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Word of the Day: buxom

From First Thoughts

In the Beetle Bailey comic strip, the old addled General Halftrack has a dumb blonde secretary with really dangerous curves. Her name, of course, is Miss Buxley. Mort Walker was punning on the word buxom, which is now used only to describe a woman—and not every woman, either! It . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: brethren

From First Thoughts

I like the word brethren. Its specialized use is to denote members of a solemn or sacred brotherhood, sometimes including women too. Nobody would now say, “I have three sisters and two brethren,” unless he was telling a joke; he’s a member of an order of priests, and there are three . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: dust

From First Thoughts

“Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return,” said the Lord God to Adam after the first sin. It’s a fine translation of the Hebrew, that  dust;  it suggests transience and insubstantiality. By the nineteenth century, in Britain at least, the word came to denote garbage of . . . . Continue Reading »

Restoring The Words

From the November 2011 Print Edition

Two workers at the Ministry of Truth, Smith and Syme, sit at a table in an underground canteen. They wolf down spoonfuls of a pink and gray stew, with spongy chunks vaguely reminiscent of meat. Then Syme, filled with zeal, describes for his comrade what a joy it is to eliminate words from the . . . . Continue Reading »

A Rose by Any Other Name

From Web Exclusives

Which, I wonder, is the greater despair of the comedian? Is it the academic, or the journalist? There’s much to be said for the academic. It takes real comic genius to write as badly as a Jacques Derrida or a Julia Kristeva, with the turgidity of a decadent schoolman and none of the precision. It takes even more to listen to it with a straight face. But my money is on the journalist… . Continue Reading »

Restoring the Village

From the April 2011 Print Edition

In the year 1215, at a place called Runnymede, the barons of England, having paused from their usual pastime of bickering with one another, allied themselves with another brotherhood, the bishops of the Church, to checkmate their own king. They compelled him to sign a document called Magna Carta. . . . . Continue Reading »

The Soldier's Rough Charity

From Web Exclusives

Yet we hunger for what such dismal utilitarian habits cannot supply. So we look to the soldier, who may well make his career in or from the service, yet who endures privations we can hardly imagine, and puts his life on the line for his fellows. It is a kind of rough charity, and immensely appealing… . Continue Reading »