Linguistics has long shied away from claiming any link between a language and the culture of its speakers: too much simplistic (even bigoted) chatter about the romance of Italian and the goose-stepping orderliness of German has made serious thinkers wary of the entire subject. But now, acclaimed linguist Guy Deutscher has dared to reopen the issue. Can culture influence language—and vice versa? Can different languages lead their speakers to different thoughts? Could our experience of the world depend on whether our language has a word for "blue"?
Challenging the consensus that the fundaments of language are hard-wired in our genes and thus universal, Deutscher argues that the answer to all these questions is—yes. In thrilling fashion, he takes us from Homer to Darwin, from Yale to the Amazon, from how to name the rainbow to why Russian water—a "she"—becomes a "he" once you dip a tea bag into her, demonstrating that language does in fact reflect culture in ways that are anything but trivial. Audacious, delightful, and field-changing, Through the Language Glass is a classic of intellectual discovery.
Do you wake up feeling rough? Then you’re philogrobolized. Pretending to work? That’s fudgelling, which may lead to rizzling if you feel sleepy after lunch, though by dinner time you will have become a sparkling deipnosophist.
From Mark Forsyth, author of the bestselling The Etymologicon, this is a book of weird words for familiar situations. From ante-jentacular to snudge by way of quafftide and wamblecropt, at last you can say, with utter accuracy, exactly what you mean.
From the meatpacking plants that inspired Henry Ford’s first moving assembly line to the "domino theory" that led America into Vietnam to the "bicycle for the mind" that Steve Jobs envisioned as the Macintosh computer, analogies have played a dynamic role in shaping the world around us—and still do today.
Analogies are far more complex than their SAT stereotype and lie at the very core of human cognition and creativity. Once we become aware of this, we start seeing them everywhere—in ads, apps, political debates, legal arguments, logos, and euphemisms, to name just a few. At their very best, analogies inspire new ways of thinking, enable invention, and motivate people to action. Unfortunately, not every analogy that rings true is true. That’s why, at their worst, analogies can deceive, manipulate, or mislead us into disaster. The challenge? Spotting the difference before it’s too late.
Rich with engaging stories, surprising examples, and a practical method to evaluate the truth or effectiveness of any analogy, Shortcut will improve critical thinking, enhance creativity, and offer readers a fresh approach to resolving some of today’s most intractable challenges.
With The Story of English in 100 Words, David Crystal took us on a tour through the history of our language. Now, with Spell It Out, he takes on the task of answering all the questions about how we spell: "Why is English spelling so difficult?" Or "Why are good spellers so proud of their achievement that when they see a misspelling they condemn the writer as sloppy, lazy, or uneducated?" In thirty-seven short, engaging and informative chapters, Crystal takes readers on a history of English spelling, starting with the Roman missionaries' sixth century introduction of the Roman alphabet and ending with where the language might be going. He looks individually at each letter in the alphabet and its origins. He considers the question of vowels and how people developed a way to tell whether or not it was long or short. He looks at influences from other cultures, and explains how English speakers understood that the "o" in "hopping" was a short vowel, rather than the long vowel of "hoping". If you've ever asked yourself questions like "Why do the words "their", "there" and "they're" sound alike, but mean very different things?" or "How can we tell the difference between "charge" the verb and "charge" the noun?" David Crystal's Spell It Out will spell it all out for you.
In The Violet Hour, Katie Roiphe takes an unexpected and liberating approach to the most unavoidable of subjects. She investigates the last days of six great thinkers, writers, and artists as they come to terms with the reality of approaching death, or what T. S. Eliot called “the evening hour that strives Homeward, and brings the sailor home from sea.”
Roiphe draws on her own extraordinary research and access to the family, friends, and caretakers of her subjects. Here is Susan Sontag, the consummate public intellectual, who finds her commitment to rational thinking tested during her third bout with cancer. Roiphe takes us to the hospital room where, after receiving the worst possible diagnosis, seventy-six-year-old John Updike begins writing a poem. She vividly re-creates the fortnight of almost suicidal excess that culminated in Dylan Thomas’s fatal collapse at the Chelsea Hotel. She gives us a bracing portrait of Sigmund Freud fleeing Nazi-occupied Vienna only to continue in his London exile the compulsive cigar smoking that he knows will hasten his decline. And she shows us how Maurice Sendak’s beloved books for children are infused with his lifelong obsession with death, if you know where to look.
