Two words – two quite awful words – have crept into the bosom of academe.
For a long time they’ve been on my list of terms I’d wish away if I could, but being powerless on such matters I’ll blog about them instead.
As Lingua Franca readers know, we academics are a caring tribe, helpful and attentive to the needs of our younger colleagues, especially those working on their Ph.D.s.
They are, most of them, writing dissertations. We mentor these writers, and that is as it should be.
The word disse…
Hobbes’s Leviathan, an organization composed of limbs and other functional elements working together to accomplish something. Like a faculty.
If you want to speak of someone who has a teaching appointment you might refer to her or him as a faculty member or a member of the faculty.
If it were only that simple.
Since the 12th century, the term faculty has denoted a group, and not any group: a faculty is an indispensable aggregation and organization, the heart of any institution of higher educat…
When is a migrant a refugee? As war, starvation, and persecution drive millions of people from their homes and into strange lands, reportage struggles to parse the distinctions between refugee, displaced person, migrant, immigrant, and other terms for people on whom calamity has been visited and movement made inevitable.
I’ll focus here only on two words: migrant and refugee. These terms are critically important for political reasons, since laws and policies may extend to a refugee what might be…
“Donald August 19″ by Michael Vadon via Wikimedia Commons
It’s difficult to read any standard definition of the word trump and not feel that the lexicographers had an eye on the contemporary political moment.
The word may have never been on our lips as often as in the past year. The Google Ngram Viewer demonstrates an enthusiasm for the word trump as peaking in the 1890s, back in America’s Gilded Age, after which it went into decline until the beginning of this century. Now it seems that the m…
For bookish types, the equivalent of 42.195 kilometers is the reading marathon. Instead of running, you sit and listen and cheer the readers on and maybe struggle to stay alert and upright.
The complete Ulysses, every pentameter line of Paradise Lost, each word of that big book about a whale. There have been marathon readings of Catch-22 and Civilization and Its Discontents, Shakespeare’s sonnets, and even Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans.
Many a Christmas season has seen so-called mar…
Novak Djokovic: No generation between him and Roger Federer
When Novak Djokovic recently paid tribute to Roger Federer, saying that the Swiss master was admired by players of Djokovic’s generation, many academic types might have had a little weep — and not because none of us will ever be able to grade papers at 130 miles per hour, or whatever the conversion might be from mph to pph.
Djokovic was born in 1987, Federer in 1981. That’s not enough time for a biological cycle in humans (though it wou…
Julius Caesar and Otello (the version of Othello by Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Arrigo Boito): These are the texts that framed the final remarks of federal Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, convicted last month of the Boston Marathon killings.
The Tsarnaev case moved Judge O’Toole to reach for the kind of precedent that not law but literature makes available.
“One of Shakespeare’s characters observes: ‘The evil that men do lives after them. The…
The ongoing White House v. Congress struggle has recently involved the charge that one side wants to torpedo the other’s plan. That sounds violent, even metaphorically speaking, but torpedo has a more complicated usage history.
In his account of Dr. Johnson’s life, James Boswell reports the Great Cham’s remarking that “Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee in conversation; but no sooner does he take a pen in his hand than it becomes a torpedo to him, and benumbs his faculties.”
The passage occurs in Bo…
It’s commencement season, and we all faced once again the last-minute fumble to figure out a pronunciation for Latin honorifics.
The responsibility for enunciating such things before a rapt audience of parents and well-wishers may fall on different shoulders depending on the institution, but if you’re an academic, there’s an excellent chance you’ll face the problem at one time or another.
The root of the dilemma is the Latin noun laus, meaning praise or commendation.
On the platform, however, a …
At Cannes recently, the actor Matthew McConaughey spoke out on the negative response to Gus Van Sant’s new film, The Sea of Trees.
“Anyone has as much right to boo as they have to ovate,” the actor observed. Before any knickers get twisted over the switch in pronoun number, I should make clear that what stopped me cold was the infinitive form to ovate. Really? Was I the only reader who looked at this and thought first of ovaries, which as a point of anatomical fact not anyone has?
A little dig…