The Best Gift for Book Lovers: A Christmas Book Advent Calendar

alex atkins bookshelf christmasOne of the most popular decorations in a home during the Christmas holiday season is the advent calendar. Advent calendars were introduced in Germany in the late 19th century. Since the birth of Christ is the most important date in the calendar for Christians, the advent calendar (from the Latin adventus, meaning “a coming or arrival”; in Church Latin it means “the coming of the Savior”) counts down the days until Christmas. Lutherans began by making chalk marks on their doors from December first to the 24th. There are two claims for the first advent calendar that bears some resemblance to the ones we see today: one claim is that protestant bookshop owner in Hamburg produced the first advent calendar. The other claim is that the mother of Gerhard Lang made the first advent calendar, cutting squares to reveal small sweets. Soon after, she added small doors adorned with pictures. By 1930, printers began printing advent calendars, often using biblical verses behind each door.

But a book lover is not that interested in sweets or biblical verses, or even sweet biblical verses. Moreover, everyone knows how challenging it is to shop for a book lover. Holiday shoppers meet the Christmas Book Advent Calendar: a basket (or box) filled with 25 gift-wrapped books about Christmas. Here are 25 classic literary works, modern novels, and anthologies that celebrate the spirit of Christmas, culminating in the greatest Christmas story of all time — Charles Dickens’ timeless novella, A Christmas Carol that has never been out of print. All these books are easy to find in paperback, hardback, or elegant leather-bound editions. Book lovers will be thrilled to count down to Christmas with these literary classics. Happy Holidays!

1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
2. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
3. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
4. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
5. The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann
6. Old Christmas by Washington Irving
7. The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
8. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
9. Christmas at Thompson Hall by Anthony Trollope
10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum
11. A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd
12. Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies
13. Skipping Christmas by John Grisham
14. Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub
15. The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan
16. The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
17. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
18. The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories by Jessica Harrison
19. A Classic Christmas: A Collection of Timeless Stories and Poems by editors of Thomas Nelson
20. The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories by Tara Moore
21. A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories by Bettye Collier-Thomas
22. Christmas Stories (Everyman’s Pocket Classics) by Diana Secker Tesdell
23. The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn
24. The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol
25. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: 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
Why Read Dickens?

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

You May Not Know It, But You Are Quoting Shakespeare

alex atkins bookshelf shakespeareAs many scholars have noted, Shakespeare had an enormous impact on the English language. In his book, The English Language (1929), British philologist Ernest Weekley (best known for his seminal work, An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English) wrote: “Of Shakespeare it may be said without fear of exaggeration that his contribution to our phraseology is ten times greater than that of any writer to any language in the history of the world.” What is astonishing is that due to the influence of his writing, people don’t even need to read Shakespeare to quote it. As Michael Macrone notes in Brush Up Your Shakespeare: An Infectious Tour Through theMost famous and Quotable Words and Phrases from the Bard, “Whether they knew it or not, people had been quoting Shakespeare piecemeal for hundreds of years. Indeed, we have derived from Shakespeare’s works an almost “infinite variety [Antony and Cleopatra] of everyday words and phrases, many of which have become so common that we think of them as “household words [Henry the Fifth].”

Of course, the question of the size of Shakespeare’s vocabulary has fascinated scholars for centuries. To answer that question, all scholars turn to The Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare by Martin Spevack (1968, 1974) based on the Riverside Shakespeare (G. Blakemore Evans, 1973). The concordance lists every word used in the published work of the Bard — a grand total of 884,647 words. Spevack also machine-counted 31,654 different words in 1968 and revised that to 29,066 different words in 1974. Using those numbers, different experts use different approaches to estimate the number or words that Shakespeare knew.

According to lexicographer and Shakespeare scholar David Crystal, the entire English vocabulary in the Elizabethan period consisted of about 150,000 words. Turning to the Harvard Concordance, Crystal notes that although Spevack machine-counted 29,066 unique words, that includes variant forms of words (eg, take, takes, taking, took, taken, takest) that are counted as different words. By removing those grammatical variants, the total of different words is reduced to 17,000 to 20,000. Therefore, Crystal believes that Shakespeare had a vocabulary of about 20,000 words (13.5% of the known lexicon). Compare that to the size of the vocabulary of the average modern person (high school-level education) that is 30,000 to 40,000 words (about 6% of the 600,000 words defined in the Oxford English Dictionary). Other lexicographers estimate that Shakespeare’s vocabulary ranged from 18,000 to 25,000 words.

But alas we digress — let us return to the original discussion of quoting Shakespeare even though we may not be aware of it. I was what recently exploring the maze of bookshelves at a quaint antiquarian bookstore and came across this poster, featuring the text of British journalist Bernard Levin [1928-2004], a fan of the Bard and one of the most famous journalists in England, that eloquently and succinctly makes this argument in a single sentence containing 369 words. The essay, titled “On Quoting Shakespeare,” appears in his book Enthusiasms, published in 1983.

ON QUOTING SHAKESPEARE

If you cannot understand my argument, and declare it’s Greek to me, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is father to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool’s paradise -why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are,as good luck would have it, quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high timeand that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then – to give the devil his due – if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then – by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! – it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Founding Father that Vandalized Shakespeare’s Chair
What if Shakespeare Wrote the Hits: Don’t Stop Believin
Were Shakespeare’s Sonnets Written to a Young Man?
When Was Shakespeare Born?
The Legacy of Shakespeare
Shakespeare the Pop Song Writer
The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folio
Who Are the Greatest Characters in Shakespeare?
The Most Common Myths About Shakespeare
Shakespeare and Uranus
Best Editions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

How Every Book Lover Can Own Their Own Bookstore

alex atkins bookshelf booksAt one time or another, every book lover has thought about owning their own bookstore. What a dream job it would be — imagine opening up the bookstore’s front door each day and being greeted with that wonderful smell of books and walking through the neatly arranged bookshelves, their ornate covers beckoning “read me!” And each day you meet kindred souls, bibliophiles and ardent readers, so that you can share your passion for reading and collecting books. How fulfilling it would be to recommend books that will be meaningful and be treasured by the customers who visit your quaint bookstore.

I know what you are thinking. How can a every book lover own his or her own bookstore. Isn’t it really expensive to open a bookstore? Interestingly, bookstores have lower starting costs than other businesses. The biggest expense, as you can imagine, are rent and initial inventory. Consider that the average bookstore in the United States is 3,000 square feet; micro-bookstores and pop-up bookstores, on the other hand, use very little space: from 100 to 500 square feet. In general, opening a small bookstore (assuming the 3,000-square-feet size) will cost between $60,000 to $112,000. Opening a large bookstore will cost more than $400,00 to open. After rent and inventory, the largest expenses are furniture (sales counter and bookshelves), an inventory management system, and marketing expenses (website, signage, advertising, etc.). In an article for Forbes titled “How to Open an Independent Bookstore,” Rachel Bussel interviewed several people who had opened bookstores in 2018. One bookstore owner revealed that it took about ten months of work (writing a business plan, obtaining loan, searching retail locations, ordering books, etc.) to open up a bookstore.atkins-bookshelf-bookstoreBut what if I told you that for less than $50 you can own your bookstore? That’s right — you read that correctly: for under $50. Let me introduce you to an innovative company called Rolife. Rolife is a sub-brand of Robotime Technology (Suzhou) Co,. Ltd, based in Beijing, China, which is a toy company that designs and manufactures do-it-yourself wooden puzzles and educational toys for kids and adults. One of their products is the Miniature Bookstore that retails for about $40. The wooden model is built to 1:24 scale; when completed it will be about 7 x 8 x 9 inches. Unlike a real brick-and-mortar bookstore that will take almost a year to get off the ground, this miniature bookstore will take you about 15 hours to build. The bookstore includes bookshelves, shelf ladder, table, wingback reading chair, cabinets, wall decorations, signs — and of course, lots of books. The best part of this kit is that you can copy the kit’s photo or customize any of the elements to align with your dream bookstore. The miniature bookstore even features a working ceiling lamp which uses battery-powered LED lights. The kit materials include wood parts, cloth, printed paper, and metal fittings. In order to build the kit, you will definitely need some tools. Fortunately, the helpful folks at Rolife include tweezers and a paintbrush; however you will have to supply the glue and AAA batteries.