The Violet Hour is a book filled with intimate and surprising revelations. In the final acts of each of these creative geniuses are examples of courage, passion, self-delusion, pointless suffering, and superb devotion. There are also moments of sublime insight and understanding where the mind creates its own comfort. As the author writes, “If it’s nearly impossible to capture the approach of death in words, who would have the most hope of doing it?” By bringing these great writers’ final days to urgent, unsentimental life, Katie Roiphe helps us to look boldly in the face of death and be less afraid.
Praise for The Violet Hour
“A beautiful book . . . The intensity of these passages—the depth of research, the acute sensitivity for declarative moments—is deeply beguiling.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Profound, poetic and—yes—comforting.”—People
“Unconventional, engaging . . . [The Violet Hour] is at once scholarly, literary, juicy—and unabashedly personal.”—Los Angeles Times
“Enveloping . . . I read it in bed, at the kitchen table, while walking down the street. . . . ‘What normal person wants to blunder into this hushed and sacred space?’ she asks. But the answer is all of us, and Ms. Roiphe does it with grace.”—Jennifer Senior, The New York Times
“A beautiful and provocative meditation on mortality.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A tender yet penetrating look at the final days . . . Roiphe has always seemed to me a writer to envy. No matter what the occasion, she can be counted on to marry ferocity and erudition in ways that nearly always make her interesting.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Here is a critic in supreme control of her gifts, whose gift to us is the observant vigor that refuses to flinch before the Reaper. . . . She knows that true criticism does not bother with the mollification of delicate sensibilities, only with the intellect as it roils and rollicks through language.”—William Giraldi, The New Republic
From the Hardcover edition.
These topics are presented in such a way that students can examine the inherent diversity of the communicative systems used in the United States as both a form of cultural enrichment and as the basis for socio-political conflict. The author team outlines the different viewpoints on contemporary issues surrounding language in the US and contextualizes these issues within linguistic facts, to help students think critically and formulate logical discussions. To provide opportunities for further examination and debate, chapters are organized around key misconceptions or questions ("I don't have an accent" or "Immigrants don't want to learn English"), bringing them to the forefront for readers to address directly.
Language and Linguistic Diversity in the US is a fresh and unique take on a widely taught topic. It is ideal for students from a variety of disciplines or with no prior knowledge of the field, and a useful text for introductory courses on language in the US, American English, language variation, language ideology, and sociolinguistics.
The story of the world in the last five thousand years is above all the story of its languages. Some shared language is what binds any community together, and makes possible both the living of a common history and the telling of it.
Yet the history of the world’s great languages has rarely been examined. ‘Empires of the Word’ is the first to bring together the tales in all their glorious variety: the amazing innovations – in education, culture and diplomacy – devised by speakers in the Middle East; the uncanny resilience of Chinese throughout twenty centuries of invasions; the progress of Sanskrit from north India to Java and Japan; the struggle that gave birth to the languages of modern Europe; and the global spread of English.
Besides these epic achievements, language failures are equally fascinating: why did Germany get left behind? Why did Egyptian, which had survived foreign takeovers for three millennia, succumb to Mohammed’s Arabic? Why is Dutch unknown in modern Indonesia, given that the Netherlands had ruled the East Indies for as long as the British ruled India?
As this book engagingly reveals, the language history of the world shows eloquently the real characters of peoples; it also shows that the language of the future will, like the languages of the past, be full of surprises.
Over the past eleven years, Greif has been publishing superb, and in some cases already famous, essays in n+1, the high-profile little magazine that he co-founded. These essays address such key topics in the cultural, political, and intellectual life of our time as the tyranny of exercise, the tyranny of nutrition and food snobbery, the sexualization of childhood (and everything else), the philosophical meaning of Radiohead, the rise and fall of the hipster, the impact of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the crisis of policing. Four of the selections address, directly and unironically, the meaning of life—what might be the right philosophical stance to adopt toward one’s self and the world.
Each essay in Against Everything is learned, original, highly entertaining, and, from start to finish, dead serious. They are the work of a young intellectual who, with his peers, is reinventing and reinvigorating what intellectuals can be and say and do. Mark Greif manages to reincarnate and revivify the thought and spirit of the greatest of American dissenters, Henry David Thoreau, for our time and historical situation.
From the Hardcover edition.
