Lost in Translation: Untranslatable Words 3

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAt the heart of clear communication is diction: choosing the right word. Many times we stumble in a conversation because we cannot find just the right word. We think or say out loud: “I wish there were a word for that.” Of course, the English language is always growing, a magpie that borrows a word from this language or that. But sometimes, foreign language words and phrases do not get absorbed into the English language for whatever reason. Bookshelf looks at some fascinating words and phrases from around the globe that express ideas in a very unique way or cannot be translated with one English word. Here is a tasty sampling of the global lexical smorgasbord.

flaneur: French – “a person of excruciating idleness who doesn’t know where to parade his burden and ennui” (from a dictionary of low language published in 1808); also, a man who saunters around examining society

Him il-utaat kullu firaan: Arabic – literally: “the dream of all cats is all about mice” which means that someone has a one-track mind.

Denizen dues yilanasarilir: Turkish – literally: “if you fall into the sea, hold onto a snake” meaning that if you are in a difficult situation, you will accept help from anyone.

Gonul: Turkish – literally: “heart” but it has a deeper meaning: it refers to the energy of your inner self, a part of which is shared with every human being that evokes concern for the welfare of others.

Shibui: Japanese – the aesthetic of a person or thing that is only revealed over time.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia
There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: In Other Words by Christopher Moore

 


Adventures in Rhetoric: Hypozeuxis

alex atkins bookshelf wordsYou are probably familiar with the hypozeuxis but just don’t know it. Don’t worry — it is not a medical condition. A hypozeuxis (pronounced “hi PUH zook sis”) is a rhetorical term for a series of brief parallel clauses, where each clause has its own subject and predicate. The word is derived from the Greek word hypozeugnynai that means “to subjugate or to put under the yoke.” Perhaps the most famous hypozeuxis is Julius Caesar’s proclamation to the Roman Senate, reporting his victory at the Battle of Zela (47 BC): “I came; I saw; I conquered.” If you studied Latin, you will recall that early lesson: “veni, vidi, victi.” In Ecclesiastical Latin, that phrase is pronounced “vee-nee, vee-dee, vee-kee”; however, in Classical Late Latin, the “v” is pronounced as a “w”, so Caesar would have pronounced it “wee-nee, wee-dee, wee-kee.”

Another well-known hypozeuxis is from British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s famous speech to the House of Commons (often referred to as “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech) on June 4, 1940 regarding the successful evacuation of more than 300,000 soldiers during the Battle of Dunkirk in France (May 26 to June 4, 1940): “We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills.”

If you’re curious, the opposite of the hypozeuxis is the zeugma, also referred to an a syllepsis. In a zeugma (pronounced “ZOOG muh”), a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence that are understand differently in relation to each. An example of a zeugma is: “He took his hat and his leave.” The verb “take” is understood in two different contexts: “he took his hat” and “he took his leave.” Another example of a zeugma is: “He held his breath and the door for me.” Here the operative verb is hold and understood in two different ways: holding one’s breath, and holding a door open.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Adventures in Rhetoric: Adianoeta
What is a Pleonasm?
What is a Rhopalic?
The Wisdom of Cornel West
Why “I Have a Dream” Speech Endures
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King and the Suicide Letter
The Singer Who Inspired Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech
Quotes Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King

For further reading: https://winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches/


The Racist Origins of the Phrase “Social Distancing”

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesThe COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed human behavior, it has introduced a number of new words and phrases into the English lexicon. Perhaps the most prevalent phrases is “social distancing.” Unfortunately that phrase implies the wrong message because interpreted literally, it means separating socially from people — practiced in the extreme, it prescribes social isolation — something that is very harmful to human beings. A more appropriate and accurate term would be “physical distancing” that refers to the distance (at least six feet) people need to maintain from one another to reduce the risk of passing or getting infected with the highly contagious coronavirus. And as millions of people around the globe have discovered, you can be perfectly social standing six feet apart, or thanks to the internet, being thousands of miles apart. But the most insidious aspect of this phrase is that it is steeped in racism. Let’s take a closer look at the history of this insidious phrase.

This rather odd phrase captured the interest of Lily Scherlis, an English doctoral student at the University of Chicago, who wrote a fascinating article, titled “Distantiated Communitie: A Social History of Social Distancing” for Cabinet magazine (April 30, 2020). As she traced the phrase in its proper historical context, Scherlis discovered that not only is the phrase not accurate for its current usage — it is, disturbingly, based on racism. Scherlis elaborates: “[Social distancing] materialized as if from nowhere: a scientific coinage, a spontaneous naming of a systematized set of behaviors miraculously devised by presumed experts. ‘Social distancing’ has actually lived several lives. It and its precursor, ‘social distance,’ had long been used in a variety of colloquial and academic contexts, both as prescriptions and descriptions, before being taken up by epidemiologists in this century. In the nineteenth century, ‘social distance’ was a polite euphemism used by the British to talk about class and by Americans to talk about race. It was then formally adopted in the 1920s by sociologists as a term to facilitate the quantitative codification that was then being introduced into the nascent study of race relations. In the second half of the twentieth century, psychiatry, anthropology, and zoology all adapted it for various purposes. And it was used in the 1990s [during the AIDS crisis] in the United States to analyze what happened to the gay community when faced with straight fears of contagion. It was only in 2004 in a CDC publication on controlling the recent SARS outbreak that the term ‘social distance’ was finally deployed for the first time by the medical community.”

The earliest use of the phrase appears in the 1831 translation of Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne’s memoirs of his friendship with the famous French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte. Bourrienne describes how when Napoleon entered the room after a successful military campaign that he could no longer address Napoleon in an informal manner: “His position placed too great a social distance [distance sociale] between him and me not to make me feel the necessity of fashioning my demeanor accordingly.” Scherlis adds, “This use, referring to the social rank of individuals and thus the etiquette demanded between persons, was common in anglophone culture throughout the nineteenth century, especially with regard to class.” This concept of social inequality becomes woven into the fabric of culture in the 19th century in Great Britain as well as the United States, where slavery was an entrenched part of society. Scherlis continues: “[In the U.S.] social distance was a palatable way for whites to describe how to continue practices of white supremacy after abolition. The term’s softness glossed over the realities of slavery and later anti-black violence, as well as the challenges formerly enslaved people faced in making a livelihood. In 1850, an abolitionist British Baptist church condemned US whites for ‘keeping your most injured brethren in Christ at so great a social distance.’ A pro-secession article that appeared in the Richmond Enquirer in 1856 describes the anxiety of poor working whites who might soon be competing with formerly enslaved farmers, while ‘the rich, owning the lands, might keep the negroes at a greater social distance.’ An 1869 article accuses Frederick Douglass, among other black emissaries appointed to represent the United States abroad, of aspiring to ‘increase their social distance from the African.’”

Perhaps the most egregious form of racism with respect to this phrase occurs in the wake of the Chicago race riots of 1919. Scherlis explains: “Following the 1919 Chicago race riot, the nascent sociology department at the University of Chicago convinced a ‘wealthy Chicago heiress’ to fund research into the budding field of “race relations.” Faculty member Robert Park had studied with Simmel in Berlin, and hoped to apply the figure of the stranger and its associated concepts to racial dynamics in the United States. It was in this new incarnation as a sociological concept, then, that social distance found its ‘first notable empirical application’ in the codification and quantification of how people belonging to one race felt about those of another. For Park, this project represented ‘an attempt to reduce to something like measurable terms the grades and degrees of understanding and intimacy which characterize personal and social relations generally.’ Importing Simmel’s term in order to describe this measurement, Park used ‘social distance’ as a structuring concept in his large-scale survey of Asian Americans living on the Pacific coast. Park asked Emory S. Bogardus… to assist him in the project. It was for this occasion that Bogardus devised a ‘quantitative indicator of social distance.’ His statistical measure would go on to have a “profound impact” on US sociology, becoming “one of the most celebrated historical social psychological tools in American intellectual history.” It is called the Social Distance Scale, and is still in use today. The scale equates ‘distance’ with prejudice, which it calculates based on a group of given respondents’ agreements or disagreements with five to seven statements. The statements are designed to gauge the willingness of each member of that particular social grouping to ‘share certain situations’ with members of other social groupings.”

