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For the love of trees

I used to climb trees when I was young (and I still, on occasion, do). As a boy in Iraq I had a favoured loquat tree, with branches that bore leathery, serrated leaves, shiny on the upper surface, and densely matted with fine hairs underneath. It seemed so big, though I now reflect it was probably rather small. I would haul myself up and over the lowest branch, making whatever use of the twists and folds of the trunk as provided purchase to my small feet.

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

The barrage continues with “barricade” and ends with an appeal for peace

To finish the bar(r)-series, I deviated from my usual practice and chose a word about which there is at present relatively little controversy. However, all is not clear, and two theories about the origin of barricade still compete. According to one, the story begins with words like Italian barra and French barre “bar” (barricades bar access to certain places), while, according to the other, the first barricades were constructed of barrels filled with earth, stones, and the like, so that the starting point should be French barrique or Spanish barrica.

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OWC Reading Group

Discussion questions for Dracula by Bram Stoker

We’re just over a fortnight away from the end of our second season of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group. It’s still not to late to join us as we explore the foggy streets of Victorian London in search of the King of Vampires! If you’re already stuck in with #OWCReads, these discussion questions will help you get the most out of the text.

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Hillary Clinton and voter disgust

Hillary Clinton declared that she is running for the Democratic Party nomination in a Tweet that was sent out Sunday, 12 April 2015. This ended pundit conjecture that she might not run, either because of poor health, lack of energy at her age, or maybe she was too tarnished with scandal. Yet, such speculation was just idle chatter used to fill media space. Now that Clinton has declared her candidacy, the media and political pundits have something real to discuss.

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9781561592630 oxford grove music online logo

The History of Grove Music: an interactive timeline

Since 1873, Grove Music has expanded from one piece of hardbound reference detailing the work and lives of musicians to becoming a powerful online encyclopedic database that serves to educate the world about music. George Grove, founder of the Grove dictionaries, was motivated by the lack of music reference works available to scholars and music professionals.

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

On barrels from East to West

The post two weeks ago was devoted to the origin and history of bar. In English, all words with the root bar- ~ barr- are from French. They usually have related forms in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, but their source in the Romance-speaking world remains a matter of unending debate.

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Parliamentary procedure

On May 7, British voters will head to the polls to elect a new Parliament. If mid-April forecasts are correct, the formation of a government will be a bit more complicated than in elections past. The results of those elections will have important ramifications for the conduct of economic policy in both Britain and the European Union. For most of the last two centuries, British governments have been formed by one of the two major political parties of the time.

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9780199914081

Keep the Cadillac tax

The Obamacare “Cadillac tax” is currently scheduled to go into effect in 2018. However, last week, sixty-six members of the House of Representatives, including both Republicans and Democrats, proposed to repeal the Cadillac tax before it becomes effective. The Cadillac tax will be imposed at a 40% rate on the cost of health care insurance, exceeding statutorily-established thresholds. Unions and many of their Democratic stalwarts, otherwise supportive of Obamacare, oppose the Cadillac tax because generous union-sponsored health care plans will trigger the tax.

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Fig leaves and fairy tales: political promises and the Truth-O-Meter

The Tampa Bay Times is a very fine newspaper. One of its most insightful features — indeed, a feature that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 — is its PolitiFact website. This is an independent on-line platform through which a legion of reporters and editors fact-check every statement, promise and half-hearted mumble ever made by a politician, political candidate, political party, or campaign group.

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9780199354290 - The U.S. Special Forces: What Everyone Needs to Know

What is the history of the Green Berets?

With Memorial Day fast approaching, it is worth examining the history of our armed services, including the modernization of the military during the Cold War. This excerpt from The U.S. Special Forces: What Everyone Needs to Know® by John Prados, explains how the Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, evolved during President John F. Kennedy’s term.

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Later interviews as counter narratives: Treblinka and the ardent lover

Oral historians differ on the utility of retrieving participants’ full life stories, but we agree that “full” is a relative term. There is always much unsaid in any life’s retelling, and for a wide range reasons. Drawing on forty years of interviewing Holocaust survivors, I emphasize here that what is unsaid in early interviews often emerges in later ones. Indeed, later interviews may even become counter narratives to earlier recounting—a way for participants to tell us not to “peg” them too easily or too soon.

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Cultural origins of residency training

Given the highly scientific and technical nature of medical practice, it is tempting to assume that the system of residency training developed in response to intellectual forces within medicine. There is much truth to this. After all, the need to learn scientific concepts and principles, to develop skills of critical reasoning, to acquire the capacity to manage uncertainty, to master technical procedures, and to learn how to assume responsibility for patient care all reflected powerful professional demands.

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Six things you didn’t know about light

Light occupies a central place in our understanding of the world both as a means by which we locate ourselves in nature and as a thing that inspires our imagination. Light is what enables us to see things, and thus to navigate our surroundings. It is also a primary means by which we learn about the world – light beams carry information about the constituents of the universe, from distant stars and galaxies to the cells in our bodies to individual atoms and molecules.

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9780198703297

Which Shakespeare performance shocked you the most?

Inspired by Stanley Wells’ recent book on Great Shakespeare Actors, we asked Oxford University Pressstaff members to remember a time when a theatrical production of a Shakespeare play shocked them. We discovered that some Shakespeare plays have the ability to surprise even the hardiest of OUP employees. Grab an ice-cream on your way in, take a seat, and enjoy the descriptions of shocking Shakespeare productions.

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Word Origins And How We Know Them

Monthly etymology gleanings for April 2015

Last month was a disaster: I confused the Wednesdays and then wrote 2014 for 2015. A student of the Middle Ages, I often forget in which millennium I live, so plus or minus one year does not really matter. We say: “The migration happened six or seven thousand years ago.” This is the degree of precision to which I am accustomed.

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