Wherever we look for the history of the names of instruments and tools, we confront a similar problem: the available material is either too copious or too scanty. Last week (March 11, 2020), we followed a hectic but inefficient hunt for the etymology of the word awl, and I promised a continuation: a post on adz (spelled as adze in British English).
The names of weapons, tools, and all kinds of appurtenances provide a rare insight into the history of civilization. Soldiers and journeymen travel from land to land, and the names of their instruments, whether murderous or peaceful, become so called migratory words (Wanderwörter, as they are called in German: words errant, as it were). I […]
Soon after the previous gleanings (February 26, 2020) were posted, a correspondent asked me to clarify the situation with the “prefix” br- in breath and bring (see the post on breath for January 22, 2020). I mentioned this mysterious prefix in connection with Henry Cecil Wyld, who accepted its existence in bring but doubted its validity in breath. From a historical point of view, we have two different components, even if both go back to Indo-European bhrē-. James A. H. Murray thought that br- in breath is a remnant of the root meaning “burn,” as in breed ~ brood, while br- in bring traces allegedly to the zero grade of the verb bear (zero grade is a term of ablaut; in this case, no vowel stands between b and r in br-; hence, “zero”); so Wyld, though, as we will see, the idea was not his. By contrast, in the full grade, as in bear, from Old Engl.
When people talk about grammar problems, they often mean usage issues—departures from the traditional conventions for edited English and the most formal types of speaking. To a linguist, grammar refers to the way that language is used—by speakers of all types—and the way that it works—how it is acquired, how it changes, and so on.
W. T. Stead (1849-1912) journalist, social reformer, women’s rights advocate, peace campaigner, and spiritualist–was one of the best-known public figures in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Britain. He pioneered in Britain what was called the New Journalism, or journalism with a mission; he is well known for his investigative journalism and political activism.
A recent analysis of the Boeing 737 Max disasters concludes that while technical malfunctions contributed to the crashes, “an industry that puts unprepared pilots in the cockpit is just as guilty.” Journalist William Langewiesche uses the term “airmanship” to encompass an array of skills and experience necessary to the safe and effective guidance of an airplane. “It includes a visceral sense of navigation, an operational understanding of weather and weather information, the ability to form mental maps of traffic flows, fluency in the nuance of radio communications and, especially, a deep appreciation for the interplay between energy, inertia and wings. Airplanes are living things.”
Hilary Putnam was an American philosopher who was trained originally in the tradition of logical positivism. He was one of the most influential philosophers of science of the twentieth century and had an impact on philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics.
The 1990s saw women beginning to fill a wider range of roles in the military, with many countries relaxing their bans on women serving in combat roles. As a result, women are able to fly combat aircraft, serve in artillery units, staff missile emplacements, serve as combat medics, and fill various other roles that involve potential combat exposure. Additionally, many more women are assigned to combat-support roles located on the front line. Yet most research on women involved in military life still concerns itself with the wives of enlisted men, women in civilian posts within the military, women that were sexually assaulted in the military, or women in non-combat-related military service. It is thus patently obvious that women combatants and veterans who fulfill assignments in conflict zones deserve closer attention.
In her late eighties, my mother begins to lose her grip. Checks bounce. Bills are misplaced and go unpaid. Bottles of Grey Goose vodka appear more frequently in her recycling bin. Afraid for her safety, friends begin putting her in a cab after they finish playing bridge. Soon she is dropped from the group.
The world economy has been through a lot of challenges in recent years—from the challenges in healthcare, income inequality, restrictions in trade, and gender inequality and unemployment, to name a few. In this post, we’ve excerpted some thought-provoking chapters from recent titles that address central problems facing the field of economics today, while addressing some possible improvements.
In 1997, Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov, the reigning world chess champion. In 2011, Watson defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the world’s best Jeopardy players. In 2016, AlphaGo defeated Ke Jie, the world’s best Go player. In 2017, DeepMind unleashed AlphaZero, which trounced the world-champion computer programs at chess, Go, and shogi. Perhaps computers have moved so far beyond our intelligence that we should rely on them to make our important decisions. Nope.
In recent years, democracies around the world have witnessed the steady rise of anti-liberal, populist movements. In the face of this trend, some may think it apposite to question the power of elections to protect cherished democratic values. Among some (vocal) political scientists and philosophers today, it is common to hear concern about voter incompetence, which allegedly explains why democracy stands on shaky ground in many places. Do we do well in thinking of voting as a likely threat to fair governance? Julia Maskivker propose a case for thinking of voting as a vehicle for justice, not a paradoxical menace to democracy.
George Eliot (born Mary Anne Evans) was born 22 November 1819, 2019 marks the 200th anniversary of her birth. Eliot is considered one of the most important and influential writers in the history of English literature and her novels are often praised as being the prototypes for the modern novel, full of rich detail of English country life and complete with characters whose motivations are laid bare by the author’s probing psychological dissections.
Successful composers, authors, and scientists have distinctive writing styles which define all their works. They are rarely in isolation from their contemporaries, so their work is inherently time stamped. Similarities can exist with their students and followers, so they set the pattern of writing over one or two generations.
When racist firebrands claimed a right to speak at various universities two years ago, free speech absolutists on the left and right rushed to their defense.
Almost a century ago a young geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane, made a series of startling predictions in a little book called Daedalus; or, Science and the Future. Genetic modification. Wind power. The gestation of children in artificial wombs, which he called “ectogenesis.” Haldane’s ingenious book did so well that the publishers, Kegan Paul, based a whole series on the idea.