Bertrand Russell Lists His 20 Favorite Words in 1958 (and What Are Some of Yours?)

≡ Category: English Language, Literature, Philosophy, Poetry, Writing |20 Comments

Image via Wikimedia Commons
Is it possible to fully separate a word’s sound from its meaning—to value words solely for their music? Some poets come close: Wallace Stevens, Sylvia Plath, John Ashbery. Rare phonetic metaphysicians. Surely we all do this when we hear words in a language we do not know.


How to Spot Bullshit: A Primer by Princeton Philosopher Harry Frankfurt

≡ Category: English Language, Life, Media, Philosophy, Politics |7 Comments

We live in an age of truthiness. Comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word to describe the Bush administration’s tendency to fudge the facts in its favor.


The “Brain Dictionary”: Beautiful 3D Map Shows How Different Brain Areas Respond to Hearing Different Words

≡ Category: English Language, Science |1 Comment”>the

We’ve all had those moments of struggle to come up with le mot juste, in our native language or a foreign one.


Why Do People Talk Funny in Old Movies?, or The Origin of the Mid-Atlantic Accent

≡ Category: English Language, Film, History |1 Comment”>”Why

“The first thing to notice about movies made in the classic Hollywood studio era,” writes New Yorker film critic Richard Brody, “from the twenties through the fifties, is the stillness of the actors — not a static, microphone-bound stand-and-deliver theatricality but a lack of fidgetiness even while in motion, a self-mastery that


What “Orwellian” Really Means: An Animated Lesson About the Use & Abuse of the Term

≡ Category: English Language, Literature |10 Comments

In all of our minds, the word “Orwellian” conjures up a certain kind of setting: a vast, fixed bureaucracy; a dead-eyed public forced into gray, uniform living conditions; the very words we use mangled in order to better serve the interests of power.


Hear What Hamlet, Richard III & King Lear Sounded Like in Shakespeare’s Original Pronunciation

≡ Category: English Language, Literature, Theatre |5 Comments”>much

As we highlighted a few days ago, recent findings by South African scientists suggest that William Shakespeare may have smoked pot, possibly composing some of his celebrated plays while under the influence.


Sarcasm Can Boost Creativity According to Research From Harvard & Columbia Business Schools

≡ Category: Biology, Comedy, Creativity, English Language |2 Comments

Underlying image by Gage Skidmore.
Echoing Bill Murray, the Urban Dictionary defines sarcasm as “your body’s natural defense against stupid,” noting that it’s “the highest form of wit” in countries like the UK, but the lowest in America, owing to the population’s inability to detect whether or not one is being sarcastic.


The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: What If The Bard Wrote The Big Lebowski?

≡ Category: Comedy, English Language, Literature |4 Comments

We live in an age of mash ups. A few years ago some malcontent came up with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Our cities are teeming with food trucks hawking Korean tacos and ramen burgers. And chess boxing is apparently a thing.


George Orwell Blasts American Fashion Magazines (1946)

≡ Category: English Language, Magazines |3 Comments

While the print magazine industry as a whole has seen better days, publications dedicated to women’s fashion still go surprisingly strong. Perhaps as a result, they’ve continued to attract criticism, not least for their highly specific, often highly altered visions of the supposedly ideal body image emblazoned across their covers.


Artist Turns 24-Volume Encyclopedia Britannica Set into a Beautifully Carved Landscape

≡ Category: Art, Books, English Language, History |Leave a Comment

Not too long ago, an older relative tried to donate the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia he’d owned since boyhood to a local charity shop, but they refused to take it.
What an ignominious end to an institution that had followed him for seven decades and twice as many moves.


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