Non-Fiction

Hogs Norton

27 March 2017

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

 Hogs Norton, n.

. . . .

A fictional town renowned for its uncultured and boorish inhabitants; often in (depreciative) phrases suggesting that someone is a native or inhabitant of this town.

. . . .

1725 N. Bailey tr. Erasmus Colloq. 317 You saucy Fellow, where was you drag’d up, At Hogs Norton?

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

A Journey Into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory

24 March 2017

From The New York Times:

 Merriam-Webster, the oldest dictionary publisher in America, has turned itself into a social media powerhouse over the past few years. Its editors star in online videos on hot-button topics like the serial comma, gender pronouns and the dreaded “irregardless.” Its Twitter feed has become a viral sensation, offering witty — and sometimes pointedly political — commentary on the news of the day.

Kory Stamper, a lexicographer here, is very much part of the vanguard of word-nerd celebrities. Her witty “Ask the Editor” video contributions, like a classic on the plural of octopus, and personal blog, Harmless Drudgery, have inspired a Kory Stamper Fan Club on Facebook. One online admirer has carefully tracked minute changes in her hair (which, for one thing, is purple).

But the company remains very much a bricks-and-mortar operation, still based in this small New England city where the Merriam brothers bought the rights to Noah Webster’s dictionary in the 1840s and carried on his idea of a distinctly American language. And this month, Ms. Stamper, the author of the new book “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries,” was more than happy to offer a tour of some of the distinctly analog oddities in the basement.

. . . .

But the real jaw-dropper was the Backward Index, which includes some 315,000 cards listing words spelled … backward.

“It was conceived of as another way of shuffling information,” Ms. Stamper said of the index, which seems to have been produced intermittently from the 1930s to the ’70s. “Basically, someone sat here and typed up all the entries backwards. And then went crazy.”

Craziness is a bit of a leitmotif in “Word by Word.” The book, published last week by Pantheon, mixes memoiristic meditations on the lexicographic life along with a detailed description of the brain-twisting work of writing dictionaries. The Atlantic called it “an erudite and loving and occasionally profane history of the English language” that’s also “a cheerful and thoughtful rebuke of the cult of the grammar scolds.”

Ms. Stamper calls it “a love letter to dictionaries in English,” if one that allows for some mixed feelings.

“People have so many fears about what their use of language says about them,” she said. “When you talk to people about dictionaries, they often start talking about other things, like which words they love, and which words they hate. And it’s perfectly fine to hate parts of the language.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Friendships That Saved the World

23 March 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

The “special relationship”: Ever since Winston Churchill coined the phrase to describe the alliance between the United States and Great Britain during World War II—an alliance that later became instrumental to founding NATO and sustaining peace during the Cold War—historians, diplomats and politicians have waxed eloquent (and sometimes indignant) about it. The alliance became increasingly asymmetrical as America’s power grew and Britain’s empire declined, and yet—even to this day—it has remained impressively, sometimes movingly, reciprocal.

Lewis Lehrman’s “Churchill, Roosevelt & Company” offers a detailed look at the special relationship, especially during World War II, when Anglo-American cooperation achieved its most impressive results and faced its most formidable challenges. The book is packed with fascinating detail and illuminates not only the past but the challenges of the present day. The subtitle is “Studies in Character and Statecraft”: Mr. Lehrman makes it clear that, in geopolitics, the two go together.

The origins of the special relationship actually go back to World War I, when the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy joined forces to beat the German U-boat menace. Although British statesmen had wanted the U.S. to join the Allied cause early in the war, they felt that, if need be, Britain could sustain itself against Germany without the help of the Americans.

By 1940, however, such strategic independence was no longer possible. When Churchill reached out to FDR that May as Nazi tanks were pouring across France, he knew that Britain couldn’t survive without American help. Even after Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941 and Stalin became Churchill’s unexpected ally, the British prime minister always knew that victory over Hitler depended on the full engagement of the United States.

Churchill found a willing partner in Franklin Roosevelt. As Mr. Lehrman reminds us, Churchill and FDR saw the world in much the same way—believing that whoever controlled the Atlantic controlled the fate of the U.S. as well as Europe—and both grasped the global stakes if Hitler prevailed. Even so, it took a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s declaration of war four days later to turn America’s material support of the British under Lend-Lease into what Britain desperately needed: an all-out U.S. military commitment.