The miniature bookstore can be purchased on Amazon here.

Rolife also makes a smaller and simpler bookstore, called the Book Nook – Free Time Bookshop, seen here.

other kits that booklover’s would appreciate like the Book Nook – Sunshine Town, seen here.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

The Wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomDo you recall who wrote this famous line: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”? If you answered Ralph Waldo Emerson you can pat yourself on the back. Well done, you! The latest edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations (Nineteenth Edition) features five full pages of quotations from one of America’s most famous writers and philosophers. Consider that Emerson’s content exceeds the contributions of two other prolific American authors: Mark Twain (3.5 pages) and John Steinbeck (.5 pages). Even more impressive is the number you see when you search “Best Emerson Quotations” on the internet: 18.5 million results! Therefore, it can be reasonably argued that Emerson is one of the most quoted American writers — and for good reason. “If Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton and Franklin are our Founding Fathers, Ralph Waldo Emerson is our Founding Thinker,” writes Emerson scholar Richard Geldard. “Born in 1803 in Boston, Emerson became in his lifetime America’s seer and prophet. His collected works, including poems, essays, and extensive journals not only inspired such notable figures as Henry David Thoreau, William James, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and numerous nineteenth and twentieth century poets, painters, and musicians, but also a wide readership of ordinary Americans who found in Emerson a teacher of profound depth and idealism… Emerson  was the conscience of his nation and a man of great moral courage.”

The previous excerpt appears in the introduction to Emphatically Emerson: Gems From the Journals of Ralph Waldo Emerson edited by Frank Crocitto. Although there are many worthy collections of Emerson’s quotations both in print and on the internet, Crocitto’s collection is unique because it presents Emerson through the thoughts expressed in his journals. The editor has arranged them chronologically and has included Emerson’s age at the time of writing. The first entry is dated 1820, when Emerson was 17; the last from 1874 when he was 71 (he lived until 1882, aged 78). Here are some notable quotations.

“When the whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.” (1824, age 21)

“All the mistakes I make arise from forsaking my own station and trying to see the object from another person’s point of view.” (1834, age 30)

“Be an opener of doors for such as come after thee, and do not try to make the universe a blind alley.” (1844, age 41)

“Do the duty of the day. Just now, the supreme public duty of all thinking men is to assert freedom.. Go where it is threatened, and say, “I am for it. and do not wish to live in the world a moment longer than it exists.'” (1861, age 57)

“Within, I do not find wrinkles and used heart, but unspent youth.” (1864, age 61)

“The secret of poetry is never explained, is always new. We have not got farther than mere wonder at the delicacy of touch, and the eternity it inherits.” (1874, age 71)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
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The Wisdom of Lady Grantham
The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz
The Wisdom of Yoda
The Wisdom of George Carlin
The Wisdom of Saint-Exupery
The Wisdom of Steven Wright
The Wisdom of Spock
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

What is the Paradox of Love?

alex atkins bookshelf wisdom

“Love occupies a central place in people’s expectations and wishes, but these often remain unfulfilled,” writes philosophy professor Aaron Ben-Zeev (“The Love Paradox,” Psychology Today, April 21, 2013). “Love songs, novels, and movies have emphasized the great hopes and profound happiness associated with love, as well as the great disappointments and profound pain that love generates. Our hearts are enlarged by love, but by the same token, they can also be broken.” Ah, the paradox of love…

Over the years, several networks have discovered that love — with its inherent complexities and paradoxes — is incredibly entertaining. Millions of viewers strap onto the rollercoaster of love to virtually experience its inevitable highs and lows through the lives of those brave (or foolish, depending on your perspective) enough to appear on reality-shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Love at First Sight, Love is Blind, and their ilk. The viewers become, in some respects, like couple therapists who can observe the profound range of emotions associated with love. But alas, love is inherently paradoxical — something that psychologists and philosophers have observed and written about for decades. Here are some of the key paradoxes of love.

“You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: The attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.”
Spoken by Professor Levy in the film, Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) written and directed by Woody Allen.

“I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation.” [The paradoxical longing for independence and intimacy with another person.]
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties (1975)

“In motherly love the relationship between the two person involved in one of inequality; the child is helpless and dependent on the mother. In order to grow, it must become more and more independent, until he does not need mother any more. Thus, the mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in a sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent. It is easy for any mother to love her child before this process of separation has begun — but it is the task in which most fail, to love the child and at the same time to let it go — and to want to let it go.”
Erich Fromm, The Sane Society (1955)

“Paradoxically, the ability to be alone is the condition for the ability to love.”
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1962)

“In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”
Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving (1962)

“Love rests on two pillars: surrender and autonomy. Our need for togetherness exists alongside our need for separateness. One does not exist without the other. With too much distance, there can be no connection. But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals. Then there is nothing more to transcend, no bridge to walk on, no one to visit on the other side, no other internal world to enter. When people become fused — when two become one — connection can no longer happen. There is no one to connect with. Thus separateness is a precondition for connection: this is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex.”
Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity (2006)

“The inability to love and accept yourself and your humanity is at the heart of many illnesses. To be loved and accepted, you must start by loving yourself. If you have traits that you consider unlovable, you must love them anyway… it’s a paradox.”
Christiane Northrup, A Daily Dose of Women’s Wisdom (2017)

“Does [being programmed to connect with a significant other] mean that in order to be happy in a relationship we need to be joined with our partner at the hip or give up other aspects of our life such as our careers or friends? Paradoxically, the opposite is true! It turns out that the ability to step into the world on our own often stems from the knowledge that there is someone beside us who we can count on—this is the dependency paradox.”
Amir Levine, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find and Keep Your Love (2010)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. 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

For further reading: psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-the-name-love/201304/the-love-paradox

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Plato: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsPlato (427-347 BC) is considered one of the most brilliant and influential philosophers in history. Plato (his given name was Aristocles; Plato is his nickname, from platos, meaning “broad” since he had a broad physique and forehead) was a student of Socrates and took what he learned to found the influential Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the West. Amidst a beautiful grove of olive trees, Plato taught some very fortunate and intelligent students (including Aristotle who later founded his own academy) philosophy, mathematics, politics, and astronomy. His most famous and influential work, that is still widely studied in universities, is the Republic, where Plato cover a broad (pun intended) range of significant topics: philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, metaphysics, and of course, political philosophy. It is this last topic that concerns us today as we examine his views on political participation in the context of today’s critical mid-term elections that challenge the fundamental principles of a democracy.

The quote that serves as the title of this post is actually a tongue-in-cheek variation (underscoring the importance of voting in a critical election) of the quote most often attributed to Plato, ubiquitous on the internet: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” There are many other variants of this famous quotation. Among them is this one crafted by poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that appears in Society and Solitude (1870): “Plato says that the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is, to live under the government of worse men.”

The source of all these variants is The Republic, (Book 1, 346-347), where Plato makes the point that if good, honorable, intelligent men do not to wish to serve in government, then they will be punished by being ruled by those who are bad, dishonorable, and dumb. The actual sentence is: But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. For those who are curious to partake of the entire discussion of the issue among Socrates (Plato, of course, is speaking through Socrates), Glaucon (Plato’s older brother), and Thrasymachus (a sophist who believes essentially that it does not pay to be just), here is the relevant passage from The Republic

“Then, Thrasymachus, is not this immediately apparent, that no art or office provides what is beneficial for itself — but as we said long ago it provides and enjoins what is beneficial to its subject, considering the advantage of that, the weaker, and not the advantage the stronger? That was why… I was just now saying that no one of his own will chooses to hold rule and office and take other people’s troubles in hand to straighten them out, but everybody expects pay for that, because he who is to exercise the art rightly never does what is best for himself or enjoins it when he gives commands according to the art, but what is best for the subject. That is the reason, it seems, why pay must be provided for those who are to consent to rule, either in form of money or honor or a penalty if they refuse.” “What do you mean by that, Socrates?” said Glaucon. “The two wages I recognize, but the penalty you speak of and described as a form of wage I don’t understand.” “Then,” said I, “you don’t understand the wages of the best men for the sake of which the finest spirits hold office and rule when they consent to do so. Don’t you know that to be covetous of honor and covetous of money is said to be and is a reproach?” “I do,” he said. “Well, then,” said I, “that is why the good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now, and there it would be made plain that in very truth the true ruler does not naturally seek his own advantage but that of the ruled; so that every man of understanding would rather choose to be benefited by another than to be bothered with benefiting him.”

