Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Monthly gleanings for August 2019

As is known, glamour is a spelling variant of glamor even in American English. The question I received was about the connection between glamour and grammar. The word glamour appeared in printed books only in the 18th century.  It occurred in Scottish ballads and meant “magic, enchantment.”

Read More

Beyond open defecation: a free, clean India

The Right to Sanitation in India: Critical Perspectives, edited by Philipe Cullet, Sujith Koonan, and Lovleen Bhullar, represents the first effort to conceptually engage with the right to sanitation and its multiple dimensions in India. We sat down with editor Philipe Cullet to analyse the contributions of the law and policy framework to the realisation of the right to sanitation in India, the place the book holds in the socio-political landscape, and its international and comparative relevance.

Read More

Do we unfairly demonise food processing?

Today, we constantly hear concerns about the dangers of processed food and it is sometimes portrayed as opposite to natural and healthy food. Is this warranted? What does ‘food processing’ even really mean? To a food scientist, food processing is any method used to make food safe to eat, enhance its stability, or change its form.

Read More

Why American cities remain segregated 50 years after the Fair Housing Act

Fifty years after passage of the Fair Housing Act, large urban areas still remain highly segregated by both race and income. A report last year in the Washington Post concluded that that although the United States is on track to be a minority-majority nation by 2044, most of us have neighbors that are the same race as us.

Read More

Eighty years of The Wizard of Oz

The summer of 1939 was busy for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, one of Hollywood’s major studios, as it rolled out The Wizard of Oz, a movie musical almost two years in preparation. The budget for production and promotion was almost $3 million, making it MGM’s most expensive effort up to that time. A June radio broadcast introduced the songs and characters to the public.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More