Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

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9780198725190

The new rock age

of the extraordinary things about our modern world is just how closely we are brought into contact with rock in everyday life. Now this might seem a little counter-intuitive. As I child, I grew up with cartoons such as The Flintstones and, a little later, sat goggle-eyed through films such as One Million Years BC. There the Stone Age protagonists acted out derring-do amid caves, craggy landscapes and erupting volcanoes.

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9780195387070

The eternal Cheshire cat

Unlike Alice, who was advised to begin at the beginning and stop only when she came to an end, I’d rather begin at the end. The English-speaking world is interested in the Cheshire cat only because Lewis Carroll mentioned it. The origin of the proverbial grin has never been explained, so that, if you hope to receive an enlightening answer from this post, you can very well stop here.

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9780190468903

How to write dialogue

I’m sitting at my computer early in the morning and my wife walks in. “Good morning,” she says. “Is there any more coffee?” I nod. “Do you want some?” I answer. “I’ll get it,” she says. “What are you working on?” “A blog post on dialogue,” I reply sleepily. “Good luck,” she laughs, heading for the kitchen. That’s pretty bad dialogue. It has no apparent purpose and too many words: adverbs like sleepily, redundant dialogue tags like answer, reply, and laughs, and nothing that really advances a plot or develops a character.

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Image copyright Oxford University Press / J Butson

Uncovering the story of Percy Grainger’s wine glasses

It is a curious fact that hidden away in the sheet music archive here in Oxford, we have a set of three wine glasses dating back to the 1930s stored in a dusty old suitcase with luggage tags attached, that rarely sees the light of day. We did some research to uncover the history behind the glasses.

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9780198727491

Understanding AIDS

AIDS is a fast moving epidemic and some of the data and assertions were immediately out of date. For example, the book failed to foresee the massive expansion in treatment. In 2008, there were 28.9 million people living with HIV, and a mere 770 000 were receiving anti-retroviral drugs. By 2015, there were 36.7 million people infected with HIV, but 17 million were on treatment.

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9780195387070

Face to face with brash: part 2

James Murray showed great caution in his discussion of the Modern English words spelled and pronounced as brash (see Part I of this essay). It remains unclear how many of them are related. One of the homonyms seems to go back to French, but even that word is of Germanic origin.

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9780199687756

Man’s best friend: the pig

Cute and heartwarming videos of dogs fill the internet. My favourite is the bacon dog tease, but others catch my attention because they reveal extraordinary animal behaviours. For example, there are many of dogs helping other animals, like opening the back door to let in a friend. Dogs are our best animal friends, but there is a new contender. The pig might not be agile enough for Frisbees, or into making ‘guilty faces’, but like dogs, might save your life in the future.

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9780199914081

Why the Logan Act should be repealed

Congress should repeal the Logan Act. Modern, globalized communications have destroyed any remaining rationale for this outdated law. The Logan Act today potentially criminalizes much routine (and constitutionally-protected) speech of US citizens. During the presidency of John Adams, Dr. George Logan, a private citizen, engaged in freelance diplomacy with the government of revolutionary France.

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9780199669042_450

The magic of politics: the irrationality of rational people

The reason the life of ‘the Amazing Randi’ made me stop and think? Because I saw in the interactions between his charlatans and swindlers and the people they duped the same connection that I see between large sections of the public and the populist politicians who are emerging across Europe, offering a combination of nationalism, xenophobia, and snake oil. Their promises make very little sense.

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9780190625894

Super Bowl madness

Every year we worship at the altar of the Super Bowl. It’s the Big Game with the Big Halftime Show and the Big-Name Advertisers. That we do this, explains why Donald Trump is now president. I’ll get to that shortly. But for now, back to the show. From an advertising perspective, the Super Bowl is the most expensive commercial on television. This year, Fox charged upwards of $5 million per 30-second spot according to Sports Illustrated

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Guaranteeing free speech

In a blog post heard ’round the oral history world, Zachary Schrag broke the news that the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects was finally amended to deregulate oral history.

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9780198749981

Brexit and muddled thinking

When Sir Ivan Rogers stepped down in January as the UK’s top official in Brussels, he urged his colleagues to ‘continue to challenge ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking’ and not to be afraid ‘to speak the truth to those in power.’ The implication was clear. The government’s Brexit preparations displayed all these failings but the politicians responsible did not like having this pointed out.

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Word Origins

Etymology gleanings for January 2017

One of the queries I received was about the words dimple, dump, dumps, and a few others sounding like them. This is a most confusing group, the main reason being the words’ late attestation (usually Middle and Early Modern English). Where had they been before they came to the surface? Nowhere or just in “oral tradition”? Sometimes an association emerges, but it never goes too far.

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9780199322190_450

On the economics of economists

We economists spend a lot of time writing about the job market. Can the unemployment rate drop any further? Will the number of unemployed people increase when the Fed starts to raise interest rates? And will wages begin to pick up if the unemployment rate does drop?To pursue these questions, economists construct theoretical models of the labor market, gather hiring and wage data from a variety of industries and regions.

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