The author has compiled lists of interesting words from languages he doesn't know. That is the problem. He has a lot of examples from Chinese, which I do know. I haven't counted, but I would say more of his Chinese examples are wrong than right. This makes me wonder how accurately he has got the other languages.
Three examples will suffice. On page 5 he informs us that tao in Chinese means `that's the way it goes.' Chinese has been my main language for over 30 years, and I have never heard anybody use tao that way. I can't even figure out what the Chinese is. (I can't figure out the chenyin on the next page, either, or qiubo further on.)
On page 39 the author has apparently got his notes mixed up. Dalu tongtian, ge zou yi bian means The big road goes to the sky, each person makes his own way. It has nothing to do with the purported translation. There are several versions of `the highway comes out of one's mouth,' such as lu chang tzai tzui shang: the road grows on your mouth. In other words, ask directions.
Page 56 ai bu shishou means you love something so much you can't take your hands (shou) off it, not your eyes (mu, yanjing). No matter what, ai bu shih shou is not a word, it is four words. The subtitle says the book is about extraordinary words. Most of his Chinese examples are not words, but cheng-yu, four word sayings, proverbs. For example, page 129 he lists huiji-jiyi; the four words, not one as he says, say taboo disease ban medicine, but what it >means< is to avoid listening to advice about your mistakes, like the author may do if he reads this review. On 145 he lists a long sentence in Chinese, but who's ever heard of it?
Many of his Chinese examples are really obscure, and he need not have used them. Chinese and English express things in quite different ways, so there are plenty of common Chinese words that don't exist in English. Mochi, literally silent contract, means the rapport or teamwork that enables people to cooperate smoothly. Hsienshih, displaying facts, means practical, mercenary, caring only about profit and loss, not feelings or friendship. Sa jiao, sprinkle pampered, means to act cute or sweet to attract the devotion of a loved one. A moment's thought gave me three. I could go on and on.
De Boinod might have been able to guess that Chinese would have a wide range of vocabulary about food and eating, although in England they may not be aware of Chinese cuisine. He managed to write a whole chapter about food and cooking without a word of Chinese. However, with his accuracy, this may not be a bad thing. Kou fu, mouth fortune, means the good luck prerequisite for having opportunities to eat delicious food. Jiao chang, your legs are long, is said of someone who arrives just as something delicious is being served. If this happens often, you may fa fu, develop fortune: get fat. And so forth. In addition, there are all sorts of specialized words concerning the cooking of food.
The book is sloppy. De Boinod can't decide whether to call the language of Easter Island Rapa Nui or Pascuense. On page 111, he lists danh t as the Viet Namese for a church and brothel. T? Where's the rest of the word? Danh tai is a famous talent; dahn tich is a roll book; dahn trat, to strike and miss; what on earth did he have in mind?
Nonetheless, the book is fun to read, if you take it with a grain of salt. I would like to contribute one of my favorites from the Taiwan aborigine Tayal language; I will vouch for the accuracy of this one. A light rain is called tmoq yungay; tmoq, piss, yungay, monkey, monkey piss. Think of hunters walking through the jungle under trees on which monkeys perch...
I enjoyed the illustrations in this book. Also, quite by accident I found that the book makes an excellent mouse pad. The size, shape, and texture of the cover make it just right for a mouse pad, so hold on to the book when you finish.