The Social Distance Scale, published in 1925, lists seven degrees of intimacy as representative of the spectrum of possible human relations, in essence quantifying an individual’s level of racism:
To close kinship by marriage
To my club as personal chums
To my street as neighbors
To employment in my occupation in my country
To citizenship in my country
As visitors only to my country
Would exclude from my country

During the late 20th century, the Social Distance Scale was applied to map just about any context by mental health experts, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, housing experts, law enforcement experts, zoologists, and finally epidemiologists. Scherlis points to the AIDS crisis in 1990 as a critical turning point for the phrase “social distancing.” Schelis elaborates: “This moment becomes a hinge between the term’s sociological legacy and its reincarnation as a public health protocol. ‘Social distance,’ as it pertained to the AIDS crisis, was often used to analyze the phenomenon of stigmatization, as it had been in psychiatry. At the same time, the notion of ‘distance’ took on a new physical literalness, as well as an unprecedented association with public health. With the AIDS epidemic, stigma palpably attached to (false) anxieties about contagion: an HIV-negative public suddenly became wary of even casual touching of those profiled as likely to be HIV-positive, fearing that the virus could leap simply from epidermis to epidermis… Suddenly, social distance was not only a way to distinguish degrees of prejudice against populations, but also a description of the physical distance to be kept from other individuals for one’s own protection… Two incompatible discourses collide here: social scientists aspiring to close the gaps of animosity between populations, and those trying to increase the space between people’s bodies from fear of what toxicity might pass between them.”

In an interview with Time magazine, Scherlis discusses how shocked she was to learn of its history and impact on American culture. When asked about what surprised her the most, Scherlis responded: “I think the Social Distance Scale undergirds our way of subconsciously thinking through issues of identity and inequity. It makes it seem like people obviously fit very neatly into these groups that obviously hate each other and that that hatred is simple enough that it can be turned into a number and counted and averaged across a population. It’s just this huge reduction…” Scherlis   felt it was important for people to really understand the dark history of this phrase that is used so casually today: “I just think it’s really important to remember how much institutionalized government-sanctioned language is weighed down with racism. When you use the term and see the term used, it’s good to hold in our heads how much the term has been used to justify elites sequestering themselves from pretty much most marginalized or disenfranchised folks in the U.S. across 200 years.”

As of July 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has already made several reforms; it stands to make many more in the months and years ahead. Thanks to Schelis’ brilliant research, educating Americans about the racist roots of the phrase “social distancing” immediately and replacing it with “physical distancing” or some other more generic term should be one of those reforms.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related post: Why “I Have a Dream” Speech Endures
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King and the Suicide Letter
The Singer Who Inspired Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream Speech

Quotes Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King

For further reading: http://cabinetmagazine.org/kiosk/scherlis_lily_30_april_2020.php
https://time.com/5856800/social-distancing-history/


We Must Repent for the Hateful Actions of Bad People and the Appalling Silence of Good People

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.”

From Letter from a Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963) by Martin Luther King, Jr. The open letter, written while King was incarcerated at the Birmingham, Alabama jail, was his response to a statement (titled “A Call for Unity”) by eight white clergymen from the area who criticized his participation in the widely publicized civil right demonstrations in their state. The nonviolent campaign, beginning on April 3, involved coordinated marches and sit-ins against racial segregation and racism. The critics called King “an outsider” and deemed his actions “unwise and untimely.” King quickly dismissed both criticisms: “I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid. Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”

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Fascinating Literary Memorabilia

alex atkins bookshelf literatureBibliophiles not only collect books, some also collect literary memorabilia — objects owned by famous writers. Occasionally you will come across literary memorabilia at antiquarian book fairs, but because they are so valuable, they usually find they way to auction houses. Here are some of the most fascinating literary memorabilia that have sold at auction in the past year (price of item in parentheses):

Bronze cross, 9 inches tall owned by Jack Kerouac: $750

Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch owned by Jack Kerouac: $1,000

Pocket watch owned by P.G. Wodehouse: $4,375

Monogramed candlestick owned by Charles Dickens, sat on his writing desk in his library at Gad’s Hill: $8,750

Mahogany writing table with two frieze drawers owned by Charles Dickens: $13,750

Walking stick, made of hazel, silver, and ivory owned by Robert Burns: $2,200

Walking stick with engraved gold top owned by Frederick Douglass: $37,500

Pen owned by Rudyard Kipling: $3,347

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Writing Desk of Charles Dickens Returns Home
Andy Warhol was a Hoarder

For further reading: https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/blog/kerouacs-crucifix-dickens-candlestick-appealing-literary-memorabilia
https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/news/rare-books-manuscripts-relics-including-forbes-and-kerouac-auction

 


Famous Misquotations: You Can Stand Tall Without Standing on Someone

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“You can stand tall without standing on someone. You can be a victor without having victims.”

This is one of these inspirational quotations that is found on hundreds of websites and books without full or accurate attribution — the old “quote in search of an author” conundrum. Quite often it is mistakenly attributed to Harriett Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), the famous American abolitionist and writer. It certainly sounds like something that she might say; however, the actual source is another Harriett who lived in another century and not as famous — Harriett Woods (1927-2007), an American politician who served as Lieutenant Governor of Missouri. The primary source of this quotation could not be found; however, a secondary source, The Last Word: A Treasury of Women’s Quotes (1992) edited by Carolyn Warner, cites Woods as the author.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

For further reading: Famous Misquotations: Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Famous Misquotations: A Civilization is Measured by How It Treats Its Weakest Members
Famous Misquotations: The Two Most Important Days in Your Life
Famous Misquotations: The Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing
Famous Phrases You Have Been Misquoting


The Best of Puns, the Worst of Puns 2

atkins-bookshelf-wordsThe pun, of course, is a much maligned form of humor. Noah Webster, in his first edition of the American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) defines the pun as “an expression in which a word has at once different meanings; an expression in which two different applications of a word present an odd or ludicrous idea; a kind of quibble or equivocation; a low species of wit.” Sigmund Freud, in his seminal work Wit and Relation to the Unconscious (1917), added: “Puns are generally counted as the lowest form of wit, perhaps because they are cheaper and can be formed with the least effort.” Sounds like the father of psychoanalysis suffers from pun envy. In an article for the New York Times, Joseph Tartakovsky posits: “Puns are the feeblest species of humor because they are ephemeral: whatever comic force they possess never outlasts the split second it takes to resolve the semantic confusion.” Punsters will counter that if the pun is the lowest form, then it is the foundation of all wit. Known for his razor-sharp wit, comedian Oscar Levant declared: “A pun is the lowest form of humor — when you don’t think of it first.” Take that, Noah and Siggy! 

For punsters, the internet, serves as a giant sandbox, where they can all step in, gluttons for punishment, and hurl puns at one another, howling with devilish glee (and not a single groan!) that only a true paronomasiac can appreciate. Here are the best of puns or the worst of puns, depending on your perspective (pun purists will note that some of these are not technically puns, but rather clever wordplay).

A punster sent ten puns to friends with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

I have a few puns about unemployed people, but none of them work.

It’s hard to explain puns to a kleptomaniac because they always take things literally.

A backward poet writes inverse.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited by police for littering.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class — it was a weapon of math disruption.

A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: “Keep off the Grass.”

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, “I’m sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.”

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused novocaine during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.

If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you’d be in Seine.

“I have a split personality,” said Tom, being frank.

In a democracy it is your vote that counts. In a feudal system it is your count that votes.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.

