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review 2017-11-30 14:28
'Bang My Car' by Ann Ang
Bang My Car - Ann Ang

Bang My Car was gifted to me by a friend returning from a work trip in Singapore. I am not sure what linked me to this book in their mind but I am glad things worked out as they did. Bang my Car is a short story collection dealing most notably with language in Singapore, specifically the use and acceptance of "Singlish," an English dialect particular to that country. But, as language goes so goes identity, politics, economics, and family, all of which come through in this collection.


I, like the dust jacket and the intro, make a lot of the use of Singlish, but the language isn't any more difficult than Junot Diaz [for non-Spanish speakers]. The language represents one facet of concerns across generations and classes about identity. Ang writes a lot about family, with the parents representing a westernized post-industrial economy driven by the need to work and improve their station while older generations pushing against these foreign influences. It's the older "uncles" usually speaking in Singlish, where the parents are interested in wine, violin lessons, and schooling. And we observe from the perspective of the youth, uncertain what to make of it all.


Many of the stories are written in the second person, often an old man ranting at the "you" [in the person of some neighbor or party in a care accident]. The effect can be alienating, like watching a subject under glass. The remove is most obvious in "Imaginary Geographies of the Singapore Heartland" where interviews with an unidentified man are dissected and analyzed through an academic lens. But while other stories skip the analysis, the anonymity and one-sidedness seem more like a person being watched than an interactive experience. 


I'm a sucker for stories about language. Hollywood loves films about Hollywood, news companies love stories about news, and I love stories that interrogate our relationship with language. Ang's stories try to capture the intricacies of Singlish, but also probe it and the society from which it comes. What does it say when a person chooses to speak Singlish or to speak English for that matter? These questions are being asked all over the world; they can be as wide as the conversations between nations and be as intimate as a person understanding their own identity. But as Ang illustrates, the battles themselves are played out thousands of times a day in small interactions: a survey-taker and an old man, a father and his father, a man complaining to his neighbor about people of a different ethnicity moving to their area. There are plenty of people trying to decode the major events of the day, and they sometimes seem right for a moment. Ang focuses us on the small questions, the ones that persist and point to something bigger.

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review 2017-11-18 05:40
Idiomantics: The weird world of popular phrases
Idiomantics: The Weird and Wonderful World of Popular Phrases - Peter Lewis,Philip Gooden

If you're at all interested in those phrases every language has that don't translate exactly, like "the buck stops here" or one of my personal favourites: "as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs" this might be a book you'd enjoy.  It's a glossary, of sorts, categorising different idioms of the world - subjectively chosen by the authors - by varying subjects: food, national identity, animals, etc.  Each entry is translated to English, explained and a brief history of its origins discussed, if the origins are known.


A great book to pick up periodically, or used as a reference.

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text 2017-10-14 10:33
A Scone To Die For (Oxford Tearoom Mysteries ~ Book 1) (Volume 1) - H.Y. Hanna

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I thought it would be one of those silly, eye-roll worthy books but it was pretty good. I prefer more serious, intense mysteries over the cozies. The thing with the mom not remembering her iPad password so often was over-exaggerated but it was still funny because I have one of those parents. So there are definitely some funny moments that made me chuckle or groan with understanding. I´m also not a big fan of mystery books that involve cats but this wasn´t so bad. The cat was just a cat with good timing but I do want to know where miss cat was hiding.


Gemma had a great job and was making great money but she wasn´t happy with her life. She decides to move back home to England and open a tearoom. She loves it and business is good until she comes to open the tearoom one morning and finds a man in the courtyard dead. It appeared he had choked on a scone. The news ended up being very bad for business and she realized she needed to do some investigating on her own or her business would be dead too.


I loved the Glossary at the end.  I wish I had known it was there as I was reading.  That will also come in handy when watching BBC TV.  I also love books with recipes and can´t wait to try the scone recipe.  I will definitely be reading more books in this series.  This book makes up for the last cozy I thought was going to be good but wasn´t.  

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text 2017-10-10 09:22
Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 256 pages.
Idiomantics: The Weird and Wonderful World of Popular Phrases - Peter Lewis,Philip Gooden

The sections on finance and military idioms was a little boring, to be honest.  But then came the Animals.  Now we're talking!


Some of my favourites so far are the ones that sound the most bizarre (at least in translation):


A Furphy:  This is an Aussie one, but it's only very recently that I've heard it used (probably because a brewer just released a beer called Furphy).  To tell a Furphy is to lie, or spread a rumour.


Ir a donde el rey / la reina va solo:  Spanish for to go where the king/queen goes alone.  And we yanks get grief for our bathroom euphemisms!  ;-)


Broodje aap verhaal:  Dutch for a monkey sandwich story.  Much more fun than just saying something is an urban myth


Avaler les couleuvres:  French idiom meaning To swallow grass snakes.  To believe everything your told, or to have to suffer a humiliation in silence.


Die beleidigte Leberwurst spielen:  German for to play the insulted liver sausage.  Explaining this almost ruins the fun of the translation, but it means to get in a huff or go off in a sulk.


And finally, one last one:

Avoir une araignée au plafond:  French idiom meaning to have a screw loose, translated as have a spider on the ceiling.  


I'm sure there will be more; it's safe to say this book is not all hat and no cattle (one of my favs from my own country).

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text 2017-10-09 04:22
Reading progress update: I've read 75 out of 256 pages.
Idiomantics: The Weird and Wonderful World of Popular Phrases - Peter Lewis,Philip Gooden

I knew I was going to enjoy this as I'm a sucker for books about what makes language expressive, but I thought it would be a quicker read than it is.  Turns out, this is a collection of idioms from around the world, each with as much historical context as the author could find.  So it's taking me much longer because I'm savouring all the new things I'm learning.


So far, the book has covered idioms from the UK, US, DE, FR, ES, DK, NL and AU.  Except for the financial idiom section, which is heavily skewed towards the US, most of the entries so far have been 50/50 English/Non-English.


My favourites will be appearing in future status updates!

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