Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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Charting success: The Beatles, December 1962

The Beatles were unlikely successes on London’s record charts in December 1962. Northerners with schoolboy haircuts who wrote and performed their own songs, their first record “Love Me Do” had risen slowly up British charts, despite lack of significant promotion by their publisher and record company, and without an appearance on national television.

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Monthly etymology gleanings for December 2012

By Anatoly Liberman
A Happy New Year to our readers and correspondents! Questions, comments, and friendly corrections have been a source of inspiration to this blog throughout 2012, as they have been since its inception. Quite a few posts appeared in response to the questions I received through OUP and privately (by email). As before, the most exciting themes have been smut and spelling.

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Celebrating Newton, 325 years after Principia

By Robyn Arianrhod
This year, 2012, marks the 325th anniversary of the first publication of the legendary Principia (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), the 500-page book in which Sir Isaac Newton presented the world with his theory of gravity. It was the first comprehensive scientific theory in history, and it’s withstood the test of time over the past three centuries.

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Selling the Beatles, 1962

By Gordon R. Thompson
As a regional businessman and a fledgling band manager, Brian Epstein presumed that the Beatles’ record company (EMI’s Parlophone) and Lennon and McCartney’s publisher (Ardmore and Beechwood) would support the record. This presumption would prove false, however, and Epstein would need to draw on all of the resources he could spare if he were to make the disc a success.

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The women of Les Miz

On Christmas Day, the eagerly-awaited movie musical Les Misérables — “A Musical Phenomenon” the advertisement promises — will open across the United States. If it makes half the splash that its Broadway source did in 1987, we’re in for a long ride. The musical ran for 6680 performances, and won Tony awards for Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Score. It closed and then re-opened for another 463-performance run in 2006. It continues to tour the US.

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Football, festivity, and music

Sports fans eagerly anticipate television broadcasts of their favorite sports, whether it is baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, boxing, golf, auto racing, or any of the other events aired on the tube. In the USA, the biggest television sports event is undoubtedly (American) professional football: the National Football League. In 2011, NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” was the highest-rated program on American TV.

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Words like lumps of coal

It’s the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, except the writer throwing her manuscript across the room. What words will Santa give her? Gifts of ‘stillicide’ or ‘ectoplasm’ for her National Book Award — or lumps of coal for failing NaNoWriMo. We’d like to share a few reflections on terrible words from writers such as David Foster Wallace, Zadie Smith, and Michael Dirda in the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus below.

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German Christmas traditions

By Neil Armstrong
In recent years German Christmas markets have been promoted to the English as the epitome of a traditional and authentic Christmas. As germany-christmas-market.org.uk suggests, “if you’re tired of commercialism taking over this holiday period and would like to get right away for a real traditional and romantic Christmas market you might want to consider heading to Germany.”

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Can the shape of someone’s face tell you how healthy they are?

By Anthony J Lee
You can tell a lot about someone from their face, from simple demographic information such as sex and ethnicity, to the emotions they’re feeling based on facial expressions. But what about their health? Can the shape of someone’s face tell you how likely this person is to catch the common cold?

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Oxford authors on Sandy Hook

On 14 December 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother before driving from his home to Sandy Hook Elementary School and opening fire on students and staff. Twenty children and six adults were murdered before the gunman committed suicide. Many Oxford University Press authors felt compelled to share their expertise to offer comfort, explanations, and understanding. Here’s a round-up of their recent articles on the tragedy.

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Self-help isn’t what it used to be

By Peter W. Sinnema
Self-help isn’t what it used to be. At least, its early renditions were cast in a style alien to the contemporary ear. The concept was first named (and voluminously expounded) by Samuel Smiles in his 1859 best-seller, Self-Help: With Illustrations of Character, Conduct, and Perseverance. Erstwhile apothecary, railway secretary, newspaper editor, and biographer, Smiles’ birth in Haddington, Scotland marks its bicentennial on December 23.

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Christmas at the White House

Today would have been Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday. In honor of her and the season, we wanted to share one of Lady Bird’s Christmas recollections, as told to Michael Gillette in Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History.

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Resources to help traumatized children

By Robert Hull
As parents, children, and communities struggle to come to terms with the events in Newtown last week, it is important for educators and parents to be aware of just how deeply children can be affected by violence. Community violence is very different from other sources of trauma that children witness or experience. Most trauma impacts individual students or small groups, whereas the violence that was experienced in Newtown affected the local community and the entire nation.

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