Tomorrow will decide what kind of government America has. At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, legend has it that as Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall, he was asked this question: “What have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin responded, “A republic — if you can keep it.” In 1787 as in 2022, this republic is amazingly fragile. Dr. Richard Beeman, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, elaborates: “If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens… Democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Quotations Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: The Republic by Plato (translated by Christopher Ellyn-Jones)
Society and Solitude by Ralph Waldo Emerson
https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-platos-famous-academy-112520

https://www.iep.utm.edu/academy/
https://www.iep.utm.edu/plato/

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

There’s A Word for That: Mugwump

alex atkins bookshelf words

Over the past few decades, every election seems to be “the most important election the country has ever faced” The midterm election on November 8 is no exception: it is appropriately seen by many political observers as a referendum on democracy — the fundamental right to vote and to have fair elections. Consider that in this election more than half of Republican nominees (300+) for Congress, governor, or secretaries of state deny or question the results of the 2020 presidential election. Despite the seriousness and urgency of this threat to democracy, there are some people who are not concerned and remain undecided about how to vote — they are mugwumps.

A mugwump is political slang for an independent voter or a person who is undecided. The word is derived from the Algonguian term mugquomp or muggumquomp, meaning “great chief,” used by the Massachusett Indians in the late1800s. The anglicized term, mugwump, came to mean “leader” or “decision maker.”

Another definition of a Mugwump (with a capital M) is a member of the reform-oriented faction of the Republican Party who declined to support the Republican candidate in the presidential election of 1884. In contrast to modern-day Republicans, Mugwumps were extremely opposed to political corruption of any kind. In that election, characterized by scandalous accusations and bitter mudslinging (see how politics doesn’t really change), voters had to choose between Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, the governor of New York, and the Republican candidate, James Blaine, who was a Senator. The Mugwumps did not support Blaine due to numerous allegations of corruption and financial impropriety; moreover, they believed that he could not be trusted. Cleveland won by a narrow margin (48.8% vs 48.3% of the popular vote) and became the 24th President of the United States (1885-1889).

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Isaac Asimov: There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Again?
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will Be Governed by Idiots
Is the United States a Democracy or a Republic?

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

World Records in Books and Publishing

alex atkins bookshelf booksGuinness World Records, the best-selling authoritative guide to the world records of extremes of the natural world and human feats, was hatched from a disagreement at a pub. Sir Hugh Beaver (18090-1967), managing director of the Guinness Brewery, had attended a hunting trip in County Wexford, located in the southeast region of Ireland, on November 1951. Beaver missed a shot at a golden plover which led to a spirited debate at the pub that evening: what was the fastest game bird in Europe — the golden plover or the red grouse? Because the Internet and Siri had not been invented, they had to go old school and consult reference books; however, with great frustration, they realized that a book with this specific type of information simply did not exist. Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention — Beaver realized that a book that contained information about the superlatives (the fastest, the largest, the tallest, etc.) could be quite useful. Subsequently, Beaver was introduced to twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter who ran the London-based Fact and Figure Agency that provided statistics and facts to newspapers. The Guinness Book of Records was published in August 1954. Originally, the 198-page book was given to pub patrons (at the time, there were more than 81,400 pubs in Britain and Ireland) as a way to promote the Guinness brand and serve as a really thick coaster; however, the book was so popular, it was republished as The Guinness Book of Records in October 1955 and sold more than 100,000 copies. To date (the 2023 edition is now in its 69th year of publication) the reference book has sold more than 100 million copies in 100 countries in over 35 languages. 

Incidentally it took the editors 35 years to answer the question that was the catalyst for the book of records. The 36th edition, published in 1989, noted: “Britain’s fastest game bird is the Red Grouse (Lagopus l. scoticus) which, in still air, has recorded burst speeds up to 92.8-100.8 km/h 58-63 mph over very short distances. Air speeds up to 112 km/h 70 mph have been claimed for the Golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria) when flushed, but it is extremely doubtful whether this rapid-flying bird can exceed 80-88 km/h 50-55 mph – even in an emergency.”

The Guinness World Records is updated each year and published in October to capture holiday sales. Each edition contains new world records (and crtieria for inclusion which may change from year to year) and a selection of records from the Guinness World Records database that contains over 53,00 verified records. For the recently published 2023 edition, the editors presented the following world records in the realm of publishing and books. Here are some highlights:

Best-selling book
The Holy Bible: 5 to 7 billion copies (according to the British and Foreign Bible Society, 2021). According to Wordsrated, a non-commercial international research data group, there are about 6 million copies of the Bible. Each year, there are more than 100 million Bibles printed worldwide. In the U.S. alone, 20 million Bibles are sold each year, generating annual sales revenue of more about $430 million. Internationally, there are more than 80,000 different versions of the Bible sold,

First Library
The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh (now northern Iraq, near Mosul) was established between 668 and 631 BC. The library was named after the last great king of the Assyrian Empire, Ashurbanipal, who was a great martial commander, but also an intellectual and passionate collector of texts. Not surprisingly, he stocked his library by looting the cities that his armies conquered. The library contained 30,000 clay tablets and fragments inscribed with cuneiform writing from the 7th century BC. One of its most famous texts was the Epic of Gilgamesh, a masterpiece of ancient Babylonian poetry. One of the tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh is on display at the British Museum, in London, England.

Oldest Continuously Operating Library
The library of St. Catherine’s Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt, established between 527 and 565 AD.

Largest Library
The U.S. Library of Congress, located in Washington, D.C., contains more than 173 million items, including 41 million books and print materials. The collection is spread across more than 838 miles of shelves. The second largest library is the British Library, located in Lodon, England, with more than 170 million items.

Most Successful Book Thief
American Stephen Carrie Blumberg (born 1948), known as the Book Bandit, stole more than 23,600 rare books worth more than $5.3 million (about $11 million in today’s dollars) from 268 different libraries from U.S. and Canada between 1970 and 1990. Unlike most thieves who steal to sell for a profit, Blumberg stole books to build his own reference library. After he was finally apprehended (thanks to a tip from a former accomplice who wanted to collect a $56,000 bounty), Blumberg was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to 71 months in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Oldest Book Printed Using Movable Metal Type
The Buljo jikji simche yojeol, simply known as Jikji, is a Korean collection of Zen Buddhist teachings. The book, consisting of two volumes, was printed during the Goryeo Dynasty in 1377 with movable metal type — 78 years before the Johannes Gutenberg printed the 42-Line Bible from 1452 to 1455. Today, only the last volume survives and is kept at the National Library of France, located in Paris France.

First Audiobook
Typhoon by Joseph Conrad, sold as a set of four LP records in 1935.

First ebook
The U.S. Declaration of Independence as a plain-text file uploaded to the ARPAnet by Michael Hart on July 4, 1971. It became the foundation of the Project Gutenberg public domain ebook service.

Most Expensive Printed Book Sold at Auction
The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre, commonly known as the Bay Psalm Book, was the first book ever printed in British North America by the residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1640 — 20 years after the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The book, coveted by bibliophiles, was purchased by David Rubenstein for $14.16 million. It is extremely rare — of the 1,700 of the books of hymns printed, only 11 copies survive today; however only five of those are complete.

Most Expensive Book Sold Privately
The Sherbone Missal, a beautifully illuminated medieval manuscript purchased for $24.88 million in 1998 by the British Library.

Largest Trade Publisher
Penguin Random House posted revenues of $3.78 billion for the 2019 fiscal year. It publishes more than 70,000 digital and 15,000 print titles each year.

