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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Etymology gleanings for November 2019

I agree: no voice should be silenced, but it does not follow that every voice deserves equal respect. I called the previous two posts “Etymology and Delusion” and deliberately did not emphasize such words as madness, lunacy, and derangement, for perfectly normal people can also be deluded. In etymology, the line separating amateurs from professionals is in most cases easy to draw.

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How hip hop and diplomacy made an unlikely partnership

Google “hip hop” and “diplomacy” and what images come up? Black men wearing gold chains and baggy clothes, holding microphones. White men in suits shaking hands, flanked by flags. The contrast is stark: informal/formal, loud/quiet, the resistance/the establishment, black/white. These images reflect common perceptions but also misconceptions about diplomacy and hip hop. Both are, in fact, more […]

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How to address the enigmas of everyday life

Here are some hard questions: Is the value of human life absolute? Should we conform to the prevalent values? The questions are hard because each has reasonable but conflicting answers. When circumstances force us to face them, we are ambivalent. We realize that there are compelling reasons for both of the conflicting answers. This is not an abstract problem, but a predicament we encounter when we have to make difficult decisions whose consequences affect how we live, our relationships, and our attitude to the society in which we live.

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Philosopher of the Month – A 2019 Review

As 2019 draws to a close, we look back at the philosophers who have featured in our monthly Philosopher of the Month posts and their significant contribution to philosophy and the history of intellectual thought.

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How to use the existential “there”

When I read something, one of the things I notice right away is overuse of non-referential there as a means of sleepwalking from topic to topic. Also known as the existential there, this grammatical form asserts the existence (or non-existence) of something and is often used to introduce new information, to shift the topic of discussion or to call something to mind.

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Why young people suffer more from pollution

Around the world, young adults are voicing concern that the climate is in crisis and are correctly describing this as an intergenerational inequity. The adults who determine the quality of our air are continuing to burn fossil fuels, which release the pollutants that science shows could negatively and dramatically alter planetary conditions as early as […]

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Rescuing capitalism from itself

In mid-August, 2019, 183 leaders of some of America’s largest companies—AT&T, American Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Chevron, Caterpillar, Citigroup, and John Deere—issued a “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” under sponsorship of the Business Roundtable.

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Thanksgiving: Behind the Pilgrim Myth

The driving force behind making Thanksgiving a national holiday was Sarah Josepha Hale, who was born in 1788 in Newport, New Hampshire. After her husband’s death, Hale turned to writing to generate money. Her novel Northwood: A Tale of New England (1827) included an entire chapter devoted to a Thanksgiving dinner. Its publication brought Hale […]

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Etymology and delusion, part 2

Last week (November 20, 2019), I discussed one aspect of etymological lunacy. Looking for a (or even the) protolanguage is a sound idea, even though specialists’ efforts in this direction have been both successful and disappointing. The existence of Proto-Indo-European and Proto-Semitic can hardly be doubted; yet many crucial details remain unknown.

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The truth about ‘Latinx’ [a revision]

In recent years, the term Latinx has become popular in academic settings in English to designate a group of people without reference to gender, which is designated by -o and -a endings in some Romance languages. While academics and Twitter users have begun to use the term, only 2% of the U.S. population actually identifies with this word. Latinx has become so widely used that Elizabeth Warren has taken to using it on the campaign trail.

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Connecting families through open adoption

The term “open adoption” is unfamiliar to much of the general public, and yet it describes the reality of adoption today. These are adoptions in which there is some contact or exchange of information between birth families and adoptive families, before or after the adoption. With growing awareness of the benefits of openness for children […]

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What is coercive control and why is it so difficult to recognize?

Engaging in controlling and/or coercive behaviour in intimate or familial relationships became a new criminal offence in England and Wales in December 2015. Coercive Control involves a pattern of abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten the victim. Four years on since the legislation was enacted and with no compulsory national level training or support, what has actually changed?

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Eight things you didn’t know about George Eliot

Throughout her life, George Eliot was known by many names – from Mary Anne Evans at birth, to Marian Evans Lewes in her middle age, to George Eliot in her fiction – with the latter name prevailing in the years since her death through the continued popularity of her novels. Eliot has long been recognised as one of the greatest Victorian writers, in life and in death, having published seven acclaimed novels and a number of poems, in addition to her work as a translator and a journalist.

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George Eliot 200th anniversary timeline

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.

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What lies behind Asia’s thriving shadow education industry

In another side of the country so glamorously showcased in the hit move Crazy Rich Asians, families in Singapore spent a staggering S$1.4 billion last year on academic enrichment for their school-going children. Behind this eye popping figure lies a thriving shadow education industry that provides a mind-boggling diversity of services, from brain stimulation classes for pre-schoolers to language immersion holiday camps and robotics workshops, not to mention grade-oriented academic tuition.

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Etymology and delusion, Part 1

In 1931, Ernest Weekley, the author of a still popular English etymological dictionary and many excellent books on the history of English words, brought out an article titled “Our Early Etymologists.” It appeared in Quarterly Review 257. In our fast-paced, Internet-dominated world, few people are inclined to leaf through old periodicals.

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