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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The intractable word caucus

At the moment, the word caucus is in everybody’s mouth. This too shall pass, but for now, the same question is being asked again and again, namely: “What is the origin of the mysterious American coinage?”

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Word Origins

Etymologicon and other books on etymology

In the previous post, I answered the first question from our correspondents (idioms with the names of body parts in them) and promised to answer the other one I had received during the break. The second question concerned the book titled The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections.

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Living Black in Lakewood: rewriting the history and future of an iconic suburb [Long Read]

In the annals of American suburban history, Lakewood stands as an icon of the postwar suburb, alongside Levittown, NY, and Park Forest, Ill. Noted not only for its rapid-fire construction—17,500 homes built from 1950-1953—it was also critiqued for its architectural monotony, alarming writers at the time who feared that uniform homes would spit out uniform people. That worry quickly faded when the demography of Lakewood began to change.

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How can business leaders add value with intuition in the age of AI? [Long Read]

In a speech to the Economic Club of Washington in 2018, Jeff Bezos described how Amazon made sense of the challenge of if and how to design and implement a loyalty scheme for its customers. This was a highly consequential decision for the business; for some time, Amazon had been searching for an answer to the question: “what would loyalty program for Amazon look like?”
A junior software engineer came up with the idea of fast, free shipping. But a big problem was that shipping is expensive. Also, customers like free shipping, so much so that the big eaters at Amazon’s “buffet” would take advantage by free shipping low-cost items which would not be good for Amazon’s bottom-line. When the Amazon finance team modelled the idea of fast, free shipping the results “didn’t look pretty.” In fact, they were nothing short of “horrifying.”

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Back to work: body and etymology

While the blog was dormant, two questions came my way, and I decided to answer them at once, rather than putting them on a back burner. Today, I’ll deal with the first question and leave the second for next week. Since the publication of my recent book Take My Word for It (it deals with […]

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cover image of Durers Lost Masterpiece

Albrecht Dürer and the commercialization of art

Dürer´s “Praying Hands” are so iconic, but most people know little or nothing about the painting for which it partly served as a study. Looking at the story of that painting shows us a different Dürer from the arrogant, assured manipulator of new media he is often said to have been. It also opens a new window onto his time and the commercialisation of art

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Title cover of "Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President from Washington to Trump" by Edwin L. Battistella, published by Oxford University Press

Janus words

January gets its name from Janus, the Roman god of doors and gates, and (more metaphorically) the god of transitions and transformations. What better time to talk about so-called Janus words.

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English spelling, rhyme, rime, and reason

The story of rhyme has been told more than once, but though both The OED and The Century Dictionary offer a detailed account of how the word acquired its meaning and form, it may be instructive to follow the discussion that occupied the intellectuals about a hundred and fifty years ago and some time later.

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Book cover of how to do research

7 ways to deal with the rejection of your manuscript submission

Publication in peer-reviewed journals is an integral part of academic life, but however successful you are in your research career, you’re likely to receive a lot more rejections than acceptances of your submitted manuscript. Here are 7 suggestions on how to cope, understand, and learn from manuscript rejection.

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