Best-Selling Fiction Book
Verified sales data has not been available for books before the early 2000s. The books that have sold more than 100 million copies include: The Hobbitt (1937) by J R R Tolkien, The Little Prince (1943) by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997) by J. K. Rowling.
The best-selling fiction book with verified sales data is Fifty Shades of Grey (2011) by E L James with global sales of more than 16.9 million copies (as of November 2021).

Most Downloaded Digital Classic Book from Project Gutenberg
Frankesntein; Or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley: 86,000 downloads per month

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: 57,000 downloads per month

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: 39,000 downloads per month

Largest Collection of Comic Books
Bob Bretall (Mission Viejo, CA) owns more than 101,822 unique comics.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Words for Book Lovers
The Most Amazing Private Library in the World
Profile of a Book Lover: Richard Macksey
Profile of a Book Lover: Gary Hoover
Profile of a Book Lover: William Gladstone
Profile of a Book Lover: Rebecca Goldstein
Profile of a Book Lover: Sylvester Stallone
Confessions of a Book Scout: Old Bookstore Have Been the Hunting Grounds of My Life
Confessions of a Bibliophile: J. Kevin Graffagnino
The Man Who Launched 75,000 Libraries
Most Expensive American Book
The World’s Most Expensive Book
Words Invented by Book Lovers
The Sections of a Bookstore
The Library is the DNA of Our Civilization

For further reading: Guinness World Records: 2023
guinnessworldrecords.com/about-us/our-story
guinness.book-of-records.info/history.html
wordsrated.com/bible-sales-statistics/

To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

Little Books, Big Ideas: African Proverbs

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you visit a used bookstore, you might stumble upon an often neglected section: miniature or compact books. A miniature book generally measures 3 by 4 inches; some are even smaller: 1.5 inches by 2 inches. A compact book, also known as an octodecimo in American Library Association lingo, generally measures 4 x 6 inches. Unfortunately, these types of books are often dismissed due to their small size. “If they are so small, how can they possibly matter?” you think to yourself. Astute book lovers, however, know that even little books can contain big ideas — profound thoughts that can change your life.

In my periodic visits to used bookstores, I recently came across such a thought-provoking little book: African Wisdom edited by Mary Rodarte and published by Andrews McMeel Publishing in 2003. In the introduction, Rodarte notes: “African proverbs do the work of a school lesson and a story in one. They entertain with humor and wit and open a window onto the social mores and values of a people. And unlike a complicated lesson, they are simple to remember and to pass on. As you read the proverbs… you will become a witness to a chain of humanity that began long before you and will stretch on long after you are gone.” Here are some notable African proverbs:

A friend is like a source of water during a long voyage.

Children are the reward of life.

There are three friends in life: courage, sense, and insight.

Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.

A village without the elderly is like a tree without roots.

The mouth does not forget what it tasted one time.

The thorn will come out from where it went in.

A stone in the water does not understand how thirsty the hill is.

Before healing others, heal yourself.

The voyager’s path is marked by the stars not the sand dunes.

If you have a lot, give some of your possessions; if you have little, give some of your heart.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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To learn more about Alexander Atkins Design please visit www.alexatkinsdesign.com

What is the Most Complicated Word in the English Language?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you guessed Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (a disease, silicosis) or Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (a contrived word introduced in the musical and film Mary Poppins) you are wrong. Think shorter — way shorter. It will help if we clarify that by “complicated,” we mean having many different aspects, or more precisely, definitions. If you have the time, you can thumb through a dictionary, like the authoritative Oxford English Dictionary (OED), where you will eventually run across the lexical rascal. By the way, there was a clue in that sentence.

The most complicated word in the English language is “run.” The word “run” is a real Olympian with more than 715 different meanings. As a noun, “run” has more than 70 unique definitions, while as a verb, the word has 645 different meanings. In the printed second edition of the OED, the definitions of “run” run 63 columns across 21 full pages, which took a lexicographer more than nine months to complete. Perhaps he ran out of time…

The OED begins with these definitions of ‘run’ as a verb with the following citations:

(1) To move the legs quickly so as to go at a faster pace than walking.
A hundred… men ready to run

(2) To go about freely free without being restrained or checked in any way.
We are resolved… not to let them run about as they like.

(3) To hasten to some end or object, or to do something.
The people…  run almost from all places to assist his cause.

(4) To retire or retreat rapidly, to take flight.
He… had been forced to cut and run.

(5) To rush at, or, or upon a person with hostile intention.
He ran at me and kicked me.

In an interview with NPR, Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, elaborates on the complexity of “run” and the runners-up to the words with the most definitions in the English language:

“When they prepared the first edition of the OED, which took them 70 years to do, so they began this in 1857 and finished – the first edition was published in 1928 – the longest word then or the one with the most definitions was another three-letter word. It was the word ‘set’… it occupies 32 full pages, 75 columns with about 200 meanings… Well, during the 20th century, that word was displaced by another rather similar word, which was the word ‘put.’… But when the OED got around to working on the letter R, which they began working on about two years ago [2009], and got towards the end of R and started looking at words beginning with R-U, it became rapidly apparent that ‘run’ completely outran… both ‘put’ and ‘set.’ And when [the 2011 update to the online edition of the OED] was finished… Peter Gilliver [a lexicographer on the OED team] counted out — just for the verb alone — 645 different meanings. So it’s the absolute champion. So the order is: run, put, set.”

Winchester seems to think that the unique senses of run exploded after the Industrial Revolution, when all sorts of inventions (eg, machines, and eventually computers and digital devices, etc.) that run were introduced.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: What is the Longest Word in English Language?
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For further reading: http://www.npr.org/2011/05/30/136796448/has-run-run-amok-it-has-645-meanings-so-far

The Gift of 11 Cents that Made A Lifelong Reader

alex atkins bookshelf booksMost people who love books and reading can instantly recall from their youth a single book that opened the door to literature and changed their lives forever. One is reminded of Carl Jung’s concept of collective unconscious when one observes the deep sense of wonder and enchantment that washes over a reader’s face as they share this “literature discovery” story. You feel instantly connected to one another in this vast, universal community of fellow travelers along the seemingly infinite byways of literature… “wandering with our heroes and poets.”

I recently came across such a story in American historian Will Durant’s (1885-1981) fascinating autobiography titled Transition: A Mental Autobiography (1955). Durant and his wife, Ariel, are best known for their monumental work, The Story of Civilization. Written over four decades, encompassing 11 volumes, the series presents the compelling history of eastern and western civilizations. The series was a bestseller (2 million copies in nine languages) and the Durants won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1968. What is remarkable about Durant’s “literature discovery” story is that it was the serendipitous conjunction of two experiences: encouragement from a friend and the kindness of a stranger — specifically a gift of 11 cents — that helped open the door to become a lifelong reader. Durant writes: 

“It was Irene [a friend from school] who introduced me to literature… One day I saw in Irene’s hand a book called Pickwick Papers. I opened it and was at once allured by the abundance of conversation it contained; here was a lively book and a juicy one and it was so immense-seven or eight hundred pages; surely the author had been paid by the page, and had had an extravagant wife. I thought it would be quite a feat to read such a volume through; perhaps I should be the first boy in the world to accomplish it. But what moved me most was that it was Irene’s book; it must be good if her soft hands had touched it and her bright eyes had traveled along its lines. I begged it from her, and that night, against the protest of my parents, I burned the midnight oil over the adventures of the Pickwick Club, and Sam Weller, and the fat boy who always fell asleep. O happy and undisillusioned Victorians! maligned and misunderstood, what a delight it must have been to watch the creation, week after week, of that incom­parable imaginary world! What a delight it was even now, across a thousand obscuring differences of land and speech and time, to know this vivacious style, this inexhaustible drama, this endless chain of existing incident! I read every word and marvelled that I had lived twelve years without discovering the book. I returned it to Irene, and begged her for more. 

“It’s all I have by Dickens,” she said, sorrowfully. “But Papa says he’ll get me David Copperfield for Christmas.” 

