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"Race, Politics, and Irish America: A Gothic History" by Mary M. Burke, published by Oxford University Press

A Black Irish-American rejoinder to Gone With The Wind: Frank Yerby’s The Foxes of Harrow

“The Foxes of Harrow” (1946), a Southern historical romance by Black Irish-American author Frank Yerby (1916–1991), writes back to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, “Gone with the Wind” (1936). Although Yerby and Mitchell were both raised in Georgia during segregation by mothers of Irish descent, their socially assigned racial identities created divergent approaches to representing the pre- and post-Civil War South in their respective novels.

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‘Vulpes vulpes,’ or foxes have holes. Part 2

Last week, I discussed the role of taboo in naming animals, a phenomenon that often makes a search for origins difficult or even impossible. Still another factor of the same type is the presence of migratory words. The people of one locality may have feared, hunted, or coexisted in peace with a certain animal for centuries. They, naturally, call it something.

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“Vulpes vulpes,” or foxes have holes. Part 1

The idea of today’s post was inspired by a question from a correspondent. She is the author of a book on foxes and wanted more information on the etymology of fox. I answered her but thought that our readers might also profit by a short exploration of this theme. Some time later I may even risk an essay on the fully opaque dog. But before coming to the point, I will follow my hero’s habits and spend some time beating about the bush and covering my tracks.

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A royal foxhunt: The abdication of Mary Queen of Scots

Mary Stewart became Queen of Scots aged only 6 days old after her father James V died in 1542. Her family, whose name was anglicised to Stuart in the seventeenth century, had ruled Scotland since 1371 and were to do so until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. Raised in France from 1548, she married the heir to the French throne (1558) and did not come to Scotland until after he died in 1561.

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“Deflategate,” Fox News, and frats: this year in public apologies

Since publishing Sorry About That a year ago, I’ve been trying to keep track of apologies in the news. Google sends me a handful of news items every day. Some are curious (“J.K. Rowling issues apology over slain ‘Harry Potter’ character”), some are cute (“Blizzard 2015: Meteorologist apologizes for ‘big forecast miss’”), and some are sad (“An open apology to my kids on the subject of my divorce”).

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Genius and etymology: Henry William Fox Talbot

By Anatoly Liberman
What does it take to be a successful etymologist? Obviously, an ability to put two and two together. But all scholarly work, every deduction needs this ability. The more words and forms one knows, the greater is the chance that the result will be reasonably convincing.

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Etymologists at War with a Flower: Foxglove

The origin of plant names is one of the most interesting areas of etymology. I have dealt with henbane, hemlock, horehound, and mistletoe and know how thorny the gentlest flowers may be for a language historian. It is certain that horehound has nothing to do with hounds, and I hope to have shown that henbane did not get its name because it is particularly dangerous to hens (which hardly ever peck at it, and even if they did, why should they have been chosen as the poisonous plant’s preferred victims?).

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The enchanted renegades: female mediums’ subversive wisdom

Amidst the tapestry of history, there exist threads often overlooked, woven by the hands of remarkable women who defied the constraints of their time. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, amidst the burgeoning intellectual and cultural movements of Europe, the fascinating phenomenon of female mediumship emerged as one such thread in the history of Western psychology.

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Title cover of "Origin Uncertain: Unraveling the Mysteries of Etymology" by Anatoly Liberman

A jumping frog and other creatures of etymological interest

Our readers probably expect this post to deal with Mark Twain’s first famous story. Alas, no. My frog tale is, though mildly entertaining, more somber and will certainly not be reprinted from coast to coast or propel me to fame. In the past, I have written several essays about animal names.

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Title cover of "American Tyrannies in the Long Age of Napoleon" by Elizabeth Duquette, part of the Oxford Studies in American Literary History series published by Oxford University Press

Napoleon’s cinematic empire: a fascination with film

Given his decided penchant for spectacle—he crowned himself emperor, after all—there is no reason to be surprised that Napoleon’s empire soon included the cinema, a medium his visual ubiquity made ripe for conquest. To prepare for our newest Napoleon, it is worth looking back on some of his prior celluloid incarnations, some great and others less so.

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The Oxford Comment podcast

Supporting the future of peer review [podcast]

Every year, Peer Review Week honors the contributions of scientists, academics, and researchers in all fields for the hours of work they put into peer reviewing manuscripts to ensure quality work is published. This year, the theme of Peer Review Week is “The Future of Peer Review.”

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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

In praise of phrases

Writers need to love words—the good, the bad, and the irregular. And they need to respect syntax, the patterns that give words their form. But when writers understand the power of phrases, their sentences shine.

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Façade Entertainment Study Score

“Through Gilded Trellises”: a reflection on one hundred years of Façade

The making of Façade “Poetry is more like a crystal globe, with Truth imprisoned in it, like a fly in amber. The poet is the magician who fashions the crystal globe. But the reader is the magician who can find in these scintillating flaws, or translucent depths, some new undiscovered land.”  Osbert Sitwell, writing in 1921 […]

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