. . . .

[Wall Street lawyer William] Donovan turned out to be one of a series of envoys that FDR sent to London to manage policy. None were trained diplomats; all were men who combined high intellectual caliber and strong wills with an unswerving loyalty to their commander in chief. They included the banker Averell Harriman; the Republican politician John Gilbert Winant, who replaced defeatist Joe Kennedy at the Court of St. James’s; and FDR’s most trusted aide, Harry Hopkins. Mr. Lehrman quotes British Gen. Hastings Ismay saying that Hopkins “won the hearts of us all, from the highest to the lowest; he had seen everything. We felt sure that he would report to his chief that we were worth backing to the limit.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Pearson Posts a $3.3 Billion Loss as It Faces Down a Collapse in Its Biggest Market

22 March 2017

From Fortune:

Pearson, the global education company battling a collapse in its biggest market, said it would take further costs out of the business and look to sell some assets after posting a $3.3 billion pretax loss and a sharp rise in debt.

Pearson, which has issued five profit warnings in four years after students in the United States started renting text books rather than buying them, said its loss included an impairment of goodwill of 2.5 billion pounds, reflecting the challenges facing the business.

Link to the rest at Fortune and thanks to MKS for the tip.

Can Self-Publishing Crack the Academic Market?

14 March 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

In 2016, self-publishing pioneer Lulu.com introduced Glasstree, a new service the company hopes might begin to reshape the academic and scholarly publishing market. Ahead of the London Book Fair, PW caught up with Glasstree’s Daniel Berze to learn more about the company’s plan to crack the academic publishing market wide open.

In announcing Glasstree, you noted that “the existing academic publishing model is broken.” You’re not the first to make such an observation—but explain why you think the market is broken and why Glasstree might be a solution.

The traditional publishing model is broken for a number of reasons. First, because academic authors traditionally have so little control over their own content. When they hand it over to their publisher, they often assign their copyrights and hand over legal ownership. And they have no power to set the market price. Traditional publishing often compels purchasers to obtain content with restrictive policies, at often-extortionate levels.

This is also true for open access content, which usually requires the author to pay unfair processing charges in order to publish. More generally, traditional academic publishers also lack transparency: it is impossible to obtain any insight into the costs associated with the production of a book—or the profit margins earned by the publisher and/or the author. Speed to market is also an issue, as academic content can sometimes take years before being published. Glasstree aims to put power back in the hands of the author.

. . . .

What do you think the main selling point for Glasstree is? And where do you expect the service to be next year, and then, say, five years out?

I think that the biggest selling point is the ability to provide authors and universities with the tools that they need to publish, print, and be successful at a price level that would be unfathomable even a few years ago, with a specific orientation to academics and educators—for example, the ability to track bibliometrics with a DOI, discoverability tools, creative commons licensing, and so on. This year, we will introduce a print API to the market.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Drunk Texts, Squad Goals, and Brewer’s Droop: an Oxford Dictionaries update

7 March 2017

From Oxford Dictionaries:

Oxford Dictionaries publishes an update of new entries today (#squadgoals), so let’s celebrate with a chest bump. This is truly a Kodak moment, so maybe it’s time to take a video selfie, and you’d better not untag yourself! Though it might not be the stuff of fitspo, you can still make room for this on your image board. Get yourself comfortable, check above you for drop bears, and grab yourself a cup of pour-over—it’s better than drinking the haterade! We’re very excited to share with you the Oxford Dictionaries’ funtastic list of new words.

. . . .

Thrill-seekers on the hunt for a way of levelling up their commute might choose to skitch: this word is a blend of skate or ski and hitch, and refers to the activity of ‘hitching’ onto a motor vehicle while riding a bike, skateboard, etc. so as to travel at greater speeds, not always giving the driver any warning of your intentions. Possibly not the safest way to get from A to B…

. . . .

If you’re anything like me, you need a bit of incentive to work up to any exercise. Perhaps this can be where fitspiration—often shortened to fitspo—comes in: this blend of fit and inspiration is used to refer to any person or thing that motivates you to improve your fitness.

