Wondrous Words Wednesday: from the Internet

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) and interesting (to us, again) words we encountered in our readings. See this week round-up at BermudaOnion’s blog!

My word for this week comes from something I read on the Internet:

I do have pretty good Google-fu.

Hmmm. I think I understand this as “skill”, but where did I see it before? Oh, yes, in the GIMP, a menu item there is called “Script-fu” and defined as follows:

Script-Fu is what the Windows world would call “macros”. (source)

Now that is not really helpful, because I have a very vague idea of what a macro is. But let’s get back to the -fu suffix. It must be from Chinese or Japanese, that much is clear. Wiktionary to the rescue:

-fu (slang) Expertise; mastery. From kung-fu

Problem solved, -fu means skill in English. But wait, there’s more. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about kung-fu:

Kung fu is a Chinese term referring to any study, learning, or practice that requires patience, energy, and time to complete, often used in the West to refer to Chinese martial arts. In its original meaning, kung fu can refer to any skill achieved through hard work and practice, not necessarily martial. In Chinese, Gōngfu (功夫) is a compound of two words, combining 功 (gōng) meaning “work”, “achievement”, or “merit”, and 夫 (fū) which translates into “man”, so that a literal rendering would be “achievement of man”.

Let me highlight that for you:

夫 (fū) which translates into “man”

So, we should really say “I do have pretty good kung-Google” instead. I imagine this use of -fu must be puzzling Chinese people! But that’s etymology for you 🙂

Book: Rome Burning

The book: Rome Burning, by Sophia McDougall

The edition: Orion paperback, 584 pages, with maps, character list and a complete history of the alternate Roman empire

The story: in an alternate world where the Roman Empire is still controlling the world nowadays, three years after the events of Romanitas, the Emperor falls ill and his nephew Marcus, at 19, needs to take his place as Caesar and regent. But the times are hard, unstable: strange fires burn out of control, the issue of slavery is still the focus of hard feelings and tensions, and the Empire is on the brink of war with Nionia (Japan). Marcus’ own close relationship with two ex-slaves can put everything at risk.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: after quite liking Romanitas, this second book of the series virtually fell in my hands on its own; and yet I was afraid it would fall in all the “second novel in a trilogy” pitfalls. I am happy to report that is not the case. Romanitas was complete in itself, and only just left a small window open for the story to continue. Rome Burning starts from that point, but it builds a lot upon it. Actually, I have to say that in most aspects this book was even better than the first one.

What I liked: mostly, I guess that McDougall was less preoccupied with building the alternate world, and focused more on building a complex story/plot and on the character themselves. Also, maybe because they’re somewhat older, the characters seem to have grown into themselves and I found it easier to connect with them. At the same time, this book gives more space to themes other than the story itself, especially the slavery issue, which was dealt in an interesting way.

What I didn’t like: the only big problem with this book is a typical second book thing: leaving too many things open. Which is especially a pity since the author took so much pain to explain all the previous story again, and to make this book independent enough from the first one. I’ll just have to read the third book (as if I needed an excuse!)

Language & writing: I still loved the Latin-based new words made up by the author (although I don’t know why helicopters were called volucers in the first book and spiralwings here). Also, some chapter titles were in Latin, love it!

Read this if: again, if you find the premise intriguing. If you started the series, I do recommend to keep reading.

Counts as: Travel with books – Rome; Chunkster Challenge

Catching up

Due to our traveling, I’ve not written about a good many books I read lately, just as I haven’t participated in the Wonderful Words posts nor finished the number of books I wanted to read this month. There are a couple of novels I want to write more profusely about, but for the rest of them, just a few sentences will have to do. Also because, I’ve been ill(ish) for the past week and I am now under antibiotics, so I don’t feel up to the task. I’ll post the rest of the missing reviews as soon as I get better, promise!

*****

The book: Dai Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

The edition: Portuguese translation by Maria Filomena Duarte, as published by Terramar (softcover edition), 162 pages

My experience and my thoughts: this was for me the first attempt at an (online) book club. Apparently, none of us liked it. To me, there were too many things that didn’t make sense (the choice to tell the story as a fairy-tale, when the author knew the reality of reeducation camps firsthand; the three versions of an episode of very little relevance; the narrator’s passive attitude to everything; the seamstress falling for a boy she just met once…). We ended up discussing a million different secret meanings that could make the book worth reading… but none was convincing enough. Fast and light read, though, and the book club was a nice experience.

*****

The book: Diana Wynne Jones, Howl’s Moving Castle

The edition: Italian translation by Daniela Venturi, as published by Kappa Edizioni (softcover edition), 247 pages

My experience and my thoughts: I picked this up because my sister had it checked out from the library and I had just heard of the author (when she passed away). Nice read, a lot of fantasy details and great imagination/imagery. It bothered me that there were too many things left unexplained (why did she have magic powers?) and the ending seemed a bit rushed together.

*****

The book: Lucy & Stephen Hawking, George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt

The edition: Italian translation by Angela Ragusa, as published by Mondadori (paperback edition), 239 pages plus color insert with space photographs

My experience and my thoughts: I had not read the first one, but I had been curious about it for a long time. As it turned out… it may be very nice for its target reader (i.e. children). Me, I found it patronizing, and the science inserts were thrown in the middle of the action, so that you needed to skip them and read them afterwards. Not good.

*****

The book: Kent Nerburn, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

The edition: HarperOne hardback, 129 pages

My experience and my thoughts: this is an inspirational book based on the prayer by Saint Francis (even though the book itself does not completely go by Christian theology). A nice read, in small doses. Unfortunately I realized that inspirational books are not my cup of tea.

*****

ETA: Sorry, no cover pictures. I was having problems with the formatting. Hopefully it’s only a temporary WP thing.