Publication Date: 04/11/2021 ISBN: 9781785787379 Category:

The Babel Message

Keith Kahn-Harris

Publisher: Icon Books Ltd
Publication Date: 04/11/2021 ISBN: 9781785787379 Category:
Hardback

£12.99

Quantity:

Description

‘Quite simply, and quite ridiculously, one of the funniest and most illuminating books I have ever read. I thought I was obsessive, but Keith Kahn-Harris is playing a very different sport. He really has discovered the whole world in an egg.’ Simon Garfield

A thrilling journey deep into the heart of language, from a rather unexpected starting point.

Keith Kahn-Harris is a man obsessed with something seemingly trivial – the warning message found inside Kinder Surprise eggs:

WARNING, read and keep: Toy not suitable for children under 3 years. Small parts might be swallowed or inhaled.

On a tiny sheet of paper, this message is translated into dozens of languages – the world boiled down to a multilingual essence. Inspired by this, the author asks: what makes ‘a language’? With the help of the international community of language geeks, he shows us what the message looks like in Ancient Sumerian, Zulu, Cornish, Klingon – and many more. Along the way he considers why Hungarian writing looks angry, how to make up your own language, and the meaning of the heavy metal umlaut.

Overturning the Babel myth, he argues that the messy diversity of language shouldn’t be a source of conflict, but of collective wonder. This is a book about hope, a love letter to language.

‘This is a wonderful book. A treasure trove of mind-expanding insights into language and humanity encased in a deliciously quirky, quixotic quest. I loved it. Warning: this will keep you reading.’ – Ann Morgan, author of Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer

Publisher Review

Quite simply, and quite ridiculously, one of the funniest and most illuminating books I have ever read. I thought I was obsessive, but Keith Kahn-Harris is playing a very different sport. He really has discovered the whole world in an egg. -- Simon Garfield The Babel Message is a gloriously inflected record of an obsession ... [It] manages to teach us a great deal about language - its protean energy and its slipperiness - but also makes us properly laugh (a rare Venn diagram, believe me). ... Kahn-Harris's fan-boy passion for the gorgeous surface of written language and his own skill in deploying it make the book a complete delight. -- John Mitchinson, author of The QI Book of General Ignorance This is a wonderful book. A treasure trove of mind-expanding insights into language and humanity encased in a deliciously quirky, quixotic quest. I loved it. Warning: this will keep you reading. -- Ann Morgan, author of Reading the World: Confessions of a Literary Explorer I would warn everyone to read and keep this beautifully written book ... Keith explores the world of language - what it is, what it means and how we use it. Keith's precisely written prose celebrates the wonderful imprecision of language in all its glory. -- James Ward, founder of The Boring Conference and author of Adventures in Stationery: A Journey Through Your Pencil Case In this unlikely story of a quixotic translation, Keith Kahn-Harris illuminates how language-learning can hone our minds, strengthen our empathy, and lead us all to justice. Read this book - and immerse yourself in the raw pleasure of linguistic diversity. -- Daniel Boegre Udell, Executive Director, Wikitongues

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