Link to the rest at Oxford Dictionaries

My Mind Made Me Do It

6 March 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

In 1991 a retired advertising salesman named Herbert Weinstein strangled his wife and threw her out the window of the twelfth floor apartment they shared on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Despite the killer’s confession, this seemingly straightforward case became clouded with confusion after it was discovered that Weinstein had a cyst “the size of an orange” pressing on his brain. Suddenly, neurologists and brain scans became as important to Weinstein’s fate as lawyers and physical evidence. At a pretrial hearing, a judge for the first time granted permission for a jury to see the results of a PET scan. It would not be the last.

Kevin Davis places Weinstein’s fascinating story at the center of “The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America’s Courtrooms.”

. . . .

What was novel in the Weinstein case has become commonplace. Mr. Davis reports that, “in more than 250 opinions issued in 2012, defendants argued that their ‘brains made them do it,’ more than double the number five years earlier.” The trend shows no signs of abating. Where once lawyers pointed to a broken home, many now point to a “broken brain,” whether caused by childhood abuse, an IED in Iraq or a cyst like Weinstein’s. The brain of the accused has become a second crime scene, the perpetrator a victim of traumatic brain injury, structural anomalies or lesions responsible for low-glucose metabolism in an area vital for decision-making.

. . . .

To “neuroskeptics,” brain damage, however visible on a scan, offers no proof that a much-concussed football player is not responsible for shooting his wife even if he is damaged in an area implicated in moral reasoning. After all, he might have been drawn to a violent sport by a violent nature long before his first collision. As Helen Mayberg, a professor at Emory University School of Medicine, tells Mr. Davis: “Neuroscience is not objective. Two people can analyze the same data differently.” This is a legal revolution based on a subjective foundation.

. . . .

Mr. Damasio ultimately found that while Weinstein appeared to know right from wrong, pressure from the tumor deprived him of the ability to act in accordance with that knowledge. In the scientist’s words: “Confronted with an unusual provocation he was unable to select the most appropriate response option.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

So you want to write a nonfiction book

26 February 2017

From The Washington Post:

One of the interesting things about specialization is how we often take for granted the things we do well. I am insanely impressed by the Europeans I encounter who can speak at least five languages and are likely adding a sixth, but they usually just shrug their shoulders and think it’s no big deal. Truck drivers who can back up a 16-wheeler into a loading dock with little margin for error? That looks more complicated than brain surgery, but to them it’s no big whoop.

I’m just a small-town political scientist, so I don’t think of myself as possessing any special skills. But from recent conversations, I’ve learned that there is one thing that seems impressive to other folks but is nothing extraordinary to me: I write nonfiction books. My sixth book will be out in less than two months, and I’m spending a lot of this month pondering how to write my seventh book. People keep publishing them, so I guess my books aren’t awful.

. . . .

2) Know your audience. Another thing that you need to put in your book prospectus is your targeted audience. Who do you want to read your book? Why, everyone, of course, and they should each buy 10 copies just to be safe. The better question to ask is: Who do you think needs to read your book? Business leaders? College students? Stay-at-home parents? Retirees? Make sure you have the answer to this question in your head — and then, when you’re crafting the prose, imagine that reader.

. . . .

5) When you get on a good writing jag, tune everything else out. There are days of writing a book when you can concentrate all you want and you will only produce a few hundred words. But then there are the days when you are in the zone, when all you are really doing is transcribing the elegant turns of phrase from your brain to the computer. It’s like a baseball pitcher who finally tweaks his throwing mechanics and goes on a streak.

. . . .

If you’re writing thousands of words a day, then don’t check your phone, don’t clean up your office, don’t spend inordinate amounts of time on food, and sleep only when you must.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Bill for the tip.

Outler

23 February 2017
Comments Off on Outler

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

 outler, n. 

. . . .

An animal that is not housed during the night or winter. Also fig.: a person out of work

. . . .

1791 J. Learmont Poems Pastoral 160 At length the Outlers grew sae mad Against ilk Inler purse-proud blade.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

Ultimate Kitchen released an e-book “How to Fillet Fish” that will go with their 7” fillet knife with gut spoon and sheath.

21 February 2017

From Newswire:

Ultimate Kitchen gained popularity on the online market as a producer of elegant and functional kitchen accessories.

. . . .

Ultimate Kitchen offers the range of additional services that clients receive with their purchases. The company recently released the e-book “How to Fillet Fish”. Customers will receive this e-book with their purchase of 7” fillet knife with gut spoon and sheath.

Link to the rest at Newswire

PG checked Amazon’s bookstore and discovered that several books on the topic of filleting fish may be found under the Fishing heading.

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