Category Archives: Academe

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To Co-Author, or Not to Co-Author?

ucscgraphI noticed recently that I now have more than 100 co-authored works on my publications list. It occurs to me that this rather high number might raise questions or even eyebrows: Is it evidence that I am a pathetically dependent hanger-on, joining other people’s research projects because I can’t come up with my own? Or a domineering research-group leader stamping my name on every paper that the group produces? Or merely a gregarious person who enjoys intellectual interaction?

These are reasonable …

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The New Science

matt-damon-martian-trailer-lands-well-2015Neil DeGrasse Tyson tweeted that it was his favorite line from the film’s trailer: ”I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

It’s already the best-known line from Ridley Scott’s The Martian. You might have it on a T-shirt by now.

Vulgar, yes, but it’s also a good example of the rhetorical device called anthimeria, recently explored here.

The Martian is futuristic science fiction. But the education business has been sciencing for a long time.

Our word science  comes from Latin scientia…

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Them, Themself, and They

stan carey conspiracy keanu reeves meme - singular themself as a descriptivist plotThe Lingua Franca bloggers Allen Metcalf and Anne Curzan have written about the American Dialect Society’s laudable selection of singular they as Word of the Year. But they, like most commenting on the topic, have not addressed a pressing and, to a large extent unresolved, issue: the word’s corresponding “emphatic and reflexive pronoun” (in the words of the Oxford English Dictionary).

Dennis Baron and others have shown that they has been used to refer to singular nouns for centuries; the emphati…

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Dropping the Subject

Legal_ScalesOfJustice_WEBThere are few sweeter, sourer patches in the academic year than drop and add, an imaginary space in which students do things to their schedules and to the minds of their professors.

In the world of academic registration, drop and add are the scales of justice. We can tell ourselves that there are no value judgments in students’ choice of classes. We can remember that students work, and have other required courses, or commute too far for early morning or late evening classes.

But that sensible pe…

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Overtasked and Overparted (and Multitasking, Too)

Costard the clown from Love’s Labor’s Lost: “ore-parted.”

It’s over. Whatever it is you thought you could do, or others thought you could do, or you thought others could do, you — and they — are probably expecting too much.  You — and probably everyone you know — don’t just have tasks. You’re overtasked.

The Oxford English Dictionary tells us that task is related to the word tax, and that the first occurrence of task in English concerned fines being levied. If you’re overtasked, you’re overta…

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The Quiet Certainty of Antedating

PGWodehouse

P.G. Wodehouse in 1904, a few years before coining “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

Recently I mentioned the celebratedly spurious Holmesian nonquotation, “Elementary, my dear Watson.” I pointed out that The Yale Book of Quotations proposes as the earliest known source The New York Times issue of Tuesday, April 30, 1911.

But after my post appeared I got an email from Oliver Kamm, a columnist and editorial writer working for The Times of London. He says he remembers seeing the phrase in an earlier s…

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Macbeth, the Novel

Classics Illustrated MacbethWhen is Shakespeare’s play not a play but a novel?

I don’t mean adaptations of Macbeth. There are lots of those — Paul Illidge’s Macbeth: A Prose Translation, the filmscript to Akira Kurosawa’s classic Throne of Blood (or, in Japanese, Spider’s Web Castle)the Classics Illustrated comic-book version, the Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø’s forthcoming noir fictionalization — to name just a few.

That’s already a lot of nonplays. At least one even sounds like it might be a novel.

So let me put the questi…

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‘People of Color’

It’s slightly surprising that The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, by Allan M. Siegal and William G. Connolly, still (even in the 2015 Kindle edition) turns its nose up at the phrase people of color:

people of color
Except in direct quotations, the expression is too self-conscious for the news columns. Substitute a term like minorities or, better, refer to specific ethnic groups – black and Hispanic authors, for example.

Some copy editors think the phrase has moved into the mainstream a…

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English and Its Undeserved Good Luck

englangmap

Countries where English is an official or de facto official language

In my post last week I cited a few ways in which English is unsuitable as a global language, and mentioned that its being one anyway is attributable at least in part to undeserved luck.

Of course, it wasn’t all luck. British imperialism and the African slave trade laid the foundations. Even today, with the empire gone, English has about 400 million native speakers, on all seven continents, and about a billion and a half use it …

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‘Micro’ Meditation

d30oFor the record, I believe we have a problem on campuses with a persistent, low level, broadly shared, largely unconscious set of prejudices that places an unfair burden on minorities (and, often, women). I also think we have the wrong word for it. The word popping up everywhere — surely it will be a candidate for 2016’s Word of the Year — is microaggressions.

To get to what I think doesn’t work, here, I want to begin with the origin of the word itself. The Greek prefix micro stands in opposition…