A couple of years ago, after finishing a day of speaking and selling my books at a conference, a woman I had met that day came up to me with a surprise gift. It was the book, What a Wonderful Word by Nicola Edwards.
When I got home, after reading the touching inscription, I started poring over the book – obviously written for word lovers.
It’s a collection of 64 untranslatable words from around the world. (By that, the author means there are no one-word translations.) Each colorfully illustrated page includes the word along with captivating tidbits about the culture where each word comes from.
For example, here I am (above) feeling for clams with my feet, then digging with a rake. There really is a word that means “to walk through water, searching for something with only your feet.” I should also mention I once found my daughter’s retainer she had lost in a lake — with my feet.
At my house, it’s a beautiful, sunny spring day but clearly too cold to go out for a walk. And yes, there is a word for that.
And then there is a word which means “the way you hesitate when you’ve forgotten someone’s name.”
Finally, I was drawn to retrouvailles which is perfect for our pandemic world, for it means “the happiness of being reunited with someone after along time apart.”
As a teacher or parent, how can you use this book?
- One word could be shared as a part of dessert at supper or for nighttime family reading, just for fun, cultural and geographical information.
- At school, students could learn to pronounce a word as it relates to a social studies unit.
- As a spin-off, some of these words could become secret “family” words – those that are used within the family that others might not know.
The author Nicola Edward and illustrator Luisa Uribe do a wonderful job celebrating, as they call it, the magic of language.