Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Cosmopolitan, cad, or closeted Catholic?

Having just arrived via ferry to the Dutch town of Sluis in mid-May 1611, William Cecil, Lord Roos (1591-1618), promptly exposed his “privy member” (penis) to what one assumes were rather surprised townsfolk.

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“Indian summer” and other curious idioms

The Internet is full of information about the origin of the phrase Indian summer. Everything said there about this idiom, its use, the puzzling reference to Indian, as well as about a desired replacement of Indian by a word devoid of ethnic connotations and about the synonyms for the phrase in the languages of the world, is correct.

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Intractable words

In my correspondence with the journalist who was curious about the origin of caucus, I wrote that we might never discover where that word came from.

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Title cover of "Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President from Washington to Trump" by Edwin L. Battistella, published by Oxford University Press

How synonymy rolls

If you look up the synonym of big, you are likely to find words like large, huge, immense, colossal, enormous, and ginormous, among others. Some of these will cause you to raise an eyebrow because they are bigger than big: something can be big, but not huge or enormous.

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Scientific writing as a research skill

Scientific papers are often hard to read, even for specialists that work in the area. This matters because potential readers will often give up and do something else instead. And that means the paper will have less impact.

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Holes in the Tower of Babel

The Tower of Babel story (Genesis 11:1–9) is among the most famous in the Bible. It might even be considered an iconic text—famous beyond its actual content; since the story was originally written it has come to mean much more than its actual words.

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Less-than-universal basic income

Ten years ago, almost no one in the United States had heard of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Today, chances are that the average college graduate has not only heard of the idea, but probably holds a very strong opinion about it.

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Cello and the human voice: A natural pairing

I’ve heard the phrase “It’s the instrument most like the human voice and that’s why it’s so expressive” countless times over the years. As a cellist myself I’m probably biased to some degree, but I truly believe that the cello has a unique voice which wonderfully synergises with the human voice.

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