She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

When life gives you melons, you’re dyslexic.

The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was referred to in the news as “a small medium at large.”

The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. Your fly might be open.

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in it. Eventually it sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.

I dreamt I was swimming in an ocean of orange soda but I realized it was just a Fanta sea.

Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says “Dam!”

Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: “You stay here; I’ll go on a head.”

Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says “Are you sure?” The first replies, “Yes, I’m positive.”

Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

The priest made holy water by boiling the hell out of it.

What’s your favorite clever pun?

Read related posts: Top Ten Puns
Best Pi Puns
The Best of Puns, The Worst of Puns

For further reading: www.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/opinion/28Tartakovsky.html?_r=0
http://www.sarcasmsociety.com/sarcasm.html
http://www.punoftheday.com


Secrets to Surviving the Covid-19 Crisis According to Centenarians

Living in 2020 sucks, to put it bluntly. Covid-19 illness and death, sheltering-in-place, financial collapse, massive unemployment, businesses failing, corruption in government, the inept Trump administration, systemic police brutality and racism, white nationalism, the climate crisis… I could go on. How does one navigate one of the most challenging and troubling times in America’s history? In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood talks about the importance of perspective: “What I need is perspective. The illusion of depth, created by a frame, the arrangement of shapes on a flat surface. Perspective is necessary. Otherwise there are only two dimensions. Otherwise you live with your face squashed up against a wall, everything a huge foreground, of details, close-ups, hairs, the weave of the bedsheet, the molecules of the face. Your own skin like a map, a diagram of futility, criscrossed with tiny roads that lead nowhere. Otherwise you live in the moment. Which is not where I want to be.” Amen to that.

Imagine being born in 1920 and witnessing some of the most turbulent times in American history: the Pearl Harbor attack, World War II, the Wall Street Crash of 1929, The Great Depression (1929-1933), the Vietnam War and protests (1955-75), Black Monday (1987), the 9/11 attacks (2001), the financial crisis of 2007-2008 — only to find yourself in 2020 where several crises seem to be rolled into one. It’s an exclusive club: people who have lived more than 100 years, known as centenarians. For the most part, they have lived a happy, fulfilling lives. So our question for them is: how did they do it?

In interviews, centenarians have generously shared their secrets to living a happy, fulfilling life; however, on another level, these insights can be viewed as the best way to get through these very challenging, uncertain times:

1: Happiness comes from what we do. Life is about really living and making memories with people you care about. ““I have so many beautiful memories. I got to do all the things I wanted to.”

2: Happiness comes from living in the now. You cannot live in the past, so don’t dwell on it — focus on the present.

3: Happiness comes from having a positive attitude and being optimistic. “Decide to be content. Don’t chase happiness. Just be satisfied.”

4: Love and a good partnership are critical for a long life. “Being happily married and happy in general is the remedy for all illness.”

5: Learn to adapt and change as circumstances changes. “Everything must pass.”

6: Be kind and help others.

7: Be curious: always keep learning

8: Eat well, get enough sleep, and take care of your health.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Wisdom of a Grandmother
Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz

For further reading: https://anxiety-gone.com/9-powerful-life-lessons-from-100-year-olds/


What is the Origin of “No Man is Above the Law”?

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesIn the case of Trump v. Vance, the Supreme Court established that “In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence. Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.” The majority decision affirmed the well-known maxim that “no man is above the law” by rejecting the sweeping claim of immunity and anti-democratic conception of the American presidency advocated by Donald Trump and his attorneys. Speaking to the Washington Post, constitutional scholar Joshua Matz elaborates: “These opinions offer a resounding, definitive rejection of President Trump’s claims to monarchical prerogative. They affirm in the clearest possible terms that the president is not above the law — and that he is subject to state criminal subpoenas and congressional investigation under appropriate circumstances.”

The phrase “no man is above the law” represents a fundamental concept of a constitutional democracy — that the law applies equally to all citizens in a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The concept is on the opposite end of the spectrum of a monarch or oligarchy where rulers are above the law. Interestingly, most people are familiar with the phrase and understand it, but few know the person who originated the phrase.

For the answer to that question, we must step into a time machine and travel back over a century to arrive in Washington, D.C. on December 7, 1903. On that date, President Theodore Roosevelt delivered his Third Annual Message to Congress. The complete phrase that Roosevelt used was “No man is above the law and no man is below it.” An excerpt appears below (paragraph breaks added for ease of reading):

“The consistent policy of the National Government, so far as it has the power, is to hold in check the unscrupulous man, whether employer or employee; but to refuse to weaken individual initiative or to hamper or cramp the industrial development of the country.

We recognize that this is an era of federation and combination, in which great capitalistic corporations and labor unions have become factors of tremendous importance in all industrial centers. Hearty recognition is given the far-reaching, beneficent work which has been accomplished through both corporations and unions, and the line as between different corporations, as between different unions, is drawn as it is between different individuals; that is, it is drawn on conduct, the effort being to treat both organized capital and organized labor alike; asking nothing save that the interest of each shall be brought into harmony with the interest of the general public, and that the conduct of each shall conform to the fundamental rules of obedience to law, of individual freedom, and of justice and fair dealing towards all.

Whenever either corporation, labor union, or individual disregards the law or acts in a spirit of arbitrary and tyrannous interference with the rights of others, whether corporations or individuals, then where the Federal Government has jurisdiction, it will see to it that the misconduct is stopped, paying not the slightest heed to the position or power of the corporation, the union or the individual, but only to one vital fact–that is, the question whether or not the conduct of the individual or aggregate of individuals is in accordance with the law of the land.

Every man must be guaranteed his liberty and his right to do as he likes with his property or his labor, so long as he does not infringe the rights of others. No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man’s permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor.”

Roosevelt’s memorable maxim is based on the ancient concept of the “rule of law,” defined as “The authority and influence of law in society, especially when viewed as a constraint on individual and institutional behavior; (hence) the principle whereby all members of a society (including those in government) are considered equally subject to publicly disclosed legal codes and processes” by the Oxford English Dictionary. The concept was introduced by the Ancient Greeks, including Plato and Aristotle. In his seminal work Politics (written circa 350 BC), Aristotle wrote: “It is more proper that law should govern than any one of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place the supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servants of the laws. (3.16)” Over two hundred years later, Roman statesman and philosopher Marcus Tulles Cicero (106-43 BC) who was instrumental in the establishment of the Roman Empire, argued that we are all servants of the laws in order to be free: “The magistrates who administer the law, the judges who act as its spokesmen, all the rest of us who live as its servants, grant it our allegiance as a guarantee of our freedom.” [from Murder Trial, speeches from his most celebrated murder trials between 80 and 45 BC.]

According to the OED, the phrase “rule of law” was first used in 1500 by English politician John Blount: “Lawes And constitutcions be ordeyned be cause the noysome Appetit of man maye be kepte vnder the Rewle of lawe by the wiche mankinde ys dewly enformed to lye honestly.” A century later the phrase appears in a petition from the House of Commons to James I of England in 1610: “Amongst many other points of happiness and freedom which your majesty’s subjects of this kingdom have enjoyed under your royal progenitors, kings and queens of this realm, there is none which they have accounted more dear and precious than this, to be guided and governed by the certain rule of the law which giveth both to the head and members that which of right belongeth to them, and not by any uncertain or arbitrary form of government. 

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Origins of Talk Turkey
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For further reading: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/07/09/supreme-court-deals-blow-trumps-delusions-untrammeled-power/
https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/third-annual-message-16


There’s A Word for That: Coulrophobia

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThere’s a memorable line in Stephen King’s novel It (published in 1986) that perfectly captures the junction between coming of age and facing mortality: “Being a kid is learning how to live and being an adult is learning how to die.” In the novel, and in the 2017 film adaptation, if you happen to come face to face with Pennywise the Dancing Clown you will quickly learn the latter. King’s horror novel taps into the uncommon fear of clowns; of course, Pennywise is not your typical birthday party variety clown — he is an outlier: a creepy, homicidal sociopath. This discussion leads to our question for the day: what is the word for fear of clowns?

