People speak different languages, and always have. The Ancient Greeks took no notice of anything unless it was said in Greek; the Romans made everyone speak Latin; and in India, people learned their neighbours' languages - as did many ordinary Europeans in times past. But today, we all use translation to cope with the diversity of languages. Without translation there would be no world news, not much of a reading list in any subject at college, no repair manuals for cars or planes, and we wouldn't even be able to put together flat pack furniture. Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across the whole of human experience, from foreign films to philosophy, to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are. What's the difference between translating unprepared natural speech, and translating Madame Bovary? How do you translate a joke? What's the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Can you translate between any pair of languages, or only between some? What really goes on when world leaders speak at the UN? Can machines ever replace human translators, and if not, why? The biggest question is how do we ever really know that we've grasped what anybody else says - in our own language or in another? Surprising, witty and written with great joie de vivre, this book is all about us, and how we understand each other.
What are the ten most offensive swear words in the English language - and why do we love to say them so much? Is politeness just acceptable hypocrisy? Why is Cockney Rhyming Slang important in the evolution of language. The answers to all this and more are unravelled by Stephen Fry as he travels across Planet Word meeting the tribes, toddlers, prisoners and scholars who have made language what it is today. He'll also talk to the animals, read the earliest hieroglyphs and go on a trip inside his own brain to see how he processes speech. 'Planet Word' will accompany the new primetime BBC series launching in September on Sunday nights.