15 FEBRUARY 1930, Page 31

" We must not neglect the slang and swearwords," writes

Mr. Edwin W. Smith in The Shrine of a People's Soul (Edin- burgh House Press, 2s. 6d.), " if only to know what to avoid in respectable society." This entertaining little book deals specifically with the literary work of the missionary, with problems of translation and education, the use of the ver- nacular or an alien tongue, and the difficulties of mastering unwritten languages. The author is in no doubt at all that a primitive people cannot be approached except through its own language, but it must be through a complete knowledge of the language. He gives many amusing examples of mis: understanding and false interpretations, such as the Tamil version of a bridal hymn, " Save us, in mercy, from married happiness," or the translation of " the wild asses quench their thirst," which was given to the Solomon Islanders as " the cannibal pigs drink water to stop hiccoughs " ! Tradutori traditori indeed.! But the threshold of the shrine must inevitably be littered with mistakes.