Clownophobia is an acceptable word; however, the technical word is coulrophobia, defined as the irrational or extreme fear of clowns. The word is pronounced “coal RA fow bee ah.” The editors of Oxford English Dictionary (OED) determined that the base word coulro is of arbitrary origin combined with the Greek suffix phobia meaning “fear of.” The word was recently added to the OED in March 2020, citing the first use in a 1997 Usenet newsgroup article titled “34 Reasons Why You Should Hate Clowns.” Douglas Harper, editor of the Online Etymological Dictionary, agrees with the editors of the OED with respect to the base word. He writes: “Coulrophobia looks suspiciously like the sort of thing idle pseudo-intellectuals invent on the internet… perhaps it is a mangling of Modern Greek klooun, meaning “clown,” which is the English word borrowed into Greek.” So from this, can we conclude that coulrophobia is the sort of bastardized word that is formed when lexicographic novices clown around with the English language?

So now that we understand the etymology of coulrophobia, let us explore a new question: how prevalent is fear of clowns? According to a survey conducted in October 2016 by Chapman University, 7.8% of Americans are coulrophobic. Another study noted “Fear of clowns is a phenomenon known for more than several decades and related to the increased use of clowns as negative characters in horror movies and TV shows.” Thanks a lot Pennywise! A poll conducted by Vox in October 2016 found that people ranked their greatest fears in this order: (1) government corruption (2) clowns (3) terrorist attack (4) a family member dying (5) climate change (6) heights (7) dying.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: https://blogs.chapman.edu/wilkinson/2016/10/11/americas-top-fears-2016/
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00431-016-2826-3
https://www.sciencealert.com/americans-are-more-afraid-of-clowns-than-climate-change
https://www.etymonline.com/word/coulrophobia


Is Charles Dickens Relevant Today?

atkins-bookshelf-literature

Today, amidst the best of times and worst of times, marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens (February 7, 1812-June 9, 1870), one of the greatest novelists in English literature. He is considered by many literary scholars and critics as a literary genius. Dickens was a prolific and successful writer — his 20 novels and novellas contributed to his financial success. It is estimated that at the time of his death (he was 58) he was worth more than $13 million in today’s dollars. Dickens’ relevance can certainly be measured in dollars. 150 years later Dickens continues to be a financial powerhouse. The BBC estimated that Dickens’ characters bring more than £280 million per year, on top of that Dickens sells more than £3 million worth of books and £34 million in theatrical adaptations annually.

But Dickens’ relevance is not only measured in money — it can be measured by his message as a social critic and his tremendous literary legacy. Biographer Claire Tomalin, who has written award-winning biographies of Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and Samuel Pepys, believes that Dickens is as relevant today as he was when he was writing in the mid 19th century. In an interview with the Radio Times, Tomalin emphasized Dickens’s important role as social critic (beyond his significant contribution to the celebration of the holidays by way of A Christmas Carol, of course): “Dickens is very relevant at the moment in England because we are producing Dickensian conditions again. The need for food banks, the ending of children’s support from the state, the attack on the health services and the BBC, the universities being commercialized — so many of the things that Dickens fought for and stood for are being attacked. I think he was never so relevant.”

Because some of his novels focus on children, some readers dismiss Dickens as a children’s writer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because of the many traumatic experiences he endured as a child — and thus forged his conscience — Dickens never forgot the plight of the children. Consequently, his work, while certainly appealing to children, was aimed at the adults who created the deplorable social, economic, legal, and moral conditions of Victorian society. Tomalin discusses Dickens’s sensitivity to children, “Dickens has this extraordinary immediacy that children love. [For example, the novel] David Copperfield takes children seriously – their mentality, their imagination and their feelings.” And it is these two aspect of his novels — detailed depiction of children and unflinching social criticism — that makes them so compelling and timeless.

Tomalin also credits Dickens with the introduction of serialized novels that directly influenced the way stories are told for more than two centuries, most notably in mini-series and soap operas. Tomalin elaborates: “It’s not surprising that modern soaps use methods employed by Dickens — the intense interest in colorful characters and the violent or exciting interchange between them. If Dickens were around today he’d be interested in soaps as a platform for reaching as many people as possible.” Moreover, Dickens mastered the cliffhanger, leaving readers with bated breath; Tomalin adds: “He wanted people to come back and buy the next issue — and they did. That’s why driving the plot is very important with Dickens.”

Read related posts: Why Read Dickens?
The Origin of the Name Scrooge
The Inspiration for Dickens’s A Christmas Carol
What is a First Edition of A Christmas Carol Worth?
The Story Behind “The Night Before Christmas”

Words invented by Dickens

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

For further reading: Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London by Andrea Warren (2011)
http://www.theguardian.com/media/2015/dec/08/charles-dickens-claire-tomalin-bbc-dickensian
https://www.grunge.com/186963/heres-how-much-charles-dickens-was-worth-when-he-died/
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-16914367


Can Democracy in America Be Saved?

alex atkins bookshelf culture“The four catastrophes Martin Luther King Jr warned us about — militarism (in Asia, Africa and the Middle East), poverty (at record levels), materialism (with narcissistic addictions to money, fame, and spectacle) and racism (against black and indigenous people, Muslims, Jews and non-white immigrants) — have laid bare the organized hatred, greed, and corruption in the country….

The fundamental question at this moment is: can this failed social experiment be reformed? The political duopoly of [a Republican and Democratic party] — in no way equivalent, yet both beholden to Wall Street and the Pentagon — are symptoms of a decadent leadership class. The weakness of the labor movement and the present difficulty of the radical left to unite around a nonviolent revolutionary project of democratic sharing and redistribution of power, wealth and respect are signs of a society unable to regenerate the best of its past and present. Any society that refuses to eliminate or attenuate dilapidated housing, decrepit school systems, mass incarceration, massive unemployment and underemployment, inadequate healthcare, and its violations of rights and liberties is undesirable and unsustainable.

Yet the magnificent moral courage and spiritual sensitivity of the multiracial response to the police killing of George Floyd that now spills over into a political resistance to the legalized looting of Wall Street greed, the plundering of the planet and the degradation of women and LGBTQ+ peoples means we are still fighting regardless of the odds. 

If radical democracy dies in America, let it be said of us that we gave our all-and-all as the boots of American fascism tried to crush our necks.”

From the essay “A Boot is Crushing the Neck of American Democracy” by Cornel West, American professor, philosopher, and civil rights activist.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related post: Riot is the Language of the Unheard
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 Wisdom of Martin Luther King
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The Gettysburg Address

The Two Most Important Days of Your Life

For further reading: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jun/01/george-floyd-protests-cornel-west-american-democracy


Triplets: The Triumph of Evil When Good Men Do Nothing

atkins bookshelf quotations

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

From Stride Toward Freedom: A Leader of His People Tells the Montgomery Story (1958)by Martin Luther King, Jr. In this book, King explains what really happened during the Montgomery Buy Boycott of 1955-56 that was not covered accurately by the media.

Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often caused by bad men as they are by good men who are silent when an opinion must be voiced.

From Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncensored Story of the JonBenet Murder and the Grand Jury’s Search for the Truth by American photojournalist, director, and screenwriter Lawrence Schiller. Schiller has written and collaborated on 22 books, many of which focus on some of America’s most fascinating celebrities and sensational crimes. He has also produced and directed over 30 films, televisions movies, and miniseries based on his books.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

This is one of the most well-known apocryphal quotes, that is, a quote that is of doubtful authenticity and is falsely attributed to a notable individual. This particular quote has been attributed to Edmund Burke, the Irish philosopher and statesman, but there is no written proof to support the claim. The only writing that comes close is this: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. (1770).” Almost a century later, John Stuart Mill, the British philosopher, expressed a similar thought: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Garson O’Toole, known as the Quote Investigator, tracked down  a medical bulletin from 1895 that had this sentence without any attribution: “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.” Perhaps over time, these quotations were conflated and attributed to Burke. Soon the quote made its way into prominent speeches, like JFK in 1961. From there the quotation was included in reference books, like the Yale Book of Quotations (1950) and Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 14th Edition (1980). Once the quote made its way to the internet, it joined the army of apocryphal quotes that marches on and propagates endlessly.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: Doublets: Love
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Doublets: Youth and Maturity
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Doublets: Reading a Great Book
Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

For further reading: Hemingway Didn’t Say That by Garson O’Toole
Stride Toward Freedom by Martin Luther King, Jr.
quoteinvestigator.com/2010/12/04/good-men-do/
barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/all_that_is_necessary_for_the_triumph_of_evil_is_that_good_men_do_nothing/

Best Commencement Speeches: Rick Rigsby

alex atkins bookshelf wisdom

Dr. Rick Rigsby is an ordained minister and President and CEO of Rick Rigby Communications; he travels around the world as a motivational speaker teaching people about leadership principles. Prior to that, Rigsby was an award-winning television news reporter, a college professor at CSU Fresno and Texas A&M (where he earned the Outstanding Teaching Award), and served as chaplain and character coach for the Texas A&M Aggies football team. He has earned four degrees: BA in Mass Communications; MA in Public Communications; MA in Biblical Theology; and a PhD in Critical Media Studies. Rigsby is the author of the bestselling book Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout: How the Timeless Wisdom of One Man Can Impact an Entire Generation. Rigsby was born in Vallejo, California in 1956 to working class parents. His mother was a forklift operator at the Venetia Arsenal and his father was a cook at the California Maritime Academy. In his motivational speeches, Rigsby draws on his life experiences to share the wisdom of his working class parents who taught him enduring values and life lessons and inspired lifelong learning. As his website explains: “Inspired by a genuine conviction to help people realize their full potential [Rigsby] brings a combined four decades of experience and expertise… [He] encourages, inspires and challenges people at every level to dream bigger, stretch beyond comfort zones and achieve the impossible!” Below is Rigby’s powerful, poignant, and inspiring commencement speech, titled “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout” to the graduating class of the California State University Maritime Academy in Vallejo on April 22, 2017. It is filled with several insightful and transformative life lessons drawn from his personal journey. It is no wonder that this graduation speech has been viewed over 14 million times:

The wisest person I ever met in my life, a third-grade dropout. Wisest and dropout in the same sentence is rather oxymoronic, like jumbo shrimp. Like fun run — ain’t nothing fun about it. Like Microsoft Works — y’all don’t hear me. I used to say [I] like country music — but I’ve lived in Texas so long, I love country music now. Yeah! I hunt. I fish. I have cowboy boots and cowboy… Y’all, I’m a blackneck redneck. Do you hear what I’m saying to you? [It’s] no longer oxymoronic for me to say country music and it’s not oxymoronic for me to say third grade and dropout.

That third grade dropout, the wisest person I ever met in my life, who taught me to combine knowledge and wisdom to make an impact, was my father, a simple cook, wisest man I ever met in my life. Just a simple cook. Left school in the third grade to help out on the family farm but just because he left school doesn’t mean his education stopped. Mark Twain once said, “I’ve never allowed my schooling to get in the way of my education.” My father taught himself how to read, taught himself how to write, decided in the midst of Jim Crowism, as America was breathing the last gasp of the Civil War, my father decided he was going to stand and be a man, not a black man, not a brown man, not a white man, but a man. He literally challenged himself to be the best that he could all the days of his life.

I have four degrees. My brother is a judge. We’re not the smartest ones in our family — it’s a third grade dropout daddy, a third grade dropout daddy who was quoting Michelangelo, saying to us boys, “I won’t have a problem if you aim high and miss, but I’m gonna have a real issue if you aim low and hit.” A country mother quoting Henry Ford, saying, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.” I learned that from a third grade drop. Simple lessons, lessons like these. “Son, you’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.” We never knew what time it was at my house because the clocks were always ahead. My mother said, for nearly 30 years, my father left the house at 3:45 in the morning, one day, she asked him, “Why, Daddy?” He said, “Maybe one of my boys will catch me in the act of excellence.”

I want to share a few things with you. Aristotle said, “You are what you repeatedly do.” Therefore, excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. Don’t ever forget that. I know you’re tough. I know you’re seaworthy, but always remember to be kind, always. Don’t ever forget that. Never embarrass Mama. Mm-hmm. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. If Daddy ain’t happy, don’t nobody care — but I’m going to tell you.

Next lesson: lesson from a cook over there in the galley. “Son, make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego.” I want to remind you cadets of something as you graduate. Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. You all might have a relative in mind you want to send that to. Let me say it again: ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. Pride is the burden of a foolish person.

John Wooden coached basketball at UCLA for a living, but his calling was to impact people, and with all those national championships, guess what he was found doing in the middle of the week? Going into the cupboard, grabbing a broom and sweeping his own gym floor. You want to make an impact? Find your broom. Every day of your life, you find your broom. You grow your influence that way. That way, you’re attracting people so that you can impact them.

Final lesson. “Son, if you’re going to do a job, do it right.” I’ve always been told how average I can be, always been criticized about being average, but I want to tell you something. I stand here before you before all of these people, not listening to those words, but telling myself every single day to shoot for the stars, to be the best that I can be. Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better, and better isn’t good enough if it can be best.

Let me close with a very personal story that I think will bring all this into focus. Wisdom will come to you in the unlikeliest of sources, a lot of times through failure. When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow. I’m not worried that you’ll be successful. I’m worried that you won’t fail from time to time. The person that gets up off the canvas and keeps growing, that’s the person that will continue to grow their influence.

Back in the ’70s, to help me make this point, let me introduce you to someone. I met the finest woman I’d ever met in my life. Mm-hmm. Back in my day, we’d have called her a brick house. This woman was the finest woman I’d ever seen in my life. There was just one little problem. Back then, ladies didn’t like big old linemen. The Blind Side hadn’t come out yet. They liked quarterbacks and running back. We’re at this dance, and I find out her name is Trina Williams from Lompoc, California. We’re all dancing and we’re just excited. I decide in the middle of dancing with her that I would ask her for her phone number. Trina was the first — Trina was the only woman in college who gave me her real telephone number.

The next day, we walked to [Baskin-Robbins] ice cream parlor. My friends couldn’t believe it. This has been 40 years ago, and my friends still can’t believe it. We go on a second date and a third date and a fourth date. Mm-hmm. We drive from Chico to Vallejo so that she can meet my parents. My father meets her. My daddy. My hero. He meets her, pulls me to the side and says, “Is she psycho?” Anyway, we go together for a year, two years, three years, four years. By now, Trina’s a senior in college. I’m still a freshman, but I’m working some things out. I’m so glad I graduated in four terms, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan.

Now, it’s time to propose, so I talk to her girlfriends, and it’s California. It’s in the ’70s, so it has to be outside, have to have a candle and you have to some chocolate. Listen, I’m from the hood. I had a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine. That’s what I had. She said, “Yes.” That was the key. I married the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my… Y’all ever been to a wedding and even before the wedding starts, you hear this? “How in the world?” It was coming from my side of the family! We get married. We have a few children. Our lives are great.

One day, Trina finds a lump in her left breast. Breast cancer. Six years after that diagnosis, me and my two little boys walked up to Mommy’s casket and for two years my heart didn’t beat. If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I wouldn’t be standing here today. If it wasn’t for those two little boys, there would have been no reason for which to go on. I was completely lost. That was rock bottom. You know what sustained me? The wisdom of a third grade dropout, the wisdom of a simple cook.

