a tasty morsel that gives diners a hint of a chef’s talent, and he certainly displays his own linguistic talents and enthusiasm for languages. Too often, however, he tells what people speak and where rather than how a language transformed and why.

For linguists and readers truly thrilled by the meticulous study of languages.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2407-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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