Christmas was several months away; I could not wait that long. Within a week I had managed to accumulate fourteen pennies; and armed with them I walked the three miles be­tween our new home in Arlington and Dressel’s book-store in Newark. I asked the grouchy old gentleman behind the counter for the cheapest edition of David Copperfield. He went into a rear room, worked his way precariously among stacks of brokendown books, and emerged with a copy that might have rivaled Ulysses’ wanderings. 

“I will let this go for twenty five cents,” he said, munifi­cently.

My heart was broke temporarily.

“But mister,” I said, with a politeness which I seldom achieved, “I’ve only got fourteen cents.” 

He was unmoved, and turned away to another customer. I looked longingly at the book, and helplessly at space in general. Then a tall handsome gentleman, whom I conceived as a millionaire philosopher but who turned out to be a butcher, came over to me and put his arm around my shoul­der.

“What do you want, sonny?” he said.

David Copperfield,” I replied. 

“How much do you need?” 

“Eleven cents.”

“Is that all? Here you are; when you get rich you can pay me back.” 

Fortunately, he is dead now. But I was so grateful that I could not speak. I accepted the eleven cents as a gift from God, and walked out of the store in a daze. I trudged home in ecstasy over the kindness of Providence, the goodness of human nature, and the pleasures in store for me in the 860 pages which I carried under my arm. 

From that day I became a tremendous reader. When every­body else in the house was asleep I would read on despite a thousand admonitions about the injury I was doing to my health, and the cost of gas. It is true that I lost something of my taste for sport, and more of my skill in it… But what a new universe I had found! I no longer lived in prosaic New Jersey; I wandered around the world with my heroes and my poets.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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Triplets: Castles in the Air

atkins bookshelf quotations

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

From Walden; or, Life in the Woods (1854) by Henry David Thoreau.

Everyone who hears my words and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock. Everyone who hears my words and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house, and it fell with a big crash.

From The New Testament, The Gospel of Matthew, 7:24-27 (written about 66-74 AD), New Century Version.

A neurotic is a man who builds a castle in the air. A psychotic is the man who lives in it. And a psychiatrist is the man who collects the rent.

From the Collected Papers of Lord Robert Webb-Johnstone quoted in the Oxford Book of Medical Quotations (2003) edited by Peter McDonald and Familiar Medical Quotations (1968) edited by Maurice Strass. There are many websites that erroneously attribute this quote to Jerome Lawrence, the American playwright, best known as the co-author of Inherit the Wind about the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925. (Robert Edwin Lee was the other playwright. The play inspired the 1960 film of the same name directed by Stanley Kramer.)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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The Worst Sentence Ever Written: 2022

catkins-bookshelf-literatureThe Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (BLFC or affectionately known as the “Lytonniad”), established in 1982 by English Professor Scott Rice at San Jose State University, recognizes the worst opening sentence (also known as an “incipit”) for a novel. The name of the quasi-literary contest honors Edward George Bulwer Lytton, author of a very obscure 1830 Victorian novel, Paul Clifford, with a very famous opening sentence: “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” 

Each year, contest receives more than 5,000 entries from all over the world — proving that there is no shortage of wretched writers vying for acclaim. The contest now has several subcategories, including adventure, crime, romance, and detective fiction. The winner gets bragging rights for writing the worst sentence of the year and a modest financial award of $150 — presumably for writing lessons.

Below are the winners of the 40th Annual Lyttoniad:

The Grand Prize winner was John Farmer of Aurora, Colorado:
“I knew she was trouble the second she walked into my 24-hour deli, laundromat, and detective agency, and after dropping a load of unmentionables in one of the heavy-duty machines (a mistake that would soon turn deadly) she turned to me, asking for two things: find her missing husband and make her a salami on rye with spicy mustard, breaking into tears when I told her I couldn’t help—I was fresh out of salami.”

The winner in the category of Crime/Detective was Jim Anderson of Flushing, Michigan:
“The detectives wore booties, body suits, hair nets, masks and gloves and longed for the good old days when they could poke a corpse with the toes of their wingtips if they damn well felt like it.”

The winner in the category of Vile Puns was Peter Bjorkman of Rocklin, California:
“Prior to his CNN career, Wolf Blitzer slummed the gossip magazines, once inquiring of Hugh Grant’s then-wife, Liz Hurley, why he had never been in a film with Virginia Madsen, to which she replied, “Hugh’s afraid of Virginia, Wolf.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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For futher reading: https://www.bulwer-lytton.com/2022
Dark and Stormy Rides Again by Scott Rice, Penguin Books (1996)

Clever T-Shirt Slogans for Booklovers

alex atkins bookshelf booksDaedalus Books, located in Hudson, Ohio, was founded in 1980. The company sells remaindered books, music, and video via catalogs and their website. Since 2018, Daedalus has expanded its retail division that focuses on book-related products that now brings in 60% of its revenues. Their catalogs often feature clever t-shirt designs promoting books, reading, and book collecting that any book lover would love. Here are some of the slogans, often accompanied by stylized artwork, that are printed on cotton t-shirts of various colors:

My workout is reading in bed until my arms hurt

When I think about books… I touch my shelf

Single, vaccinated, loves to read. Vax card and reading list available upon request.

It’s not hoarding if its books

Better to have a book and no time to read than time to read and no book

Less is more — unless it’s books

One does not stop buying books just because one has run out of space

Dinosaurs didn’t read books… and look what happened to them

I’ll stop buying books when they grow wings and fly

Better to have a book and no time to read than time to read and no book

Go with your Gutenberg

Dinosaurs didn’t read books… and look what happened to them

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it is too dark to read. – Groucho Marx

The following t-shirts are for word lovers:

Team Oxford comma

Synonym Rolls. [Image of cinnamon rolls] Same as Grammar used to make.

I swallowed a whole dictionary. Now I have thesaurus throat ever.

Which is your favorite? What other slogans related to books have you seen?

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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Revisiting “Falling Man” on the 21th Anniversary of 9/11

alex atkins bookshelf cultureRichard Drew pressed the camera’s shutter button at 9:41:15 am on the morning of September 11, 2001, capturing an image of man leaping to his death that is paradoxically terrifying and peaceful at the same time. This iconic photograph — “The Falling Man” — depicted one of more than 200 innocent people who fell or jumped to their deaths that morning. It was printed on page 7 of the New York Times on the following day, that haunting image etched forever in the American consciousness as a reminder of that dreadful day. Twenty years later, most survivors and witnesses of 9/11 have noted that the sight of human beings falling to their deaths is the most haunting memory of that tragic day. People began jumping soon after the first jet hit the North Tower (8:46 am) and for the next 102 minutes before the building collapsed. They jumped alone, in pairs, or in groups — most from a height of more than 100 stories. At that height, the bodies reach a speed of 150 miles per hour, not enough to cause unconsciousness during the 10-second fall, but fast enough to ensure immediate death upon impact. One witness described this horrific scene as a woman fell: “The look on her face was shock. She wasn’t screaming. It was slow motion. When she hit, there was nothing left.” Equally powerful was the thought-provoking story that writer Tom Junod wrote about the identity of that lone figure in the September 2003 issue of Esquire magazine, titled “The Falling Man.” When you read the introduction to the story, it is easy to understand why the editors of Esquire consider it one of the greatest stories in the magazine’s 75-year history.

“In the picture, he departs from this earth like an arrow. Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it. If he were not falling, he might very well be flying. He appears relaxed, hurtling through the air. He appears comfortable in the grip of unimaginable motion. He does not appear intimidated by gravity’s divine suction or by what awaits him. His arms are by his side, only slightly outriggered. His left leg is bent at the knee, almost casually. His white shirt, or jacket, or frock, is billowing free of his black pants. His black high-tops are still on his feet… The man in the picture… is perfectly vertical, and so is in accord with the lines of the buildings behind him. He splits them, bisects them: Everything to the left of him in the picture is the North Tower; everything to the right, the South. Though oblivious to the geometric balance he has achieved, he is the essential element in the creation of a new flag, a banner composed entirely of steel bars shining in the sun. Some people who look at the picture see stoicism, willpower, a portrait of resignation; others see something else — something discordant and therefore terrible: freedom. There is something almost rebellious in the man’s posture, as though once faced with the inevitability of death, he decided to get on with it; as though he were a missile, a spear, bent on attaining his own end. He is… in the clutches of pure physics, accelerating at a rate of thirty-two feet per second squared. He will soon be traveling at upwards of 150 miles per hour, and he is upside down. In the picture, he is frozen; in his life outside the frame, he drops and keeps dropping until he disappears.”

