What a Wonderful Word is a wonderful book for word-lovers of all ages.
It presents a collection of words from all over the world which have no direct translation in English, and yet they all describe situations that readers will easily understand. But these words aren’t only succinct labels for different lived experiences; they also shed light on the daily lives of the people who coined them. They reflect their priorities, philosophy and world view. Some words are exquisitely poetic and evocative, such ‘kawaakari’ – Japanese for the gleam of the last light reflected on a river at dusk. Or they can be simultaneously practical and funny, such as ‘poronkusema’ – the Finnish word for the distance a reindeer can walk between toilet breaks! While the Hopi word ‘koyaanisqatsi’ inspired the iconic short film by Godfrey Reggio, scored by Philip Glass, and describes the critical imbalance of the natural world – a crisis we think of as recent but which the First Nation people observed and named a very long time ago.
Every word entry in this chunky little book is beautifully illustrated and the author provides colourful details about the traditions that surround them. There is a helpful pronunciation guide too – even for the English ones. While generating very interesting discussion in a group or classroom setting, What a Wonderful Word invites reflection from adults and children alike about the endless inventiveness of humankind and how beautiful language can be. And it makes you smile – there should be a word for that!