We’re at the casket. I’d never seen my dad cry, but this time I saw my dad cry. That was his daughter — Trina was his daughter, not his daughter-in-law, and I’m right behind my father about to see her for the last time on this Earth, and my father shared three words with me that changed my life right there at the casket. It would be the last lesson he would ever teach me. He said, “Son, just stand. You keep standing. You keep standing no matter how rough the sea, you keep standing, and I’m not talking about just water. You keep standing. No matter what you don’t give up.” I learned that lesson from a third grade dropout. And as clearly as I’m talking to you today, these were some of [my wife’s] last words to me. She looked me in the eye and she said, “It doesn’t matter to me any longer how long I live. What matters to me most is how I live.”

I ask y’all one question, a question that I was asked all my life by a third grade dropout. How you living? How you living? Every day, ask yourself that question. How you living? Here’s what a cook would suggest you to live, this way: that you would not judge, that you would show up early, that you’d be kind, that you make sure that that servant’s towel is huge and used, that if you’re going to do something, you do it the right way. That cook would tell you this: that it’s never wrong to do the right thing, that how you do anything is how you do everything, and in that way, you will grow your influence to make an impact. In that way, you will honor all those who have gone before you who have invested in you. Look in those unlikeliest places for wisdom. Enhance your life every day by seeking that wisdom and asking yourself every night, “How am I living?”

May God richly bless you all. Thank you for having me here.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Best Commencement Speeches: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Wear Sunscreen Commencement Speech
Best Books for Graduates
Best Books for Graduates 2015

Wisdom of a Grandmother
Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz

For further reading: rickrigsby.com
http://www.news.uwa.edu.au/201310186163/features/nine-life-lessons-graduate
Speech: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg_Q7KYWG1g


There’s A Word for That: Blatherskite

alex atkins bookshelf wordsEver listened to a person talk at great length, and as you nod while listening politely, you realize none of what they say makes sense or is meaningless? Well, there a word for that kind of person: blatherskite. Pronounced “bla THUR skite” the word is a portmanteau of the English word blather, derived from the Old Norse blathr meaning “talking nonsense” and the Scottish word skite meaning “a contemptible person.” The word was popularized by the traditional Scottish song “Maggie Lauder” which was frequently sung by the soldiers in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. “Maggie Lauder,” a song about a piper, was written by Frances Sempill (1616-1685) and first published in 1729 in Adam Craig’s Collection of the Choicest Scots Tunes. Here are the first verses of the song (note that blatherskite was initially spelled “bladderskate”):

Wha wadna be in love
Wi’ bonnie Maggie Lauder?
A piper met her gaun to Fife,
And speir’d what was’t they ca’d her;-
Eight scornfully she answer’d him,
Begone you hallanshaker!
Jog on your gate, you bladderskate,
My name is Maggie Lauder.

The secondary meaning of blatherskite is foolish talk or nonsense. If you have watched a news clip of a Trump rally, you will instantly recognize blatherskite from um… a blithering blatherskite. There are many colorful synonyms for blatherskite, including the wonderful whimsical word “jabberwocky” introduced by Lewis Carroll in his classic work Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) published in 1871. Other euphonious synonyms include: babble, balderdash, claptrap, gabble, gibberish, gobbledygook, jabber, nonsense, poppycock, prate, prattle, and twaddle.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Sword of Damocles?
There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
There’s a Word for That: Jouissance
There’s a Word for That: Abibliophobia
There’s a Word for That: Petrichor
There’s a Word for That: Deipnosophist
There’s a Word for That: Pareidolia

There’s a Word for That: Macroverbumsciolist
There’s a Word for That: Ultracrepidarian
There’s a Word for That: Cacology

For further reading: https://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Maggy_Lawder


Can You Legally Record the Police?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureThe recent deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police officers shook the world from its complacency, sparking massive protests around the globe. Were it not for the videos that clearly recorded the murders, these crimes could have easily been covered up by the police. In fact, in an early police report, the arresting officers of the Minneapolis Police Department claimed that Floyd “physically resisted officers” — a claim that was not supported by the surveillance and bystander videos.

Crimes committed by police against citizens raises the critical question: can you legally record the police? The question is even more urgent at a time when journalists and the freedom of the press are under attack. In an article for The Intercept, journalist Trevor Timm writes: “We are witnessing a truly unprecedented attack on press freedom in the United States, with journalists are being systematically targeted while covering the nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. The scale of the attacks is so large, it can be hard to fathom. At the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker… we catalogued 150 press freedom violations in the United States in all of 2019. We are currently investigating 280 from just the last week… Police are responsible for the vast majority of assaults on journalists: over 80 percent.” In 2018, Reporters Without Borders, released the top five deadliest countries for journalists: Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, India, and now — the United States. It certainly doesn’t help that we have a president that has repeatedly called the press “the enemy of the people.”

Technology has empowered every individual to be a journalist; that is to say, every person who carries a smart phone has the ability to record what he or she sees in real time and upload that video almost instantly to a social media platform for the entire world to witness. This is an incredible and powerful capability, and as we have seen, it has pushed important issues that often lingered in obscurity into the light: racism, segregation, oppression, injustice, police brutality and crimes — to name a few. Therefore, every person, who one day may become a bystander, a witness to a crime, should become familiar with their first amendment rights and understand how he or she can legally record the police. To that end, the First Amendment Watch at New York University — an online news and educational resource for journalists, educators, and students — released a helpful guide that informs Americans of how they can record police legally. It can be downloaded here. It is worth noting that knowing and citing just a few court cases can persuade an overzealous police officer, who in the heat of the moment and not thinking clearly, to back down from stopping you from recording, taking away your smart phone, or trying to confiscate it illegally.

The Citizen’s Guide to Recording the Police begins with this statement:

Sixty-one percent of the U.S. population lives in states where federal appeals courts have recognized a First Amendment right to record police officers performing their official duties in public. The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue. As a result, legal protections are fully secure only in those jurisdictions where federal circuits have issued a ruling. However, given the resounding support so far for this First Amendment protection, it seems highly likely that the remaining federal appeal courts would reach the same conclusion if the issue appears on their docket.

Here are some key court decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court that protect first amendment rights:

Branzburg v. Hayes (1972) and First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti (1978)
“[The First Amendment] goes beyond [the] protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw…. [The] liberty of the press is the right of the lonely pamphleteer who uses carbon paper or a mimeograph just as much as of the large metropolitan publisher who utilizes the latest photo composition methods

Riley v. California (2014)
The court ruled that the Fourth Amendment prohibits police from seizing an individual’s recording device or later searching through its contents. The only legal way for police to seize a smart phone is through an arrest; the only way to access its contents is to acquire a warrant.

Here are some key court decisions by the United Circuit Court of Appeals that protect first amendment rights:

Askins v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (9th Cir. 2018): First Amendment protects the photographing of patrol officers at ports of entry.

Fields v. Philadelphia (8th Cir. 2017): “First Amendment protects the act of photographing, filming, or recording police conducting official duties in public.”

Akins v. Knight (8th Cir. 2017): Has been mistakenly identified in the press as ruling against citizens’ First Amendment rights to film police in public. Akins was primarily ruled on procedural grounds, seeking the judge’s recusal. It did not analyze the merits of the constitutional claims, therefore cannot be categorized as either a pro- or anti-recording police case.

Turner v. Driver  (5th Cir. 2017): “A First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.”

Gericke v. Begin (1st Cir. 2014): Under the First Amendment, “private individuals possess a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties.”

ACLU of Illinois v. Alvarez  (7th Cir. 2012): The Illinois’ eavesdropping statute did not apply to the recording of police activities in public.