Almost 20 years later, reflecting on that photo, Richard Drew states: “I never regretted taking that photograph at all. It’s probably one of the only photographs that shows someone dying that day. We have a terrorist attack on our soil and we still don’t see pictures of our people dying — and this is a photograph of someone dying. “

The Falling Man’s true identity has never been established.  The photos reveal that he was dark-skinned, lanky, wore a goatee, dressed in black pants, and a bright-orange shirt under a white shirt. Some believe it was Jonathan Briley, an employee at the Windows on the World restaurant. Miraculously, the FBI found his body the next day. Juno concludes his article:

“Is Jonathan Briley the Falling Man? He might be. But maybe he didn’t jump from the window as a betrayal of love or because he lost hope. Maybe he jumped to fulfill the terms of a miracle. Maybe he jumped to come home to his family. Maybe he didn’t jump at all, because no one can jump into the arms of God.

Oh, no. You have to fall.

Yes, Jonathan Briley might be the Falling Man. But the only certainty we have is the certainty we had at the start: At fifteen seconds after 9:41 a.m., on September 11, 2001, a photographer named Richard Drew took a picture of a man falling through the sky — falling through time as well as through space. The picture went all around the world, and then disappeared, as if we willed it away. One of the most famous photographs in human history became an unmarked grave, and the man buried inside its frame — the Falling Man — became the Unknown Soldier in a war whose end we have not yet seen. Richard Drew’s photograph is all we know of him, and yet all we know of him becomes a measure of what we know of ourselves. The picture is his cenotaph, and like the monuments dedicated to the memory of unknown soldiers everywhere, it asks that we look at it, and make one simple acknowledgment.

That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Poetry of 9/11
Moving Quotes on the 15th Anniversary of 9/11
The Poem I Turn To
Unfathomable Grief
The Best Books on 9/11

For further reading:
September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond
Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets

http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0903-SEP_FALLINGMAN
http://www.esquire.com/features/page-75/greatest-stories?click=main_sr#slide-1
http://time.com/4453467/911-september-11-falling-man-photo/?utm_source=time.com&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-brief&utm_content=2017091117pm&xid=newsletter-brief
https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2002-09-02-jumper_x.htm

The Wisdom of Strangers at Airports

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomAlthough the first thought that comes to people’s minds when they think of airports is annoyance (long lines, lengthy layovers, intrusive security checks, etc.), airports are incredible, magical places. We take it for granted that each day millions of people are transported to far-away places around the globe in hours (and if they are lucky, so will their luggage). If you have watched documentaries about the behind-the-scenes operations at an international airport you will know that the logistics (personnel, equipment, fuel, schedules, meals, connecting flights, luggage handling, maintenance, weather, customer behavior, etc.) will have your head spinning. In short, air travel is like an orchestra where every musician must play their part at exactly the right moment for the right period of time.

The other thing most people take for granted is what an amazing melting pot an airport is. There is no place in a city that has such a diverse group of individuals — people passing through from other parts of the country and the world. Each person — from a specific place, culture, and generation — has lived a life, presumably very different from yours — and has a unique, fascinating story to tell. That individuals sit side by side in the airport lounges or in airplane seats for hours at a time and not share these stories is a lost opportunity to gain perspective and new insights.

A few weeks ago, I sat in an airport in Phoenix, Arizona for a three hour layover to catch a connecting flight to the Bay Area. A sharply dressed woman sitting next to me asked me if I would watch her luggage while she purchased a charger for her phone. She spoke with an unmistakable Texan accent. Upon her return, we began chatting about what brought her to Phoenix and that led to a discussion about business, family, education, and the world. It was a wonderful discussion that helped pass the time, but more importantly, it led to many wonderful insights and perspectives drawn from her life and her journey. One of the most notable thoughts was this: “I wish I could step into a time machine and travel back in time, so that I could give my kids and grandkids the same world I grew up in.” That idea resonated deeply with me. Over the years, I have spoken to so many people who grew up in the 50s and 60s who share this sentiment but have never expressed is so vividly and so succinctly. This was her gift to me.

Earlier in the day, I had taken a flight from Columbus to Phoenix. During the boarding process, a young woman in her early twenties asked if she could sit in the window seat. I noticed she was wearing an Ohio State University sweatshirt. A fascinating, engaging conversation that lasted the entire flight — 3.5 hours — began with a simple question: “Are you currently a student at Ohio State?” I learned that she had graduated a few years ago, worked in the finance industry, and was traveling to visit a college friend in Phoenix. Over the next few hours, our conversation ranged from business, leadership, education, family, family values, documentaries on psychological issues (trust, truth, compliance, obedience, etc.), psychological research, communication, relationships, philanthropy, work ethic, hobbies, self knowledge and self reflection. She was one of ten children, born to parents who lived in one of the toughest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods in Dayton, Ohio. Her salvation came in the form of the discipline, wisdom, kindness, generosity, and deep faith from a matriarchal household. The biggest influence on her was her mother and grandmother who taught her to listen and to discern the difference between people who spoke from the heart (where their words were aligned with their body language and actions) and those who spoke to manipulate or lie (where their words were discordant with their body language). “Those two lessons have served me well throughout my life — that, and my faith,” she explained. Her parents emphasized the importance of faith, education, and a good work ethic. Out of ten siblings, eight attended and graduated from college. The conversation was so genuine, so synergistic — one topic segueing seamlessly from one topic to another — that the hours melted away. At the end of the conversation, she confessed, “I am an introvert, and I generally wouldn’t talk to a stranger. Even with my friends, I tend to be a listener. But this conversation is one of the deepest, broad-ranging, fascinating conversations I have ever had.” We both were grateful for this wonderful exchange of ideas. The only time she reached for her phone was to write down the title of a book or documentary that she didn’t know about. Although this young woman, so early in her life journey and full of opportunities, will likely forget me, I don’t think she will forget the magic of that thoughtful, engaging conversation. When I challenged her to strike up a conversation with a stranger on her flight back home, she smiled and replied, “I will definitely try.” We parted ways when we deplaned and entered the busy airport terminal; I watched as she disappeared into a throng of travelers scurrying along the seemingly infinite concourse, appreciative of her generous gifts: the wisdom gained from her life and the inspiration of her incredible mother and grandmother.

So the next time you are in an airport, manage to get over your annoyance, smile at the person sitting next to you, and strike up a conversation that focuses on your commonalities, not your differences… and watch the magic of communication emerge over time.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Little Books, Big Ideas: On Things That Really Matter
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
The Wisdom of Maya Angelou
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks
The Wisdom of Lady Grantham
The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz
The Wisdom of Yoda
The Wisdom of George Carlin
The Wisdom of Saint-Exupery
The Wisdom of Steven Wright
The Wisdom of Spock
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel

Little Books, Big Ideas: Proverbs From Around the World

alex atkins bookshelf booksIf you ever travel to Columbus, Ohio, it is worth taking a short trip from the airport to the German Village, just south of the city’s downtown. The neighborhood was settled by a large German immigration that occurred in 1830. The Germans not only brought their culture, they also brought their impressive brick-laying skills — remarkably, the streets, sidewalks, houses, and buildings are all made of brick. In the heart of the German Village you will discover a wonderful bookstore called, appropriately, The Book Loft of German Village. Residing in a pre-Civil War building, the bookstore is an actual labyrinth featuring 32 different rooms on several different levels. Each room, covering a specific subject, is lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. If you are a bibliophile, it’s as close to the paradise that Jorge Luis Borges imagined.

In any event, it is while perusing the splendid bookshelves of The Book Loft of German Village that I came across an intriguing little book, Proverbs From Around the World: A Collection of Timeless Wisdom, Wit, Sayings & Advice by Gerd de Ley. In the introduction, the author writes, “Our world is massive. With a scope well beyond what most people can fathom, and certainly too large to be experienced in full during one lifetime, the Earth is full of the experiences and collected wisdom of billions upon billions of people.” It is from this global, multi-generational tapestry of wisdom, that de Ley selects some of history’s most enduring proverbs to share with the reader. Here are some examples (country of origin in parenthesis):

There are three friends in this world: courage, sense, and insight. (Africa)

He who seeks a friend without a fault will not find one. (Armenia)

In times of test, the family is best. (Burma)

To a man wine is like water is to the boat; it can carry him or guzzle him up. (Thailand)

There are forty kinds of lunacy, but only one kind of common sense. (Africa)

To talk without thinking is to shoot without aiming. (England)

When you begin to understand the situation, you know you must have been ill-informed. (Java)

Don’t look where you fell, but where you slipped. (Liberia)

Words are but dwarfs, examples are giants. (Luxembourg)

The eleventh commandment: thou shall not contradict. (Mexico)

If age and experience came at birth, we would have neither youth nor mirth. (Russia)

Wisdom does not come overnight. (Somalia)

A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners. (Virgin Islands)

If you are too modest you will go hungry. (Zaire)

If you don’t know where you are going, look back to where you’ve come from. (Arabia)

Life is half-spent before one knows what life is. (France)

The devil likes to hide behind a cross. (Ukraine)

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking. (India)

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Little Books, Big Ideas: On Things That Really Matter
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
The Wisdom of Maya Angelou
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks
The Wisdom of Lady Grantham
The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz
The Wisdom of Yoda
The Wisdom of George Carlin
The Wisdom of Saint-Exupery
The Wisdom of Steven Wright
The Wisdom of Spock
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel

Book Lending and Marks of Ownership

alex atkins bookshelf booksOne of the most famous quotations about lending books is by French author and man of letters, Anatole France (born François-Anatole Thibault, 1844-1924), who advised, “Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have lent me.” [from La Vie litteraire (The Literary Life), 1888]. So how did France know that these weren’t his books? They must have had obvious marks of ownerships.

So how do book owners mark their books? The most common way of marking a book is by writing or signing one’s name in the book, typically the paste down end paper or the free end paper. Soon after Gutenberg introduced printed books in the mid 15th century, book owners began using bookplates, also known as “Ex Libris” (from the Latin, “From the Library”) labels. Some of these were very ornate with heraldic elements and fancy borders. Another common method is a blind emboss stamp indicating the owner’s name in the middle of a circular pattern. Another variation is the ink stamp, often used by libraries. Perhaps one of the crudest methods, often used by high school and college students, is to write one’s last name in large block letters on all three sides of the text block. It makes quite a bold statement: “this book is mine — so don’t even think of stealing it!”

There are purists who believe that a book should never be marked or written in; but there are many who believe that an elegant bookplate denotes that the owner is an important part of a book’s history, or using bibliophile lingo, it’s provenance.

How do you mark your books?

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Doublets: Be Happy with What You Have

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsThe secret of contentment is knowing how to enjoy what you have, and to be able to lose all desire for things beyond your reach.”

Lin Yutang (1895-1976) was a Chinese novelist, philosopher, and linguist. He moved to America in 1935, where he popularized a Chinese way of life and philosophy. By translating classic Chinese texts into English, he became one of the most influential writers of his generation. In addition to his extensive writing and translation work, Lin was the inventor of the Chinese typewriter after decades of work on the project.

“Be happy with what you have and are, be generous with both, and you won’t have to hunt for happiness.”

William Gladstone (1809-1898), known as the “Grand Old Man,” is considered by historians as one of Britain’s greatest leaders. His public service lasted over 60 years, including 12 years as Prime Minister. Gladstone was a dedicated bibliophile, with a personal library of more than 32,000 books. He was known to walk in and buy entire sections of a bookshop.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Doublets: Your Future is More Important Than Your Past
Doublets: Love
Doublets: Genius
Doublets: Youth and Maturity
Doublets: You Cannot Run Away From Yourself
Doublets: The Lessons of History
Doublets: Reading a Great Book
Doublets: Tolerance
Doublets: The Role of Religion
Doublets: Things Left Unsaid

There’s A Word for That: Logastellus

alex atkins bookshelf words

Were it not for four long years of the Trump presidency, most people would be oblivious to the concept of the Dunning-Kruger Effect: the cognitive bias where a person who is incompetent at something is unable to recognize their own incompetence. Moreover, that individual has a false inflated sense of confidence about their supposed competence. You might recall some of Donald Trump’s most famous quotes revealing his complete lack of humility and truthful self-assessment: “Sorry losers and haters, but my IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault” [Twitter, 9-5-13]. “I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.” [Fortune, 4-4-2000]. “Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart… I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star… to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius… and a very stable genius at that!” [Twitter, 7-11-19].

The term Dunning-Kruger Effect was coined by David Dunning and Justin Kruger, psychologists at Cornell University, in their 1999 study titled “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” Dunning points out the irony of the effect: “the knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task — and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task.” Consequently, without appropriate management and training, such a person cannot improve because they are essentially clueless about how bad they are at a particular job. In subsequent research, Dunning has found the Dunning-Kruger Effect rampant among employees of high-tech firms and medical companies, professors at universities, and among drivers. Dunning was remiss in not adding politicians to that list.

In 1970, John McClellan [Butler University] introduced a term that could be considered a companion to Dunning’s — logastellus, pronounced “low ga STEL us,” defined as “a person whose enthusiasm for words outstrips his knowledge of them.” In other words, a person who loves words but doesn’t know much about them. The word is derived from the Greek word “logo” (meaning word, speech, talk”) and “-ellus” (a dimunitive word-forming element, from Latin); thus, literally, the word means “little word.” In his typewritten newsletter on linguistics, Word Ways [August 1970], McClellan credited the actual coinage of the word to his Latin professor, Mr. Samuel Carr, 50 years earlier. McClellan writes: “Nor does serendipity stop here, but leads us gently back in time to the 1920s, and a hot classroom in June where a class of discipulastelli [a made-up Latin coinage for “small student or followers”] prepared for the forthcoming Latin College Board examination… The class was taught by Mr. Samuel Carr, who gave us whatever love of his subject we now have, almost 50 years later. But we did not know, then, of his subtle influence — we just wanted to get outside into the sunshine as quickly as possible. Mr. Carr is looking over my shoulder now as this is being written, and is saying in his dry, unforgettable way, “McClellan, I would like to propose the word LOGASTELLUS for a person whose enthusiasm for words outstrips his knowledge of them!”

Interestingly, Donald Trump not only exhibited the Dunning-Kruger Effect, he was also a classic logastellus. Remember his famous quote: “I know words. I have the best words.”? Yet, Trump consistently spoke — and often incoherently, mind you — using the vocabulary of an eight-year-old (third- to seventh-grade reading level), according to an analysis of his first 30,000 words in office. And his only linguistic contribution was the famous “covfefe” which was his mistyping of the word “coverage.” In their study of Trump’s speech, Linguistic Inquiries into Donald Trump’s Language, Kristina Bjorkenstam and Gintare Grigonyte [Department of Linguistics, Stockholm University], write: “A common observation, often remarked upon in both traditional and social media, is that Donald Trump repeats himself, and that his vocabulary is more limited and his grammar less complex than the language of other politicians. His casual speaking style in general and frequent use of repetitions in particular are commonly attributed to efforts to persuade by means of influencing the emotions of the audience and to distance himself from career politicians. Leith (2017) notes that “[s]imple (or absent) grammatical structures leave the audience with nothing so taxing as a train of thought: rather, a random collage of emotive terms, repeated for emphasis. You come away from a Trump speech with a feeling, not an argument.” [From Chapter 3: I Know Words, I Have the Best Words: Repetitions, Parallelism, and Matters of (in)Coherence.]

