Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Darwin's Historical Sketch: An Examination of the 'Preface' to the Origin of Species

Ten things you didn’t know about Darwin

Charles Darwin’s birthday on 12 February is widely celebrated in the scientific community and has come to be known as “Darwin day.” In recognition of Darwin’s 212th birthday this year we have put together a list of ten interesting facts about the father of evolution.

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Etymology gleanings for December 2020 and January 2021

Impulses behind word formation never change. This statement surprised one of our readers. However, if we assume that most “natural” words are, at least to some degree, sound-symbolic and/or sound-imitative (onomatopoeic), such monosyllabic complexes as kob, kab, keb, kub, kid, kat, and their likes must have arisen again and again in the course of language history, even if every time they were tied to different objects.

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Journeys through Galant expositions

Joseph Riepel and a very long hello

Joseph Riepel’s celebrated music theory treatise, Anfangsgründe zur musicalischen Setzkunst, unfolds in a lively and witty manner. Most of its chapters are framed in the guise of lessons, presented as dialogues between a teacher and student.

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After the Black Death

The Black Death: how did the world’s deadliest pandemic change society?

COVID-19 has ignited global interest in past pandemics, and the Black Death of 1346-53 is the worst in recorded history. Recent research has transformed our understanding of this lethal disease, which coincided with environmental stress and rapid climate change. But in the long term it proved a watershed in human history, triggering a range of institutional, economic, and social changes that opened up the route to liberal modernity.

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Language contact and idioms: out of India

The overlap between English and French idioms is considerable. Familiar quotations from Classical Greek and Latin, to say nothing of the Bible, are taken for granted. A few idioms seem to have come from India, which is not surprising, considering how long British servicemen lived in that country. The Indian connection has rarely been discussed; yet it deserves a brief mention.

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Sister Style

More than a Vogue cover: Madam Vice President Kamala Harris

The Vogue cover photo controversy is much more than a disagreement over a styling choice. Black women’s bodies are political. Thus, the uproar over Kamala Harris’s Vogue cover must be read through a socio-cultural lens that acknowledges the intersectional salience of her racialized and gendered body.

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Making Time for Making Music

Online music-making with nearly no lag time—really!

Susan Alexander found a way to fill the “big, depressing hole in your life where playing music with other people used to be” when she discovered JamKazam, one of several free music-making software programs that nearly eliminate the annoying lag time in sound transmission that occurs when musicians try to make music together on Zoom or Skype.

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Cubs galore

The time has come to find out where cub came from. “Cub,” which surfaced in English texts only in the early sixteenth century, turned out to be an aggressive creature: it ousted whelp, and later the verb “to cub” came into existence. The constant suppression of old words by upstarts is a process worth noticing.

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Was the dog-demon of Ephesus a werewolf?

Apollonius of Tyana was a Pythagorean sage and miracle-worker whose life was roughly conterminous with the first century AD. He is often, accordingly, referred to as “the pagan Jesus.” We owe almost all we know about him to a Life written by Philostratus shortly after AD 217. In one of the biography’s more striking episodes (4.10), the great man eliminates a plague (a timely subject indeed for us!) that has fallen upon the people of Ephesus.

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A mild case of etymological calf love

As far as I can judge, the origin of “calf”, the animal, contains relatively few riddles, and in this blog, I prefer not to repeat what can be found in solid dictionaries and on reliable websites. But there is a hitch in relation to the frolicsome calf, the lower leg. That is why I decided to give calf a chance…

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Women and Gender in the Qur'an

The Qur’an on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the Nativity

A mention of the infant Jesus’s birth would likely not, for most Muslims, conjure up manger scenes, a shining star, or visits from shepherds. Instead, a more likely image would be of Mary alone and in labor at the foot of a palm. Rather than a swaddled infant resting in the hay among manger animals, the Qur’an describes mother and child resting next to a spring.

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