Glik v. Cunniffe (1st Cir. 2011): There is “a constitutionally protected right to videotape police carrying out their duties in public” and that right was “fundamental.”

King v. Ambs  (6th Cir. 2008): Free speech rights are not protected when a bystander is interfering with an arrest by instructing a suspect not to cooperate with police.

Smith v. City of Cumming (11th Cir. 2000): Affirmed “a First Amendment right, subject to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, to photograph or videotape police conduct.”

Fordyce v. City of Seattle (9th Cir. 1995): “First Amendment right to film matters of public interest,” as when Jerry Fordyce filmed police activity during a public protest.

And of course, the document contains the obligatory legal disclaimer: “The case studies produced by First Amendment Watch are intended for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney in your state if you need legal representation.”

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For further reading: firstamendmentwatch.org
http://www.cnn.com/2020/05/28/us/video-george-floyd-contradict-resist-trnd/index.html
theintercept.com/2020/06/04/journalists-attacked-police-george-floyd-protests/
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/united-states-added-list-most-dangerous-countries-journalists-first-time-n949676
thehill.com/homenews/administration/437610-trump-calls-press-the-enemy-of-the-people


What Two Qualities Does a Writer Need to Possess to Be Creative?

“It seems that two qualities are necessary if a great artist is to remain creative to the end of a long life; he must on the one hand retain an abnormally keen awareness of life, he must never grow complacent, never be content with life, must always demand the impossible and when he cannot have it, must despair. The burden of the mystery must be with him day and night. He must be shaken by the naked truths that will not be comforted. This divine discontent, this disequilibrium, this state of inner tension is the source of artistic energy. Many lesser poets have it only in their youth; some even of the greatest lose it in middle life. Wordsworth lost the courage to despair and with it his poetic power. But more often the dynamic tensions are so powerful that they destroy the man before he reaches maturity.”

Excerpt from the introduction to Goethe’s autobiography titled Truth and Fantasy from My Life (1949) by British writer and diplomat Humphrey Trevelyan (1905-1985).

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John Steinbeck’s Letter to His Son About Love

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomA father imparts many things to his children, including guidance, values, morals, and wisdom. Some of the most cherished books in my library are collections of letters written by notable authors to their children. One memorable letter was written by John Steinbeck in 1958 to his eldest son, Thomas, then a teenager who was attending boarding school. Thomas had fallen in love with a girl named Susan and wrote to his father for advice. Of course, this is a topic that every father knows about, but more so for an award-winning author who has explored its depth in several novels. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962 and in his acceptance speech, he touched on the importance of love: “the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man’s proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit — for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and of emulation. I hold that a writer who does not believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature.” In the letter to his son, included in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters edited by his third wife, Elaine, Steinbeck shares his profound, timeless insights about love:

Dear Thom:

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply — of course it isn’t puppy love.

But I don’t think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it — and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone — there is no possible harm in saying so — only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another — but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I’m glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love, Fa

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There’s A Word for That: Myrmidon

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn the world of politics, a leader often surrounds himself with loyal subordinates who are unscrupulous and unquestioningly carry out whatever order they are given. These types of individuals are often referred to as henchmen. But there is an even better word: myrmidon. The word, pronounced “MER ma don,” comes to us from Greek mythology. In the Iliad, Homer describes the Myrmidons as soldiers that were commanded by Achilles on his adventure-filled journey to Troy. The Greek word myrmidons is derived from murkekes meaning “ants.” In Metamorphoses, Ovid describes Myrmidons as simple worker ants who toiled on the island of Aegina located near Athens.

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What is the Gruen Effect?

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesEver find yourself completely lost at an Ikea store wishing you had brought a bag of breadcrumbs so you could retrace your steps to find a way out of the retail labyrinth? It’s enough to drive you to madness (just like those novel-length, wordless furniture assembly guides they produce, where you end up with extra hardware and you wonder: did I build this correctly?). It is not uncommon to see people of every age wandering aimlessly among the aisles with a glazed look in their eyes. Where’s the freaking exit?

This abomination of retail design, that exasperates millions of consumers each year, has a name. It is known at the Gruen effect of Gruen transfer. The Gruen effect is defined as the feeling of confusion and distraction experienced by a consumer when placed in a shopping center or store that is confusing and maze-like, forcing the consumer to be exposed to more products (displayed in an enticing manner or in large quantities) and thus be more susceptible to make impulse buys. This form of psychological manipulation is named after the Victor Gruen, the Austrian architect who designed the very first open-air shopping mall (Northland Mall in Southfield, Michigan in 1954) and the first enclosed shopping mall (Southdale Mall in Edina, Minnesota in 1956). Ironically, Gruen was very much opposed to this type of behavior manipulation. Gruen designed some of the first window shops filled with beautiful, dazzling displays designed to lure customers into the store. But Gruen stopped there. Retailers like Ikea, department stores, and grocery chains took the Gruen effect to an entirely different level. He believed that his ideas were “bastardized.”

According to research, 50% of purchases are unplanned. Journalist Carlos Waters investigated how Ikea mastered the Gruen effect for Vox. He writes: “Ikea has mastered the Gruen effect using story layout to influence customer behavior. From the moment you enter an Ikea, layout designers nudge you onto a specific path through a maze of products. That path is the least direct route to the register. By the time you’ve finally picked up a shopping cart and selected your first item, you’ve considered the possibilities of purchasing many of the items on display. Researchers have found that increased exposure leads to impulse buys.” Vox presents a video developed by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh to show the path of a typical consumer in an Ikea store. When you see the path, you cannot help of thinking of a hungry lab rat desperately finding its way through a maze to find the desired piece of cheese.

So the next time you find yourself in a retail maze and feel exasperated you can focus your anger and curse “that damned Gruen effect!”

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For further reading: https://www.vox.com/2018/10/17/17989684/ikea-gruen-effect-unplanned-purchases
https://psmag.com/magazine/gruen-transfer
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/03/15/the-terrazzo-jungle


Doublets: Intelligence Is the Ability to Hold Two Opposed Ideas at the Same Time

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still be able to function.

From the essay “The Crack-Up” (February 1936) by F. Scott Fitzgerald found in a collection of essays, letters, and poems, titled The Crack-up edited by legendary editor Edmund Wilson.. There are several variants of this quotations, such as “The truest sign of intelligence is the ability to entertain two contradictory ideas simultaneously” or “Intelligence has been described as the ability to entertain two apparently contradictory ideas in one’s head at the same time.” In the essay, Fitzgerald is discussing the trials and tribulations of life that make an impact on a person. He writes: “Of course all of life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work… don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within… Before I go on with this short history let me make a general observation: the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still be able to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the ‘impossible’ come true.”

“A broad-minded man, who can see both sides of the question and is ready to hold opposed truths while confessing that he cannot reconcile them, is at a manifest disadvantage with a narrow-minded man who sees but one side, sees it clearly, and is ready to interpret the whole Bible, or, if need be, the whole universe, in accordance with his formula.”

From Henry VIII and the Reformation (1962) by historian H. Maynard Smith. In this passage Smith is referring to William Tyndale, an English scholar who translated the Bible into English from Hebrew and Greek. Tyndale was also a key figure in the Protestant Reformation. Tyndale was imprisoned for being a heretic, teaching a doctrine that was inconsistent with Church teaching (he argued that the country’s king should be the head of the church rather than the Pope, which led to the Church of England to break from the Catholic Church). In October 1536 he was strangled and then his body was burned at the stake. His final words were “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”

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For further reading: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45392/ulysses


Essential Worldwide Laws of Life: Learning

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomWhat does it mean to live a good life? Indeed, it is an important question that has been pondered by philosophers, writers, and thinkers for thousands of years. One of those thinkers was Sir John Templeton (1912-2008), an American-born British investor, fund manager and philanthropist. Templeton had an impeccable education: he attended Yale University by paying part of his tuition by playing poker. He went on to study law at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. Templeton was a brilliant stock trader and pioneered the use of globally diversified funds known as the Templeton Mutual Funds. Despite his enormous wealth, he remained humble, insisting on driving his own car and flying coach. Moreover, he was  a very generous philanthropist, having donated more than $1 billion to charities through the John Templeton Foundation.

