Fantasy Democracy: Notes on Capital, Politics, and Voting

Louis Menand’s “The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University” (2010) questions why forms of higher education have been so intractable against change. One reason suggested is the surprising conservatism revealed of professors as a group, surprising because professors are often associated with more liberal stances and presumed to understand the connections…

Ruddy Rubescent Red

If you’re thinking about figurative language (and who isn’t?), you’ve probably bumped your head on the thought words have meaning, but whose? And too much meaning for their own good, or ours. We pick words like bananas, firm but yellow, not too green, ready to eat. We try to narrow our meaning, so as not…

Cadmean Victory

They do not want for something to say They run around and play all day Syllabicating back and forth No one asks what another is worth At night they climb trees to sleep They dream of mouths of lips and teeth And breath of a land where speech Is silly and fluid and free Having…

A Year From The Use and Misuse of English Grammar

We learn grammar when we learn to speak, we know grammar, we pause where we want, when we want, pulling words like fish from our Pond of Vocabulary and stringing them on the line, one after another, one to a hook, using commas instead of periods when we don’t want to be interrupted, YELLing when…

Walden: From “The Pond in Winter” to “Spring”

In Samuel Beckett’s chapter of Our Exagmination Round His Factification For Incamination of Work in Progress, twelve essays looking at Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (reissued New Directions Paperbook 331, 1972), titled “Dante… Bruno. Vico.. Joyce,” Beckett says, “Words have their progressions as well as social phases. ‘Forest-cabin-village-city-academy’ is one rough progression…And every word expands with psychological…

Ere Words Were

Woe were we when once we wooed wowed with words we would vow to wed where naught taught to tie the knot a language log in front of us saw how it was on a woeful wordful sea. To whoo in the waves of a spelling sea to whit her way through a sea wrack…

“Politics and the English Language”

In “Politics and the English Language” (1946), George Orwell advises “never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” Perhaps Orwell didn’t go far enough; a total abstinence from metaphor might be more effective. Orwell recommended checking against the rule when one might be “in doubt”…