Learn about words such as “pålegg” and “pochemuchka” in this handy assortment of words from around the world.
What makes a word untranslatable? Per Edwards, sometimes one-to-one translations simply don’t exist. Often, however, untranslatable words are “tied to a specific way of life,” naming certain moods and experiences inseparable from their cultures. For example, the Swedish “gökotta” describes an early morning full of singing birds, depicted in Uribe’s lush artwork as a person standing amid trees bathed in morning light. The text, meanwhile, presents a smattering of factoids about Sweden and Swedish culture (“forests cover 69% of the country”), offering some much-needed context. Next up is “verschlimmbesserung,” a German word expressing “a supposed improvement that makes things worse.” The author delivers some comical examples to explain it; in the illustration, a child “improves” on a portrait as a shocked adult watches in dismay. Each double-page spread follows this pattern. A word rests prominently on the page, with some text to sketch its origins or context, while the splendid pictures depict people from around the world. It’s a long and overstuffed collection, containing words that range from humorous (“friolero,” Spanish: “someone who is always cold”) to poignant (“hiraeth,” Welsh: “nostalgic longing for a homeland or past”). The included pronunciation guide gives tips aimed at a general English-reading audience, but a lack of sources for further reading obscures and limits the book’s worldly scope.
A fine, informative read that may spur young readers to pursue more words unfamiliar to them. (Informational picture book. 5-adult)