The pun is commonly dismissed as the lowest form of wit, and punsters are often unpopular for their obsessive wordplay. But such attitudes are relatively recent developments. In The Pun Also Rises, John Pollack-a former World Pun Champion and presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton-explains why such wordplay is significant: It both revolutionized language and played a pivotal role in making the modern world possible. Skillfully weaving together stories and evidence from history, brain science, pop culture, literature, anthropology, and humor, The Pun Also Rises is an authoritative yet playful exploration of a practice that is common, in one form or another, to virtually every language on earth.
At once entertaining and educational, this engaging book answers fundamental questions: Just what is a pun, and why do people make them? How did punning impact the development of human language, and how did that drive creativity and progress? And why, after centuries of decline, does the pun still matter?
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Since its debut in The New York World on December 21, 1913, the crossword puzzle has enjoyed a rich and surprisingly lively existence. Alan Connor, a comic writer known for his exploration of all things crossword in The Guardian, covers every twist and turn: from the 1920s, when crosswords were considered a menace to productive society; to World War II, when they were used to recruit code breakers; to their starring role in a 2008 episode of The Simpsons.
He also profiles the colorful characters who make up the interesting and bizarre subculture of crossword constructors and competitive solvers, including Will Shortz, the iconic New York Times puzzle editor who created a crafty crossword that appeared to predict the outcome of a presidential election, and the legions of competitive puzzle solvers who descend on a Connecticut hotel each year in an attempt to be crowned the American puzzle-solving champion.
At a time when the printed word is in decline, Connor marvels at the crossword’s seamless transition onto Kindles and iPads, keeping the puzzle one of America’s favorite pastimes. He also explores the way the human brain processes crosswords versus computers that are largely stumped by clues that require wordplay or a simple grasp of humor.
A fascinating examination of our most beloved linguistic amusement—and filled with tantalizing crosswords and clues embedded in the text—The Crossword Century is sure to attract the attention of the readers who made Word Freak and Just My Type bestsellers.
In The Story of English in 100 Words, an entertaining history of the world's most ubiquitous language, David Crystal draws on one hundred words that best illustrate the huge variety of sources, influences and events that have helped to shape our vernacular since the first definitively English word—‘roe'—was written down on the femur of a roe deer in the fifth century. Featuring ancient words (‘loaf'), cutting edge terms that relfect our world (‘twittersphere'), indispensible words that shape our tongue (‘and', ‘what'), fanciful words (‘fopdoodle') and even obscene expressions (the "c word"...), David Crystal takes readers on a tour of the winding byways of our language via the rude, the obscure and the downright surprising.
Presents a highly accessible introduction to the study of language in real-life social contexts around the world Combines classic studies on language and cutting-edge contemporary scholarship and assumes no prior knowledge in linguistics or anthropology Features a series of updates and revisions for this new edition, including an all-new chapter on forms of nonverbal language Provides a unifying synthesis of current research and considers future directions for the field
Rich with new insights into urban literacy and conceptions of reading, this book explores the controversy that ensued over the alleged discovery of Augustine's bones. Manuscripts, broadsides, pamphlets -even whole books-were devoted to proving or disproving the authenticity of the remains. Although these works were addressed to members of the clergy, they were also intended for the general reading public in Pavia, Milan, and Venice. Their dissemination helped create a temporary public sphere in which the merits of the case were examined in a spirit of free debate.
A reexamination of the dispute over St. Augustine's bones illuminates aspects of Catholic spirituality in Northern Italy during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It also reveals the different ways in which Catholic scholars, local religious leaders, and the papal administration sought to influence and direct local popular religious belief and practices. Although the controversy was officially resolved by the papacy in 1728, the debate over the relics of San Pietro continued into the twentieth century.
By combining methods developed in the burgeoning field of the history of the book with the tools of cultural analysis, Harold Samuel Stone not only recovers the stories surrounding St. Augustine's bones, but also reconstructs the mental world of those who read or heard them.
--The Washington Post
In our zeal to embrace the wonders of the electronic age, are we sacrificing our literary culture? Renowned critic Sven Birkerts believes the answer is an alarming yes. In The Gutenberg Elegies, he explores the impact of technology on the experience of reading. Drawing on his own passionate, lifelong love of books, Birkerts examines how literature intimately shapes and nourishes the inner life. What does it mean to "hear" a book on audiotape, decipher its words on a screen, or interact with it on CD-ROM? Are books as we know them dead?
At once a celebration of the complex pleasures of reading and a boldly original challenge to the new information technologies, The Gutenberg Elegies is an essential volume for anyone who cares about the past and future of books.