Templeton was fascinated by the question: what does it mean to live a good life. He studied the major scriptures of the world, as well as the philosophers, historians, artists, writers, and scientists who studied this question. Templeton was looking for a way to connect the dots, and what he discovered were certain commonalities, threads that were woven into the tapestry of wisdom. He called these lessons the “laws of life.” In 1998, he published The Essential Worldwide Laws of Life so that readers of every age could discover the universal truths of life, the life lessons that are present in every society and religion, transcending time. Templeton elaborates: “Following in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin and others who have tried to pass on their learning to others, this book has been written from a lifetime of experience and diligent observation in the hope that it may help people in all parts of the world to make their lives not only happier but also more useful.”

One of the keys to living a good life is the importance of teaching and learning. Here are some excerpts from the chapter on learning:

There is a difference between acquiring knowledge and information and possessing wisdom. You may acquire knowledge from a university, your travels, your relationships, the books you read, and other activities in which you participate. But are you also gaining wisdom?

Wisdom is born of mistakes; confront error and learn. (J. Jelinek)

Defeat isn’t bitter if you don’t swallow it. (Ten Engstrom)

You can make opposition work for you. (Anonymous)

Everything and everyone around you is your teacher. (Ken Keyes)

We learn more by welcoming criticism than by rendering judgment. (J. Jelinek)

Only one thing is more important than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience. (John Templeton)

We can become bitter or better as a result of our experiences. (Eric Butterworth)

If you think you know it all, you are less likely to learn more. (John Templeton)

No one’s education is ever complete. (John Templeton)

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. During the coronavirus pandemic quarantines, it is a perfect time to explore the more than 1,600 articles on Bookshelf. Cheers.

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Words That Illustrate the Irregularities of English Spelling and Pronunciation

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThe English language is fascinating for so many reasons. On the one hand, it has many rules for spelling, pronunciation, and grammar; on the other hand, it breaks those rules. For example, let’s focus on the irregularities of spelling and pronunciation. In the English language, due to major linguistic and social events over 1,000 years, spelling is not consistently phonetic: there are letters that are either not pronounced or pronounced. This irregularity in pronunciation affects about 25% of the million words in the English language; however, within that 25% subset are approximately 400 of the most frequently used words, known as sight words, because they cannot be spelled phonetically and thus have to be learned “by sight.” Examples include: been, come, could, does, enough, eyes, have, one, said, some, there, they, though, very, would, and you.

There have been many attempts to reform spelling in the English language, beginning with A Plea for Phenotype and Phonography by Alexander Ellis in 1815. Another notable work was the poem “The Chaos” by Gerard Trenite published in 1920. Writers who love words but are irked by the many irregularities of spelling have developed neologisms to illustrate the irregularities of English spelling and pronunciations. The most famous example is the word “ghoti” attributed to George Bernard Shaw in support of the efforts of the Simplified Spelling Society but actually introduced by Charles Ollier in a private letter, dated December 11, 1855. The word “ghoti” is pronounced “fish” when broken into its distinct sounds (known as phonemes): “f” from “touGH”; “i” from “wOmen”; and “sh” from “naTIOn.” Words like these are known as “absurd spellings” or graphological deviants in the world of lexicography. The most famous use of “ghoti” is by James Joyce in his inventive but inscrutable work, Finnegans Wake, published in 1939.

Another wonderful graphological deviant is the word “iewkngheaurrhpthewempeighghteaps” which is pronounced “unfortunates.” Here is the pronunciation of the word with each phoneme:
u from vIEW
n from KNow
f from touGH
o from bEAU
r from myRRh
t from PTHisis
u from EWE
n from coMPtroller
a from nEIGH
t from liGHT
e from tEA
s from PSalm

So devilishly clever. So the next time you use the word unfortunates in writing, go ahead and use the graphological deviant version to leave the reader scratching their head in bewilderment.

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For further reading: How to Torture Your Mind by Ralph Woods
https://theconversation.com/the-absurdity-of-english-spelling-and-why-were-stuck-with-it-44905
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-language_spelling_reform


Treasures of a Virtual Book Fair 2020

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you are a book lover and never had a chance to attend an antiquarian book fair, then this weekend is your chance to visit one in the comfort of your pajamas, while you lounge at home. This weekend, June 4-7, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) is hosting its annual book fair online. The online fair features more than 150 booksellers who specialize in books, maps, autographs, historical documents, and other printed materials. At a real book fair you can spend hours browsing through the bookshelves arranged in booths on the convention floor. It’s a real thrill to hold a book worth $50,000 or more. Online you can browse by virtual aisles, and although you can’t hold them, you can certainly behold them. Booksellers are organized into the following aisles according to region: mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, Northern California, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Southern California, and Southwest. You can browse by region or product type: autographs, books, ephemera, manuscripts, maps, original art, pamphlets, periodicals, photographs, posters, and prints. The home page also features a search dialog box (search by author or title). If you find a literary treasure, you simply place the item in your shopping cart and purchase directly from the site. Virtual visitors can also watch a webinars on book collecting.

Some of the treasures at the virtual book fair are:

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett, first edition: $75,000

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, first edition: $26,000

Carrie by Stephen King, signed first edition: $6,000

A Collection of Autographs by Abraham Lincoln: $65,000

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, inscribed first edition: $17,500

William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (fourth folio, 1685): $200,000

Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, first edition: $19,000

You can visit the book fair here: https://www.abaa.org

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Adventures in Rhetoric: Epistrophe

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAn epistrophe (pronounced “uh PI struh fee”) is a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of a sentence or clause. If you listened to Reverend Al Sharpton’s powerful, poignant eulogy to George Floyd on June 4, 2020, you will have heard a masterful use of epistrophe: “you had your knee on my neck.” Sharpton delivered his eulogy from an all-white podium that was a replica of the pulpit that Martin Luther King, Jr. used when he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Like King, Sharpton is a gifted orator who follows in the tradition of inspiring Baptist preachers who speak with commanding voices and fully connect with their audiences. Both men begin their speeches in a slow, measured pace to draw you in and then gradually build to a passionate crescendo, utilizing evocative language and rhetorical devices like repetition, alliteration, and metaphors. Here is an excerpt highlighting the use of epistrophe (italics added):

“People across economic and racial lines started calling and getting in and we flew out of here… and when I stood at that spot, reason it got to me is George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to being is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter then the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks. That’s the problem no matter who you are. We thought maybe we had a complex, T.I. [referring to an American rapper who was in attendance], maybe it was just us, but even blacks that broke through, you kept your knee on that neck. Michael Jordan won all of these championships, and you kept digging for mess because you got to put a knee on our neck. White housewives would run home to see a black woman on TV named Oprah Winfrey and you messed with her because you just can’t take your knee off our neck. A man comes out of a single parent home, educates himself and rises up and becomes the President of the United States and you ask him for his birth certificate because you can’t take your knee off our neck. The reason why we are marching all over the world is we were like George, we couldn’t breathe, not because there was something wrong with our lungs, but that you wouldn’t take your knee off our neck. We don’t want no favors, just get up off of us and we can be and do whatever we can be!”

The words on the page do not do justice to the extremely uplifting and powerful delivery by Sharpton: it’s breathtaking to behold. You will note that the speech It is interrupted by several standing ovations. You can listen to the speech here.

Sharpton returned to the pulpit a few days later on June 9, 2020 to deliver another passionate eulogy for George Floyd’s final memorial service in Houston, Texas. Once again, Sharpton employed the epistrophe several times, for example: “wickedness in high places!”

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