I've enjoyed getting to know Jag Bhalla on Twitter, where he's always quick with a punny quip. Lately I've been laughing aloud at his little gem of a book, I'm Not Hanging Noodles on Your Ears, a collection of global idioms. (The title is the Russian equivalent of "I'm not pulling your leg.") If you're still shopping for the word-lovers on your holiday list, I recommend Hanging Noodles in multiples.
The book, Bhalla explains in the introduction, "is designed to fit into our attention-deficit-disorder-ly lifestyles." You can flip to the chapter that most interests you (animals, countries, the language of love) or linger over the charming and informative chapter intros. And by all means enjoy the delightful illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist Julia Suits.
In the chapter on numerical idioms, I discovered "Where six can eat, seven can eat" ("there's always room for one more"; Spain) and "fifty-six knives" (a dangerous woman; Hindi). German is full of scatalogical expressions like "ink pisser" (an office worker), and the Japanese have countless idioms with "belly": "to cure one's belly" means "to get revenge"; "to see through one's belly" means "to read someone's mind."
The subsection on alcohol is especially instructive. To be "good with the left hand" is Japanese for "to be a drinker"; Argentinians say a person is "breast-fed" if he's drunk. In Spain,"drowning the mouse" is the equivalent of partaking of "the hair of the dog"—the drink that supposedly staves off a hangover.
And leave it to the French to come up with "to fart higher than your butt." It means "to be snooty, posh, to put on airs."
When I finally move Hanging Noodles from nightstand to shelf, it will occupy a place of honor next to Howard Rheingold's They Have a Word for It and Adam Jacot de Boinod's The Meaning of Tingo. Highly recommended!