Monthly Archives: December 2015


Writing in a New Language, Writing Anew

writing_systemMy admiration for the writer Jhumpa Lahiri went up a thousandfold after reading an excerpt from her new book, titled “Teach Yourself Italian,” in this week’s New Yorker. Having been trying to teach myself Italian for the past 18 months, I thought I would find a fellow voyager in Lahiri’s essay. As it turns out, Lahiri became so obsessed with the language that she moved to Italy with her family, something I’ve never contemplated doing. Wow, I thought. Then she began reading solely in Italian,…


To Affinity — and Beyond

Buzz_LightyearBuzz Lightyear, the challenged but adorable astronaut of the Toy Story films, sets high goals for himself. To infinity — and beyond, he exclaims, as earnestly as an animated toy might hope to.

The world of social relations, especially those crafted by the new media, has little to do with infinity and a lot to do with minimal standards of connectedness. I’d propose that one of the words of the moment (WOTM), not to be confused with the Word of the Year, is affinity.

Affinity seems to have emerged…


English and Its Undeserved Good Luck


Countries where English is an official or de facto official language

In my post last week I cited a few ways in which English is unsuitable as a global language, and mentioned that its being one anyway is attributable at least in part to undeserved luck.

Of course, it wasn’t all luck. British imperialism and the African slave trade laid the foundations. Even today, with the empire gone, English has about 400 million native speakers, on all seven continents, and about a billion and a half use it …


‘Micro’ Meditation

d30oFor the record, I believe we have a problem on campuses with a persistent, low level, broadly shared, largely unconscious set of prejudices that places an unfair burden on minorities (and, often, women). I also think we have the wrong word for it. The word popping up everywhere — surely it will be a candidate for 2016’s Word of the Year — is microaggressions.

To get to what I think doesn’t work, here, I want to begin with the origin of the word itself. The Greek prefix micro stands in opposition…


Here’s Your Very Own ‘Merry’


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome to December! Yesterday was the first of the month, time for your Word of the Month: merry.

That’s right. As a member  of the Word of the Month Club, you’re entitled to use this month’s word on any and every occasion. Sprinkle it freely throughout your conversation, as in, “How merry are you, merry friend, on this merry day?”

Yes, there’s no limit on how often you can use it.

But wait a minute. You’re not a member? Then excuse me, you don’t have exclusive right…