Funny? Or is it a cultural thing?

I saw a book blurb this week that cracked me up, and my initial reaction was a combination of giggles and a bit of Inigo Montoya (substituting “phrase” for “word”, of course):

Okay, here’s the culprit: I just received a book I ordered in the mail – a guide to the world of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books. So exciting! I’d seen this book in a used bookstore a while back, but when I returned to buy it, it wasn’t there. Thanks to the glory of near-instant gratification via online shopping, I was able to find it from a used book site, et voilà! My book arrived this week.

The book looks amazing, full of info on characters, places, social structures, and more. Check out the table of contents:

Okay, so here’s the cover of the book. Notice the sticker that says “Exclusive at Waterstone’s”? (It was published by London Scholastic in 2007.)

Excuse my messy desk!

So now that my long-winded introduction is out of the way, here’s what cracked me up. Let’s zoom in on the bottom right of the cover, shall we?

Does this have a different meaning in the UK than in the US? Because when I read “I can’t recommend it too highly”, it sounds like a negative to me. “Hmm, it was okay. Not great. I mean, you might feel differently. But for me, I can’t recommend it too highly. Maybe just a little bit.”

Which I’m sure was not Philip Pullman’s intent! I’m assuming it was meant to convey: “This book is amazing. Astonishing. Super-duper-fantastic. There is no amount of superlative recommending I could do that would be too much.” I’ve been known to say things like “wow, I can’t say enough great things about this book!” in a review here or there, and I assume that’s what this blurb is supposed to convey. But to me, it doesn’t.

So what do you think? Am I guilty of misinterpreting? Being too literal? Is it a cultural thing? Or just awkward phrasing, or perhaps a line taken out of context?

Whatever. It made me laugh today, so I guess that’s a good thing.

10 thoughts on “Funny? Or is it a cultural thing?

  1. hahaha this is hilarious. I’m from the US and it definitely seems a little odd to me. I think the proper way to say it would be “I can’t recommend this highly enough” 🙂

  2. Haha, nope, I’m from the UK, and I would say that is pretty unfortunate phrasing – it does sound like he’s saying “I can only recommend it… somewhat.” We would normally say ‘I can’t recommend this highly enough’ instead.

  3. I am from the UK and it means exactly what you think it means. He didn’t like it, which is just hilarious. Some authors in the UK have been known to occasionally put bad reviews on books for fun. We are weird.

      • It is odd but we do it for a joke sometimes. Also everyone knows those guide books normally are not liked by the orginal author

        • That’s so funny. BUT — I started paging through the book finally, and there’s an intro by the author inside where he’s clearly praising the book quite highly (and which is the source of the unfortunate blurb.) Sounds like the marketing team who created the cover didn’t think this one through.

  4. Huh! I’m from the US and definitely read it as “I can’t recommend it enough.” As in, there’s no way to mistakenly recommend it *too* highly, since it really is that good. The slight difference in the meaning/understanding of the word “too” must definitely be a cultural thing!

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