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All of Your Co-Workers are Gone: Story, Substance, and the Empathic Puzzler

However, running parallel to the evolution of these [graphic] games was a family of explicitly, un- ashamedly narrative titles. Colossal Cave Adventure (Crowther & Woods, 1977), Zork I (1980), and Adventureland (Andventure International, 1978) have equal importance in the evolution of video games, but rarely receive the same kind of general, mainstream popular cultural appreciation as their graphical rivals. These games focused almost entirely on the story and the characters…

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What Part of “No, Totally” Don’t You Understand?

English continues to evolve. I noticed this construction several times today. “No, totally.” “No, definitely.” “No, exactly.” “No, yes.” These curious uses turn “no” into a kind of contranym: a word that can function as its own opposite. Out of the million-odd words in the English language, perhaps a hundred have this property. You can seed a field, in which case you are adding seeds, or seed a grape, in…

William Shakespeare (Portrait)

Blog ten-beat lines of verse, like Shakespeare wrote.

Blog ten-beat lines of verse, like Shakespeare wrote. But lazy bloggers, fill you not your posts With words transpos’d, poetic more to seem. Like this, who speaks? Like Yoda will you sound. Nor stuff your limping lines with pointless words And really wasteful phrases filling space And stretching points so thin across each line In order to fulfill the ten-beat rule. Yet rhymeless soul-pack’d verse arrests the ear. It echoes common speech you hear all day, Then surges with…

books
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Unpopular grammar rules

Language is a fluid, living social construct. The rules of grammar were not carved on stone tablets and handed down by God. They were created by human beings who had observations about how language works, and opinions about how it should work. “Subject pronoun,” “predicate nominative,” and the like are almost insider terms, ones that many people forget shortly after learning them in school. As we say, knowing why those…

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They called it a “flashlight” because early handheld lights weren’t designed to shine steadily

A student’s short story featuring a treasure hunt at an ancestral mansion uses a vintage name for the mistress of the house a vintage name and supplies a butler, suggesting a Victorian Engliand setting. But the story also used the term “flashlight” — an Americanism for what the Brits are more likely to call an “electric torch”. So I looked up the history of flashlights.

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The six wives of Henry VIII, in pie chart form

If you’ve ever wanted to see the reigns of Henry VIII’s wives represented in a pie chart, the New Statesman is here to serve. Catherine was queen for 24 years. That’s nearly seven times longer than her nearest successor. It’s nearly 50 times longer than Anne of Cleves, who was queen for all of six months. There was barely time to adjust the headband on the crown. Frame it a…