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Posts Tagged ‘Merriam-Webster’

“A Few Leaves Too Many,” and Other News

December 15, 2014 | by

Paul_Cezanne_-_The_Bare_Trees_at_Jas_de_Bouffan

Paul Cézanne, The Bare Trees at Jas de Bouffan, 1885–86.

  • Paul Muldoon on Beckett’s collected letters: “The letters collected here come in the wake of the success, in 1955, of the English version of Waiting for Godot, the play in which, according to the critic Vivian Mercier, ‘nothing happens, twice.’ One of the few things that do happen is that the tree that’s barren in Act I develops some foliage in Act II. But, as the high priest of lessness writes to the director Jerzy Krecz­mar of the 1957 Warsaw production—‘The tree is perfect (perhaps a few leaves too many in the second act!)’—even that mustn’t be overstated.”
  • Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is … culture. “When you put it next to another word it means something very different,” their editor at large said.
  • The science of mondegreens: Why do we mishear lyrics? (“You’re much more likely to mishear ‘Cry Me a River’ as ‘Crimean River’ if you’ve recently been discussing the situation in Ukraine.”)
  • How can a writer make goodness interesting? George Eliot tried to do so by examining redemption in Silas Marner. The only problem is that the narrative jumps ahead, giving us the miserly misanthrope before and the radiant saint after he adopts a lost child … But where are the unheroic, sane, consistent, quiet goodnesses? As literature thrives on conflict, the idea of a sequestered, sanguine goodness might seem impossible.”
  • The language of food: a new book crunches the data on the descriptions of 650,000 dishes from 6,500 menus. “Satisfied customers can be remarkably price-sensitive, if unconsciously so. The pleasures of expensive food are equated with sex; foie gras is seared ‘seductively’ and apple tart is ‘orgasmic.’ Cheap food, by contrast, is compared to drugs. Reviewers demand a ‘fix’ of fried chicken and liken cupcakes to crack.”

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This Is Your Life on Books, and Other News

April 1, 2013 | by

Buy-a-New-Book

  • The book lover’s dilemma, via Rena Maguire.
  • Merriam-Webster’s is movin’ with the times, incorporating such newfangled phrases as the hideous bucket list, 2010-ish game changer, mysterious robocall, belated mashup, usefulcrowdsourcing, unfortunate cyberbullying, and inevitable viral.
  • If Marx lived today, speculates one biographer, “he would be a compulsive blogger, and picking Twitter fights with Andrew Sullivan and Naomi Klein.”
  • Speaking of! Celebrate Easter (belatedly) by testing your knowledge of resurrections in literature.
  • Genius in literature: a handy-dandy chart.

 

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The Dickens Museum, and Other News

December 7, 2012 | by

  • “The Dickens Museum felt for many years a bit like Miss Havisham, covered in dust.” After an extensive renovation, the London home where Charles Dickens lived as a newlywed has reopened to the public.
  • “Maintain low financial expectations.” One author reveals his earnings.
  • Capitalism and socialism were Merriam-Webster’s most looked-up words of the year. But malarkey had a strong showing, too!
  • Authors choose their favorite illustrations.
  • Oh dear: Are we in the midst of a reading crisis?
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    What We’re Loving: Cocktails, Borges, Color

    August 17, 2012 | by

    As though a blog written by a Merriam-Webster lexicographer weren’t exciting enough, Kory Stamper at harm·less drudg·ery recently posted on the thrilling discovery of color definitions. To whit: “begonia n … 3 : a deep pink that is bluer, lighter, and stronger than average coral (sense 3b), bluer than fiesta, and bluer and stronger than sweet william — called also gaiety.” In a kind of synesthetic treasure hunt, she races through the dictionary to follow the trail of colors. “I eventually ended up at ‘coral,’ where sense 3c yielded up the fresh wonder, ‘a strong pink that is yellower and stronger than carnation rose, bluer, stronger, and slightly lighter than rose d’Althaea, and lighter, stronger, and slightly yellower than sea pink.’ Carnation rose was clearly the color of the pinkish flower on the tin of Carnation Evaporated Milk, and Rose d’Althaea was clearly Scarlett O’Hara’s flouncy cousin, but it was the last color that captivated me. ‘Sea pink,’ I murmured.” —Nicole Rudick

    “You probably wear lipstick, powder base and a little eye makeup every day. But have you ever considered drawing in completely new eyebrows, wearing false eyelashes, putting hollows in your cheeks with darker foundation, a cleft in your chin with brown eyebrow pencil or enlarging your mouth by a third? These are just a few sorcerer’s tricks available.” Among the most amusing tributes to the original fun, fearless female is Bonnie Downing’s affectionate Outdated Beauty Advice from Helen Gurley Brown over at the Hairpin. —Sadie O. Stein

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