"[A] wise and humane book....He is telling us, in short, nothing less than what reading means and why it matters."
--The Boston Sunday Globe
"Warmly elegiac...A candid and engaging autobiographical account sketches his own almost obsessive trajectory through avid childhood reading....This profoundly reflexive process is skillfully described."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Provocative...Compelling...Powerfully conveys why reading matters, why it is both a delight and a necessity."
--The Harvard Review
Judy Hochberg draws on linguistic principles, Hispanic culture, and language history to answer questions such as:
Why are so many Spanish verbs irregular? - Why does Spanish have different ways to say "you"? - Why is h silent? - Why doesn't Spanish use apostrophes? - Why does Castilian Spanish have the th sound?
Packed with information, guidance, and links to further research, ¿Por qué? is an accessible study guide that is suitable for Spanish students, instructors, native speakers, and the general reader. It is a valuable supplementary text for serious students of Spanish at all levels, from beginning to advanced. ¿Por qué? also covers topics usually left to specialized books, including the evolution of Spanish, how children and adults learn Spanish, and the status of languages that co-exist with Spanish, from Catalan to Spanish sign language to the indigenous languages of Latin America.
"Paul Dickson is a national treasure who deserves a wide audience," declared Library Journal. The author of more than 50 books, Dickson has written extensively on language. This expanded edition of War Slang features new material by journalist Ben Lando, Iraq Bureau Chief for Iraq Oil Report and a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and Time. It serves language lovers and military historians alike by adding an eloquent new dimension to our understanding of war.
He says bath, while she says bahth.
You say potayto. I say potahto
-wait a second, no one says potahto. No one's ever said potahto.
From reconstructing Shakespeare's accent to the rise and fall of Received Pronunciation, actor Ben Crystal and his linguist father David travel the world in search of the stories of spoken English.
Everyone has an accent, though many of us think we don't. We all have our likes and dislikes about the way other people speak, and everyone has something to say about 'correct' pronunciation. But how did all these accents come about, and why do people feel so strongly about them? Are regional accents dying out as English becomes a global language? And most importantly of all: what went wrong in Birmingham?
Witty, authoritative and jam-packed full of fascinating facts, You Say Potato is a celebration of the myriad ways in which the English language is spoken - and how our accents, in so many ways, speak louder than words.
Standing at the beginning of the history of modern European verse, the troubadours were the prime poets and composers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the South of France. No study of medieval literature is complete without an examination of the courtly love which is celebrated in the elaborately rhymed stanzas of troubadour verse, creations whose words and melodies were imitated by poets and musicians all over medieval Europe.
The words of about 2,500 troubadour songs have survived, along with 250 melodies, and all have come under intense scholarly scrutiny. This Handbook brings together the fruits of this scrutiny, giving teachers and students an overview of the fundamental issues in troubadour scholarship. All quotations are given in the original Old Occitan and in English. The editors provide a list of troubadour editions and an index, and each chapter includes a list of additional readings.
This collection of commentaries on the first part of the Comedy consists of commissioned essays, one for each canto, by a distinguished group of international scholar-critics. Readers of Dante will find this Inferno volume an enlightening and indispensable guide, the kind of lucid commentary that is truly adapted to the general reader as well as the student and scholar.
Documents and examines the invention of a ‘new’ language between two boys in postcolonial Kenya Offers a unique insight into child language development and use Presents a mixed genre narrative and multidisciplinary discussion that describes the children’s border-crossing friendship and their unique and innovative private language Beautifully written by one of the foremost scholars in child development, language acquisition and education, the book provides a seamless blending of the personal and the ethnographic The story of Colin and Sadiki raises profound questions and has direct implications for many fields of study including child language acquisition and socialization, education, anthropology, and the anthropology of childhood
In a careful unraveling of the fabulous and the false, Eco shows us how serendipities—unanticipated truths—often spring from mistaken ideas. From Leibniz's belief that the I Ching illustrated the principles of calculus to Marco Polo's mistaking a rhinoceros for a unicorn, Eco tours the labyrinth of intellectual history, illuminating the ways in which we project the familiar onto the strange.
Eco uncovers a rich history of linguistic endeavor—much of it ill-conceived—that sought to "heal the wound of Babel." Through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, and Egyptian were alternately proclaimed as the first language that God gave to Adam, while—in keeping with the colonial climate of the time—the complex language of the Amerindians in Mexico was viewed as crude and diabolical. In closing, Eco considers the erroneous notion of linguistic perfection and shrewdly observes that the dangers we face lie not in the rules we use to interpret other cultures but in our insistence on making these rules absolute.
