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I make a medium-sized chunk of my less-than-medium-sized income writing about books in print publications. So it’s pretty annoying when some guy corners me in a hallway at a party while I’m trying to get my crunk on (often the case), sticks a sweaty thumb on my nose – nail nubbed to bone – and tells me that the book review is dead, no one cares anymore, we are the citizenry of ADD-America with no interest in the written word, and, in fact, no tolerance for texts longer than 350 words. Usually this speech is followed by my interrogator – who is himself a book reviewer – blubbering in a corner unabashedly, dripping blood, sweat, and dainty intellectual tears, and attempting to bite his toenails. –“Who Says the Book Review is Dead?” Adam Wilson, Black Book
There is nothing inherently American, or even Anglo-phone, about acronyms. Chinese itself has them, despite its remarkable character-based writing system. Many words consist of more than one character, and Chinese acronyms will use one character from each word (often, but not always, the first one). But of course acronyms are more suited to alphabets. The fish became a Christian symbol largely because the Greek word for it, ichthos, is an acronym for iesous christos theou ouios soter, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”. The Jews enjoyed making acronyms too, and even the name of the Bible is the tanakh, an acronym for torah nevi’im ketuvim, “Torah, prophets, writings”, the three main sections of the Hebrew Bible. The proliferation of acronyms through texting seems particularly Anglophone. The standard term for a text in America is itself a set of capitals (SMS, short message service). Now other languages are following suit. In German, the initialism SMS has become an acronym proper, pronounced “zims”. It has also been made into a verb, smsen, so that it’s perfectly natural to say Ich habe ihr gesmst, “I texted her.” –“OMG, ETC,” Robert Lane Greene, More Intelligent Life
Science history, with the charm of a fairy-tale legend, records some of the high points and iconic details of that saga. Young Miss Goodall had no scientific credentials when she began, not even an undergraduate degree. She was a bright, motivated secretarial school graduate from England who had always loved animals and dreamed of studying them in Africa. She came from a family of strong women, little money, and absent men. During the early weeks at Gombe she struggled, groping for a methodology, losing time to a fever that was probably malaria, hiking many miles in the forested mountains, and glimpsing few chimpanzees, until an elderly male with grizzled chin whiskers extended to her a tentative, startling gesture of trust. She named the old chimp David Greybeard. Thanks partly to him, she made three observations that rattled the comfortable wisdoms of physical anthropology: meat eating by chimps (who had been presumed vegetarian), tool use by chimps (in the form of plant stems probed into termite mounds), and toolmaking (stripping leaves from stems), supposedly a unique trait of human premeditation. Each of those discoveries further narrowed the perceived gap of intelligence and culture between Homo sapiens and Pan troglodytes. –“Fifty Years at Gombe,” David Quammen, National Geographic
More from TedRoss:
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”