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The author is a researcher for the Stephen Fry quiz show QI, and the book basically reads like an extended set of QI rounds about funny words in foreign languages, all mildly amusing. I spotted one spelling error - the excellent Serbian word inat is given as iant - and there may be others, but I will not be consumed by vengeful spite over it; also I imagine there is room for interpretation of some of the definitions, such as the 10 Albanian ways of describing a moustache, which to be do not seem very different from the ways we describe different moustaches in English.

Going back to spelling, I was a bit dubious of the example given of a word with five consecutive consonants - cmrlj which is Slovenian for bumble-bee - first off, "lj" is a single letter in Slovenian and second I think the "r" is basically functioning as a vowel there. (If you are trying to say it to yourself, remember that "c" is pronounced "ts".) However there is no doubting the authenticity of the Dutch word with eight consecutive consonants, angstschreeuw - linguists may cry out in fear and horror that "ch" is a single phoneme, but it is spelt with two letters. (Again, if you are trying to say that to yourself, remember that "s" and "ch" are pronounced distinctly in Dutch, unlike in German.)

Like the TV programme it is based on, the book is a little too pleased with its own cleverness, but fun all the same.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 21st, 2009 08:57 pm (UTC)
Five consecutive consonants? Pah. Slovenian isn't even TRYING!

"Thrrchkel" is the Armenian for "to fly". Of course, as above, "rr" is effectively a vowel sound,and both the "th" and the "ch" are single consonants in the Armenian alphabet, but.... hey...
Oct. 22nd, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)
I've long been entertained by words like "bookkeeper" (three consecutive doubled letters) and "typewriter" (which is typed using the keys on only one row).
Oct. 22nd, 2009 09:18 am (UTC)
The word "prst" / "прст" means "finger" in the Slavic languages of the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, and consists of four consecutive letters - in both alphabets. (None of the languages in question uses "q".) And it can be inflected to "prstu" which is five consecutive letters.

Edited at 2009-10-22 09:20 am (UTC)
Oct. 22nd, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Isn't Slovenian ones of those languages where j is a bit vowelly? I admit to only going off footballer's names here.
Oct. 22nd, 2009 02:09 pm (UTC)
As a Slovenian, I can say that indeed "čmrlj" does not have 5 consonants, as the r is more in the function of a reduced vowel and is barely spoken. That is indeed a very bad example ;) And "lj" is seen as one consonant as well (in words such as Ljubljana...which drives foreigners crazy when they try to pronounce it :D)

And the "j" is very strongly spoken, so I wouldn't consider it a bit vowelly...
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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