Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Search Term: fox

"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.

Read More

‘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.

Read More

“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.

Read More

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.

Read More

“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”).

Read More

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.

Read More

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?).

Read More
"On Marilyn Monroe: An Opinionated Guide" by Richard Barrios, published by Oxford University Press

Marilyn Monroe goes to the Oscars

Marilyn Monroe attended the Oscars only once in 1951, before the Academy Awards were even televised. Ana de Armas is nominated for playing Monroe in Blonde this year, but Marilyn’s work as an actress is rarely given the recognition it deserves.

Read More
Performing Antiquity

Why we all need more Lesbian Dance Theory

Last month a Member of Congress joined Fox News to claim President Joe Biden is “robbing hard working Americans to pay for Karen’s daughter’s degree in lesbian dance theory” in response to the announcement that the President was providing $20,000 in debt relief for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for many other borrowers.

Read More
Embattled America: The Rise of Anti-Politics and America's Obsession with Religion

A democracy, if we can keep it

At this fearful time in American democracy, the best way to starve anti-democratic forces of their energy is to change the subject away from conservative religion and demand investment in civic education, democratic localism, and human rights.

Read More
American History

Anti-Asian violence: the racist use of COVID-19

The recent spate of discrimination, harassment, and violence against Asian Americans has erupted amidst a campaign of fearmongering and disinformation that blames Asian people for the COVID-19 crisis. Rather than being a new phenomenon, the portrayal of Asian Americans as vectors of disease harkens back to a long, sordid, and violent history of anti-Asian racism and nativism.

Read More

Reading for words

I grew up in the golden era of standardized reading tests. We were taught to read for information, and our progress was tracked by multiple choice tests asking us “What is the main point of the passage?” In retrospect, it was bad training for reading (and for writing), and it took me a long time to change my habits.

Read More

The ubiquitous whelp

Two types of hypotheses compete in etymology. One is learned and the other disconcertingly simple, so that an impartial observer is sometimes hard put to it to choose between them. English whelp resembles the verb yelp, obviously a sound-imitative word, like yap and yawp. Is it possible that such is the origin of whelp?

Read More