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Study confirms that ending your texts with a period is terrible.

Language evolves, so oldsters like me should get just used to it, right? Well, langauge was evolving long before “text” was a verb, and that’s exactly the reason why the English of Dickens and Shakespeare and Chaucer looks so different from our ordinary speech. I still use a pay-as-you-go dumb phone, and have to pay per message, so I use periods to pack multiple thoughts into each text. I use…

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Teaching Shakespeare in a Maximum Security Prison

Good essay by Mikita Brottman. When I read Macbeth for the first time, I understood almost nothing. The play’s immediate subjects (kingship, Scottish history, nations at war) did not engage me, nor did I have any interest in theater. I loved Macbeth not for its story but for its language. I was fascinated by the weight of the words, their sequence and rhythm, the way they made me feel, even…

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Why I Was Wrong About Liberal-Arts Majors

It’s a little bit shallow and solipsistic to say a liberal arts degree is valuable because it can make you a better Borg drone in the technohive, but this guy seems to mean well. Most liberal arts degrees encourage a well-rounded curriculum that can give students exposure to programming alongside the humanities. Philosophy, literature, art, history and language give students a thorough understanding of how people document the human experience.…

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Homage to Poe

Michael Dirda offers a thoughtful assessment of Poe’s career. My initial puzzlement about Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) was hardly surprising. His fiction can seem too rhetorical, too thickly textured, too literary for most young people. Still, Basil Rathbone’s recording did persuade me to give the writer another try—sometime. The opportunity finally arose in high school when I opened my new English textbook and discovered the revenge story “The Cask of…

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Could We Just Lose the Adverb (Already)?

I can’t really get myself that worked up over prescriptive grammar issues, but I do enjoy reading the arguments. The adverb is an incoherent lexical category, a catchall. How are “there,” “yesterday,” “quite,” “assiduously,” and “indeed” all members of the same family? As we learn in school — in a definition that dates from Dionysius Thrax in the second century B.C. — adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, noun phrases,…

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Quebec teen discovers ancient Mayan ruins by studying the stars

This sounds like the plot of a Young Indiana Jones episode, or maybe Johnny Quest. William Gadoury is a 15-year-old student from Saint-Jean-de-Matha in Lanaudière, Quebec. The precocious teen has been fascinated by all things Mayan for several years, devouring any information he could find on the topic.  During his research, Gadoury examined 22 Mayan constellations and discovered that if he projected those constellations onto a map, the shapes corresponded…