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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Faith in God, themselves, and the people: Black religious activist-educators

I started my first seminar on Radical Pedagogy, reflecting with students on a provocative blog entitled “10 Reasons Septima Clark was a Badass Teacher.” Beyond the shock value of using badass in a divinity school setting, the students were curious about why I started with this lesser known (if not completely unknown) figure from the 1950s Civil Rights era.

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The first women’s shelter in Europe? Radegund’s Holy Cross

‘With the passion of a focused mind, I considered how to advance other women so that—the Lord willing—my own desires might prove beneficial for others. […] I established a monastery for girls in the city of Poitiers. After its foundation, I endowed the monastery with however much wealth I had received from the generosity of the king.’

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Analysis of the Nuclear Risk Reduction Agenda

In a context of intensifying great power competition and deep divergences of view between nuclear and non-nuclear powers on the urgency of nuclear abolition, ‘nuclear risk reduction’ has gained renewed attention as a pragmatic framework for managing and reducing nuclear dangers.

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Of language, brain health, and global inequities

One of the greatest public health challenges of our century lies in the growth of neurodegenerative disorders. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and frontotemporal dementia stand as major contributors to disability and mortality in affluent and under-resourced nations alike.

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A four-forked etymology: curfew

It appears that the etymology of curfew has been solved. In any case, all modern dictionaries say the same. The English word surfaced in texts in the early fourteenth century, but a signal to people to extinguish their fires is much older.

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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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