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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Monthly gleanings for April 2017

The previous post on Nostratic linguistics was also part of the “gleanings,” because the inspiration for it came from a query, but a few more tidbits have to be taken care of before summer sets in.

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Preparing for CISTM15 with the CDC

This weekend, the 15th Conference of the International Society of Travel Medicine (CISTM15) will be hosted in sunny Barcelona. It is a historical moment for the International Society of Travel Medicine who will also be celebrating its 25th anniversary during the conference on Tuesday, 16 May. The latest findings in travel medicine will be presented in a range of lecturers, workshops, and debates.

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Fame, race, Nella Larsen, and Nella the Princess Knight

Certainly my oddest moment as a scholar of the biracial woman novelist Nella Larsen (1891–1964) was the day I ran across her in the guise of a pink-clad children’s cartoon character, profiled in the New York Times. The unusual name “Nella” drew my eye to Nella the Princess Knight, but as I read further, the character’s similarities to the literary figure multiplied. Like the novelist, Nick Jr’s new heroine has a black father, a white mother, and a baby sister, and she lives in a multiracial community.

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The free press in the “Good War”

When the president declares war on the media, dubbing it the “enemy of the people,” the first instinct of its defenders is to take to Twitter to emphasize how many reporters have sacrificed their lives in reporting the news. The second is to hark back to two eye-catching events: the Vietnam War, when uncensored media reporting exposed the lies about how the conflict was being waged; and the Watergate scandal, when the Washington Post helped to uncover the massive attempt to cover-up the Nixon administration’s illegal bugging of the Democrats.

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The legacy of William Powell and The Anarchist Cookbook

In February 1971, Lyle Stuart, known for publishing racy, unconventional books, held a press conference to announce his latest foray into testing the limits of free speech. With him was William Powell, the son of a diplomat and a former English major at Windham College, who had written what would become the most infamous of mayhem manuals: The Anarchist Cookbook.

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Reading landscapes of violence

The Mewatis sought shelter on the Kala Pahar, the Black Mountain, as the Aravallis are called, but the very next day there was firing from an aircraft sent by the Bharatpur State. Azadi was no freedom but is instead locally called bhaga-bhagi (exodus) and kati (killing) in 1947.

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Storm Stella and New York’s double taxation of nonresidents

The physical aftermath of Storm Stella is now over. The tax aftermath of Storm Stella, however, has just begun. How can a winter storm cause taxes? Because New York State, under its so-called “convenience of the employer” doctrine, subjects nonresidents to state income taxation on the days such nonresidents work at their out-of-state homes for their New York employers.

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How apostrophes came to confuse us

A colleague of mine recently retired from teaching. As she began her last semester, she announced to her students that she hoped they would finally be the class where no one confused “its” and “it’s.” Her wish did not come true. The apostrophe rules of English are built to confuse us. Not intentionally. But they have evolved in a way that can confuse even the most observant readers and writers.

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Opening the door for the next Ramanujan

It is still possible to learn mathematics to a high standard at a British university but there is no doubt that the fun and satisfaction the subject affords to those who naturally enjoy it has taken a hit. Students are constantly reminded about the lifelong debts they are incurring and how they need to be thoroughly aware of the demands of their future employers. The fretting over this within universities is relentless.

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Are Americans in danger of losing their Internet?

It’s hard to imagine life without the Internet: no smart phones, tablets, PCs, Netflix, the kids without their games. Impossible, you say? Not really, because we have the Internet thanks to a series of conditions in the United States that made it possible to create it in the first place and that continue to influence its availability. There is no law that says it must stay, nor any economic reason why it should, if someone cannot make a profit from it.

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The less mentioned opioid crisis

You’ve probably seen the dramatic photo of the Ohio couple slouched, overdosed, and passed out in the front seats of a car, with a little kid sitting in the back seat. Even if you haven’t seen that picture, images and words of America’s opioid overdose epidemic have captured headlines and TV news feeds for the last several years. But there’s a different image seared into my mind, a mental picture of a different little kid and two adults.

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Heartthrobs and happy endings

Popular romance is often written to a formula. Our heroine falls for the attractions of the hero. Stuff gets in the way. They get through this and marry. We assume that they are happy thereafter. Most of the books published by Mills and Boon or Harlequin have some variation on this kind of narrative, centring on heartthrobs and happy endings.

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The unprecedented difficulty of B(e)

A dictionary is in indeed a collection of stories and each word entry has a unique tale to tell. If we choose the verb ‘be’, we encounter a special insight into English, and into the society and thought that has shaped it over the past 1,500 years.

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Two posts on “sin”: a sequel

The colleague who wrote me a letter is a specialist in Turkic and a proponent of Nostratic linguistics. He mentioned the Turkic root syn-, which, according to him, can mean “to test, prove; compete; prophesy; observe; body, image, outward appearance,” and wondered whether, within the framework of Nostratic linguistics, this root can be compared with the root of Engl. sin.

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Britain votes…again: three crucial questions

Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain would hold a general election on 8 June. The election raises three crucial questions. First, why did the Prime Minister call an election now? Under British law, she could have remained in office without facing the voters until 2020 and, in fact, had promised on multiple occasions that she would not call early elections.

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