I love words. I love reading about words. I have a favorite linguist (John McWhorter, for those who are interested), and never turn down a book that discusses language, whether it be English or a foreign one. Thus I was heartily excited to read I’m Not Hanging Noodles On Your Ears.
The author, Jag Bhalla, is extremely enthusiastic about his subject. He speaks British English, and has an Indian background. His delight with language, in all its idiosyncrasies, does not stop with his Hindi, however; he’s an equal-opportunity idiom collector. (Hindi is one of the languages that is featured, however.)
He provides us with a plethora of idioms, most of which are delightfully descriptive. Some are not so far from those used in English. For example, in Hindi, you say you have “stomach fire,” when in English you would say you have “heartburn.” Not so odd. Others are completely incomprehensible to the English speaker, like when someone “looks like September” in Russia, they look sad. I found the variety at turns comforting, surprising, and chuckle-worthy.
So, yes, the book is charming. It did have a couple of negative points. The first was the narration Bhalla gives us before the lists of idioms. Yes, he likes his topic, but the exposition is a little too in-your-face with cheekiness. Especially annoying to me was the use of italics to point out English idioms within his little introductions. It was distracting to me to have them pointed out, no matter how much Bhalla was trying to show how idioms become a staple of any language.
Another issue I had with the book is that one idiom might be included two or three times. Often he will have talked about the idiom in an introduction to a chapter, then included it in a list within that chapter, and then later included in a separate chapter. This is what happened with the Italian idiom, “to reheat cabbage,” which means to rekindle an old flame. It is mentioned in the introduction of the chapter about love, then in the list within that chapter of “Other Romance-Related Idioms.” Imagine my surprise when I also found it in the introduction to the chapter about food. It is as if he either cannot remember he has mentioned it before, or that his reader is dim-witted.
Those problems are not negligible. They are, however, outweighed by the enjoyable aspects of the book. I’d recommend it for those who have an interest in language, but probably isn’t for someone who will be aggravated by the repetition or the boisterousness of the author.