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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:
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Number of people stopped and frisked by the NYPD in 2011 for “furtive movements”:
The faces of Lego people were growing angrier.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature