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Some American phrases

This is a continuation of the subject broached cautiously on July 17, 2019. Since the comments were supportive, I’ll continue in the same vein. Perhaps it should first be mentioned that sometimes the line separating language study from the study of history, customs, and rituals is thin.

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How the Eurovision Song Contest has been depoliticized

When Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands briefly acknowledged his victory in the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest with the dedication, “this is to music first, always,” he was making a claim that most viewers would have found unobjectionable. Laurence’s hopefulness notwithstanding, the real position of music in the 2019 Eurovision Grand Finale on 18 May 2019 in Tel Aviv was more troubling than secure.

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McCarthyism and the legacy of the federal loyalty program [video]

As World War I finally concluded on November 11, 1918, the United States became swept up in a fear-driven, anti-communist movement, following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. From 1919-1920, the United States entrenched itself in the First Red Scare, the American public anxious at the prospect of communism spreading across continents.

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Monthly gleanings for July 2019

As always, many thanks to those who left comments and to those who sent me emails and asked questions. Rather long ago, I wrote four posts on the etymology and use of the word brown (see the posts for September 24, October 1, October 15, and October 22, 2014). The origin of the animal name beaver was mentioned in them too. Here I’ll say what I know about the subject.

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George R. Terry Book Award winners – past and present

The George R. Terry Book Award is awarded to the book that has made the most outstanding contribution to the global advancement of management knowledge. The prize is presented at the Academy of Management’s annual conference, and we would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our authors on this prestigious achievement. To celebrate, we will be revisiting the work of our winners and finalist in the past and present.

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Why British communities are stronger than ever

Although it’s fashionable to bemoan the collapse of traditional communities in Britain and the consequent loss of what social scientists have come to call “social capital”, we should be wary of accepting this bold story at face value.

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Mangling etymology: an exercise in “words and things”

We read that Helgi, one of the greatest heroes of Old Norse poetry, sneaked, disguised as a bondmaid, into the palace of his father’s murderer and applied himself to a grindstone, but so bright or piercing were his eyes (a telltale sign of noble birth, according to the views of the medieval Scandinavians) that even a man called Blind (!) became suspicious.

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The surviving letters of Jane Austen

Famed English novelist Jane Austen had an extensive, intimate correspondence with her older sister Cassandra throughout her life, writing thousands of letters before her untimely death at the age of 41 in July 1817. However, only 161 have survived to this day. Cassandra purged the letters in the 1840s, destroying a majority and censoring those that remained of any salacious gossip in a bid to protect Jane’s reputation.

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How will wars be fought in the future?

Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the rise (and apparent fall) of ISIL in Syria and northern Iraq, and Chinese activity in the South China Sea have prompted renewed debate about the character of war and conflict, and whether it is undergoing a fundamental shift. Such assertions about the apparent transformation of conflict are not new; one […]

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Idioms: the American heritage

Idioms, especially if we add proverbs and familiar quotations to them, are a shoreless ocean. Especially numerous are so-called gnomic sayings (aphorisms) like make hay while the sun shines, better safe than sorry, and a friend in need is a friend indeed. Their age is usually hard or even impossible to determine. Since most of them reflect people’s universal experience, they may be very old.

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A forgotten African satirist: A.B.C. Merriman-Labor

In 1904, twenty-six-year-old A.B.C. Merriman-Labor stamped the red dust of Freetown’s streets from his shoes and headed for London. There he intended to prove his literary skill to the world. The Sierra Leone Weekly News had assured him that his color would no obstacle there, and he could “go anywhere, wherever his merits, either intellectual or social, will take him.”

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How austerity politics hurts prisoners

The Battle of Dunkirk–the 1940 allied evacuation of 338,226 Belgian, British, and French troops from the beaches of Northern France–has been continually accentuated as a critical moment of the World War II. In “a miracle of deliverance,” as Winston Churchill, the then-prime Minister called it, hundreds of thousands of soldiers came together in a resourceful feeling of togetherness. Today, Dunkirk remains a symbol of determination against adversity.

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The evolution of the book to the digital page

Ever the early-adopter, I recently bought myself a Kindle. The e-reader is now available in a variety of models pitched at a variety of price points. Mine is called a Paperwhite. The name, like much about the digital reading experience, looks to elide the gap between reading on paper and reading on a plastic screen.

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Standing in Galileo’s shadow: Why Thomas Harriot should take his place in the scientific hall of fame

The enigmatic Elizabethan Thomas Harriot never published his scientific work, so it’s no wonder that few people have heard of him. His manuscripts were lost for centuries, and it’s only in the past few decades that scholars have managed to trawl through the thousands of quill-penned pages he left behind. What they found is astonishing—a glimpse into one of the best scientific minds of his day, at a time when modern science was struggling to emerge from its medieval cocoon.

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