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Multifarious Devils, part 2. Old Nick and the Crocodile

By Anatoly Liberman
In our enlightened age, we are beginning to forget how thickly the world of our ancestors was populated by imps and devils. Shakespeare still felt at home among them, would have recognized Grimalkin, and, as noted in a recent post, knew the charm aroint thee, which scared away witches. Flibbertigibbet (a member of a sizable family in King Lear), the wily Rumpelstilzchen, and their kin have names that are sometimes hard to decipher, a fact of which Rumpelstilzchen was fully aware.

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Arrested Development: The English language in cut-offs

Arrested Development—the cult comedy set to rise from the dead on Netflix 26 May 2013—had its own distinctive language. It was a show of catchphrases: “I’ve made a huge mistake.” “No touching!” “I’m a monster!” “There’s always money in the Banana Stand.” “Steve Holt!” “Her?”

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Baseball scoring

What is it about the sounds of baseball that make them musical, and so easily romanticized? In Ken Burns’ documentary Baseball, George Plimpton says that “Baseball has these absolutely unique sounds. The sounds of spring and summer….The sound of the ball against the bat is absolutely extraordinary. I don’t know any American male that doesn’t hear that in the springtime and get called back to some moment in the past.” These sounds are especially vivid in a game that’s often so quiet.

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Panning for etymological gold: “aloof”

By Anatoly Liberman
It may not be too widely known how hard it is to discover the origin of even “easy” words. Most people realize that the beginning of language is lost and that, although we can sometimes reconstruct an earlier stage of a word, we usually stop when it comes to explaining why a given combination of sounds is endowed with the meaning known to us.

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More malignant than cancer?

In anticipation of Heart Failure Awareness Day, we’re running a series of blog posts on this dangerous disease. To kick us off today, we chatted with Professors Theresa MacDonagh, past Chair of the British Society for Heart Failure, and Andrew Clark, Chair-elect, about the diagnosis of heart failure and the importance and benefit of adequate treatment.

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Gleanings from Dickens

By Anatoly Liberman
Some time ago I read Sidney P. Moss’s 1984 book Charles Dickens’ Quarrel with America. Those who remember Martin Cuzzlewit and the last chapter of American Notes must have a good idea of the “quarrel.” However, this post is, naturally, not on the book or on Dickens’s nice statement: “I have to go to America—on my way to the Devil” (this statement is used as an epigraph to Moss’s work).

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Obrigado por participar da Semana da Biblioteca Nacional

Obrigado a todos que participaram no período de acesso gratuito à Oxford Reference e ao OED pela Semana da Biblioteca Nacional. Tanto o OED quanto a Oxford Reference oferecem algum conteúdo gratuito adicional para o público e ambas estão disponíveis para teste gratuito por um período de 30 dias.

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Gracias por participar en la Semana Nacional de Bibliotecas

Gracias a todos los que participaron en el periodo de acceso gratuito a Oxford Reference y al OED para la Semana Nacional de Bibliotecas. El OED y Oxford Reference ofrecen periodos de prueba gratuitos adicionales y ambos se encuentran disponibles por 30 días. (Las bibliotecas pueden escribir sus solicitudes para periodos de prueba gratuitos a library[dot]marketing[at]oup[dot]com).

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Thank you for participating in National Library Week

Thank you to everyone who participated in the free access period to Oxford Reference and the OED for National Library Week. Both the OED and Oxford Reference offer some additional free content for the public and are both available for 30 day free trials for libraries (Libraries can email free trial requests to library[dot]marketing[at]oup[dot]com).

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Reflections on Ebbets Field

By Daniel Campo
At the turn of the 20th century, the baseball team in Brooklyn was known as the Superbas and they played ball at Washington Park, between First and Third streets along Third Avenue near the Gowanus Canal. While the park was convenient for its patrons, located in a densely developed part of the borough and connected to trolley lines on 3rd and 5th avenues, fans and players frequently complained about the awful odors emanating from the canal and nearby industrial works.

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Woman – or Suffragette?

By Lynda Mugglestone
In 1903, the motto “Deeds not Words” was adopted by Emmeline Pankhurst as the slogan of the new Women’s Social and Political Union. This aimed above all to secure women the vote, but it marked a deliberate departure in the methods to be used. Over fifty years of peaceful campaigning had brought no change to women’s rights in this respect; drastic action was, Emmeline decided, now called for.

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Friday procrastination: hatchet-man edition

If my grandfather could survive the Siege of Leningrad and still distinguish between a German and a Nazi, then so can I says Polina Aronson. Shakespeare and food. The Sight and Sound Film Poll: An International Tribute to Roger Ebert and His Favorite Films

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Friday procrastination: cool videos edition

Google Plus and academic productivity. Extremely rare triple quasar found. Fitting in with our March Madness: Atlas Edition, Oxford Bibliographies in Geography launched this week. Nonsense botany from Edward Lear. His nonsense language wasn’t bad either. Dead authors can tweet you out of the water. A reminder about Open Culture’s master list.

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No great shakes? You are mistaken

By Anatoly Liberman
I am saying goodbye to the Harlem Shake. The miniseries began two weeks ago withdance, moved on to twerk and twerp, and now the turn of the verb shake has come round. Reference books say little about the origin of shake. They usually list a few cognates and produce the Germanic etymon skakan (both a’s were short)

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Twerk, twerp, and other tw-words

By Anatoly Liberman
I decided to throw a look at a few tw-words while writing my previous post on the origin of dance. In descriptions of grinding and the Harlem Shake, twerk occurs with great regularity. The verb means “to move one’s buttocks in a suggestive way.” It has not yet made its way into OED and perhaps never will (let us hope so), but its origin hardly poses a problem: twerk must be a blend of twist (or twitch) and work (or jerk).

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Social media and the culture of connectivity

By José van Dijck
In 2006, there appeared to be a remarkable consensus among Internet gurus, activists, bloggers, and academics about the promise of Web 2.0 that users would attain more power than they ever had in the era of mass media. Rapidly growing platforms like Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), and Twitter (2006) facilitated users’ desire to make connections and exchange self-generated content.

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