Casanova Dies in Bohemia

At the end of his long and storied life, Giacomo Casanova found himself a lonely man in a damp, cold castle in Bohemia, a small German kingdom distant from all the places where he had lived and loved. The servants mocked him, making fun of his stuffy, outdated and foreign fashions, his powdered wigs and stiff formality. He is from an older world, a more refined … (more–>)

Uppercase Imperialism?

Dr. Linda Manyguns has stylized herself as Dr. linda manyguns because she stopped using uppercase (capital) letters to protest the “symbols of hierarchy.” Manyguns is the associate vice-president of indigenization and decolonization at Mt. Royal University in Alberta. On her own office’s website, she wrote: we resist acknowledging the power structures that oppress and join the movement that does not capitalize. the office of indigenization and … (more–>)

Musings on Swearing and Vulgar Language

(Warning: I swear in this post… frequently. You can’t write about swearing without actually swearing a bit. Or a lot. Easily offended folks might want to look elsewhere.) I find myself swearing more often these days than I ever did in the past, at least at home (not at my wife, of course). I’m not sure whether that’s a condition of my age, or the result … (more–>)

Musings on Shakespeare’s Anachronisms

When the clock struck three in Julius Caesar, you probably scratched your head, knowing that striking clocks didn’t exist two millennia ago in the play’s setting. In Caesar’s time, people checked sundials or water clocks (clepsydra), neither of which — inconveniently for the Bard — chimed. It would be almost 1,300 years after Caesar that the first “weight-driven mechanical clock was recorded in England” (in1283). It’s … (more–>)

Why Master Sun Matters Today

Master Sun was a wise man. So wise that his famous treatise, The Art of War (aka The Art of Warfare), has been read, written about, critiqued, and discussed for roughly 2,400 years. It has been used as a model of strategy and leadership for the military, for business, romance, sports, and for politics. And, like Machiavelli’s The Prince, it has often been misused, misunderstood, and … (more–>)

English as She is Spoke

One of the more delightful books in my personal library is a reprint of the 1883 American edition of English as She Is Spoke, described by Wikipedia as,  …intended as a Portuguese–English conversational guide or phrase book; however, as the “English” translations provided are usually inaccurate or incoherent, it is regarded as a classic source of unintentional humour in translation. Even a quick glance at its … (more–>)

Point to Point: The Book From the Ground

A few years back, during one of our Toronto mini-vacations, I was browsing in the shop of the Art Gallery of Ontario, and I came across a small book that had no words, just pictures. No, it wasn’t a book with pictures of artworks or photographs: it was a story, told entirely through common icons, symbols, and emoticons. Pictograms, looking not unlike a modernized version of … (more–>)

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra

We recently watched the Darmok episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, my third time seeing it, and I was struck again at how brilliant and quirky it was. Possibly the best of all the ST:NG’s 178 episodes. And, apparently, a lot of other fans agree with my assessment. Wikipedia describes it: The alien species introduced in this episode is noted for speaking in metaphors, such … (more–>)

Socialism, Communism, and Liberalism

Watching American political dramas like their presidential elections is both entertaining and frightening. Yet it is also strangely educational. it has taught me a basic tenet: Americans as a people know little to nothing about politics. Not just about international politics, but their own. It is a commonly held belief outside American borders that Americans are remarkably unaware of the history, politics, leaders, or even existence … (more–>)

The Hermeneutics of Suspicion

The title is a phrase I encountered while reading Mark Thompson’s excellent book on political rhetoric, Enough Said: What’s Wrong With the Language of Politics? Thompson’s book is both about the current and historic use of political rhetoric (from Aristotle forward), but also about the role of journalists in covering it. Thompson — a former new editor and executive in the BBC and now with the … (more–>)

Bring Back the Yogh and the Thorn

Ye Olde Shoppe. We’ve all seen the signs like this. Ever wonder why it says “ye” instead of “the”? Me, too, at least way back then. I’ve known the answer a long time now from decades of reading about English, about typography, Chaucer, and about Middle English orthography. Spoiler alert: It was pronounced “the.” Not “ye.” The “ye” was actually spelled “(thorn)e” — thorn was a … (more–>)

Juet’s Journal in Word format

For those readers interested in the voyages of the late-16th-early-17th century adventurer, Henry Hudson, or in the European explorations of North America, I have recently scanned and edited a copy of Juet’s Journal into Word format and placed it online here. Here is my website on Henry Hudson, too. I haven’t done much with it of late, but that may be slowly changing as I find … (more–>)

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