With the startling combination of erudition and wit, bewildering anecdotes and scholarly rigor that are Eco's hallmarks, Serendipities is sure to entertain and enlighten any reader with a passion for the curious history of languages and ideas.
Vanessa R. Schwartz examines the explosive popularity of such phenomena as the boulevards, the mass press, public displays of corpses at the morgue, wax museums, panoramas, and early film. Drawing on a wide range of written and visual materials, including private and business archives, and working at the intersections of art history, literature, and cinema studies, Schwartz argues that "spectacular realities" are part of the foundation of modern mass society. She refutes the notion that modern life produced an unending parade of distractions leading to alienation, and instead suggests that crowds gathered not as dislocated spectators but as members of a new kind of crowd, one united in pleasure rather than protest.
Makes use of illustrative examples and case studies of well-known texts
Written by a group of expert contributors
Covers topical debates, such as the nature of censorship and the future of the book
Schwab's texts include memoirs (Ruth Kluger's Still Alive and Marguerite Duras's La Douleur), second-generation accounts by the children of Holocaust survivors (Georges Perec's W, Art Spiegelman's Maus, and Philippe Grimbert's Secret), and second-generation recollections by Germans (W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, Sabine Reichel's What Did You Do in The War, Daddy?, and Ursula Duba's Tales from a Child of the Enemy). She also incorporates her own reminiscences of growing up in postwar Germany, mapping networks of interlaced memories and histories as they interact in psychic life and cultural memory. Her critical approach draws on theories from psychoanalysis, postcolonialism, and trauma studies, and Schwab concludes with a bracing look at issues of responsibility, reparation, and forgiveness across the victim/perpetrator divide.
Boyd confronts Nabokov's life, career, and legacy; his art, science, and thought; his subtle humor and puzzle-like storytelling; his complex psychological portraits; and his inheritance from, reworking of, or affinities with Shakespeare, Pushkin, Tolstoy, and Machado de Assis. Boyd offers new ways of reading Nabokov's best English-language work: Lolita, Pale Fire, Ada, and the unparalleled autobiography, Speak, Memory, and he discloses otherwise unknown information about the author's world. Sharing his personal reflections, Boyd recounts the adventures, hardships, and revelations of researching Nabokov's biography and his unusual finds in the archives, including materials still awaiting publication. The first to focus on Nabokov's metaphysics, Boyd in fact downplays their importance, instead emphasizing the author's humor, reinvention of narrative possibility, and psychological renderings of various characters to unlock the greater mysteries. Reading Nabokov as novelist, memoirist, poet, translator, scientist, and individual, Boyd further immortalizes his far-reaching, versatile talents.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
The book begins with a critique of iconographic discourse and particularly of iconography's treatment of vanitas symbolism. It goes on to argue that this treatment tends to divert attention from still life's darker meanings and from the true character of its traffic with death. Interpretations of still life that focus on the vanity of human experience and the mutability of life minimize the impact made by the representation of such voracious pillagers of plant life as insects, snails, and caterpillars. The message sent by still life's preoccupation with these small-scale predators is not merely vanitas.
It is rapacitas. Caterpillage also explores the impact of this message on the meaning of the genre's French name. We use the conventional term nature morte ("dead nature") without giving any thought to how misleading it is. Because so many portrayals of still life involve cut flowers, which, although still in bloom, are dying, it would be more accurate to name the genre nature mourant. The subjects of still life are plants that are still living, plants that are dying but not yet dead.
Comparison expands upon a special issue of the journal New Literary History, which analyzed theories and methodologies of comparison. Six new essays from senior scholars of transnational and postcolonial studies complement the original ten pieces. The work of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Ella Shohat, Robert Stam, R. Radhakrishnan, Bruce Robbins, Ania Loomba, Haun Saussy, Linda Gordon, Walter D. Mignolo, Shu-mei Shih, and Pheng Cheah are included with contributions by anthropologists Caroline B. Brettell and Richard Handler. Historical periods discussed range from the early modern to the contemporary and geographical regions that encompass the globe. Ultimately, Comparison argues for the importance of greater self-reflexivity about the politics and methods of comparison in teaching and in research.-- Eric Hayot, Pennsylvania State University