In the article “Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader” for Politico [August 13, 2015], Jack Shafer wrote: “Donald Trump isn’t a simpleton, he just talks like one. If you were to market Donald Trump’s vocabulary as a toy, it would resemble a small box of Lincoln Logs. Trump resists multisyllabic words and complex, writerly sentence constructions when speaking extemporaneously in a debate, at a news conference or in an interview. He prefers to link short, blocky words into other short, blocky words to create short, blocky sentences that he then stacks into short, blocky paragraphs.” Shafer goes on to note Trump’s favorite words which he uses frequently: “Flattening the English language whenever he speaks without a script, Trump relies heavily on words such as ‘very’ and ‘great,’ and the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘I,’ which is his favorite word. As any news observer can observe, he lives to diminish his foes by calling them ‘losers,’ ‘total losers,’ ‘haters,’ ‘dumb,’ ‘idiots,’ ‘morons,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘dummy’ and ‘disgusting.'” Welcome back to the elementary school playground…

Speaking of pretenders, there is a wonderful word that is seldom used: sciolist, someone who pretends to be knowledgeable or learned. Sciolist is derived from the Late Latin sciolus (meaning “one who knows little”). A related term is sciolism, defined as the unfounded pretense to knowledge.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Isaac Asimov: There is a Cult of Ignorance in the United States
Will We Have Free and Fair Elections Again?
What is the Dunning-Kruger Effect?
Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will Be Governed by Idiots
Is the United States a Democracy or a Republic?

For further reading:
bloomsbury.com/us/linguistic-inquiries-into-donald-trumps-language-9781350115514/

politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/donald-trump-talks-like-a-third-grader-121340/
digitalcommons.butler.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1504&context=wordways
abc15.com/news/national/president-trump-my-two-greatest-assets-have-been-mental-stability-and-being-like-really-smart-

 

Signs at Indie Bookstores: Paris, France

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsIf you happen to visit Paris, France, you might come across one of Europe’s most famous bookshops: Shakespeare and Company. The original Shakespeare and Company, located on the Left Bank, was founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919. Beach’s bookshop closed in 1941. The existing Shakespeare and Company, also on the Left Bank (adjacent to Place Saint-Michel), was founded in 1951 by George Whitman, an ex-serviceman. Whitman’s bookshop, however, was initially named “Le Mistral.” In 1964, on the 40th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, Whitman changed the name to Shakespeare and Company as a tribute to Beach’s store (before she had died, Beach agreed to allow Whitman to use that name). The bookshop became one of the favorite hangouts of bohemian culture, including Beat Generation writers like William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg as well as other famous authors like Bertolt Brecht, James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, Peter Matthiessen, and William Saroyan.

As you wander among the tightly-packed bookshelves in the store, that was once a 16th-century monastery, you will come across several signs, including on above the reading library: “Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers Lest They Be Angels in Disguise.” As you venture through the stacks you will come across a quote by American author Rebecca Solnit, a champion of women’s, human, and environmental rights. She famously coined the term “mansplaining” in her collection of essays titled Men Explain Things to Me, published in 2014. The quote that appears in the store is from the book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (2016): “Inside the word ’emergency’ is ’emerge’; from an emergency new things come forth. The old certainties are crumbling fast, but danger and possibility are sisters.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

Fascinating Factoids that Fell Out of an Old Book

alex atkins bookshelf booksA common observation that you will find among book collectors is the eureka moment when something fascinating falls from a used book that was orphaned at a used book shop or library donation drop box. Quite often, booksellers glance at a book, price it, and shelve it for sale, unaware of the treasures that its former owner placed inside the book — perhaps a forgotten bookmark, a postcard, letter, or a clipped newspaper article. Depending on the age of the newspaper, specifically the type of ink and paper that was used at that time, the folded article can leave a ghostly imprint on the pages of the book, leaving behind a permanent watermark, as it were, proudly stating: “A cherished memento once lived here!”

Recently, I was reviewing a reference book that I had purchased at a library sale — I should really say, I rescued it, since it sat there dusty and forlorn at the end of a long row of tables. In any event, as I opened the book to a random chapter, out fell a neatly folded newspaper clipping. The book was titled Whose What? A Reference Book for All the Strange Expressions that Have Entered the American Language by Dorothy Blumberg. Although the book was published in 1969, the newspaper clipping was dated a few years later: March 6, 1972. Although the clipping was darkened considerably by age — the paper had turned from cream to brown — remarkably, it did not leave an imprint in the book’s pages. In my experience, most newspaper clippings relate directly to the book or its author; however, this article from the feature page of the Detroit Free Press contained a rather curious collection of fascinating factoids beneath the title “You Can Look It Up and Learn That…” with the subtitle “Things I Never Knew Until I Looked Them Up” by Sydney Harris. Since this was decades before the advent of the Internet, presumably curious fellow looked it up the old-fashioned way — by visiting a library and looking up various topics in actual books. Imagine that!

Even more fascinating — from a provenance point of view — is the book’s incredible journey. First, think about who was the original owner of this book? There was no name or bookplate; therefore, given the topic of the book and newspaper article, one could surmise that it was an educated person — curious, most likely with an interest in the English language and trivia. Second, consider that the book had traveled from Detroit to California, a distance of over 2,500 miles. Did it travel in a box, a suitcase, or a backpack? Finally, ponder that the book’s journey has taken a half century! And how the world has changed from 1969 to today! But I digress…

This serendipitous encounter with random facts — learning that goes beyond the scope of a specific book — is one of the wonderful byproducts of book collecting. Sadly, most books on bookcollecting don’t even address that incredible aspect. Nevertheless, without further ado, here are the fascinating facts that I learned when a newspaper clipping fell out of an old book:

Things I Never Knew Until I Looked Them Up

Baseball is an older sport than tennis; it goes back to at least 1840, whereas modern tennis began only 100 years ago, in 1872, when the first outdoor courts were built in England.

Florence Nightingale was the first woman ever to be named “Florence”; she was born in that city, and until her subsequent fame, the feminine name “Florence” was unknown in the English-speaking world.

Speaking of cities, both London and Paris were named by the Romans during the Caesarean period: the former was the Roman fort, Londinium, and the latter was a fishing village called Lutetia Parisiorum.

Sicilians wave “goodbye” with the same beckoning gesture that almost all other people employ to mean  “come here.”

The Oriental “rickshaw,” a mode of travel identified with the ancient East, was actually invented by an American missionary in Japan.

The military title, “Marshal,” which in many countries designates the officer of the highest rank, originally comes from the name of the lowly stable-boy, or keeper of the horses.

The custom of throwing rice at a wedding comes, oddly enough, from India.

The term “cowboy” did not originate in the West at all, but was a name adopted by a group of guerillas operating in New York State during the Revolutionary War. (It was then taken up by a gang of wild riders headed by one Ewen Cameron, who specialized in assaulting Mexicans soon after Texas became an independent state, in 1835, and only later came to mean the cow-punchers of the West.)

Speaking of the Revolutionary War, Paul Revere is a national hero only because of [Henry Wadsworth] Longfellow’s poem [“Paul Revere’s Ride” published in 1860], which celebrated the wrong man. Revere was captured by the British on the famous “midnight ride,” and only Samuel Prescott got through to Concord with the message. Revere’s military career was mediocre at best: once he was arrested and court-martialed for disobeying orders.

All the Old Testament was originally written like this: “Gd crtd th hvns nd th rth,” with consonants only, and it was not until a thousand years later that Hebrew scholars supplied vowel points which indicated the proper vocalization and followed the traditional pronunciation.

The Germans have never called themselves “Germans,” and the origin of the name is totally unknown.

The first U.S. flag, raised by George Washington, had no stars on it at all, but the British crosses of St. George and St. Andrew.

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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Intriguing Connections: Elvis and the Gerber Baby

alex atkins bookshelf cultureWhen it comes to reading obituaries, people fall into two camps: those who believe they are morbid and those who believe they are fascinating, revealing facts lost to time or as fragments of recent history. Marilyn Johnson, author of The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries, shares this perspective: “The New York Times comes each morning in a blue plastic wrapper, and never fails to deliver news of the important dead. Every day is new; every day is fraught with significance. I open the not-yet-smudged pages of newsprint. Obituaries are history as it is happening… Whose time am I living in? Was he a success or a failure, lucky or doomed? I shake out the pages. Tell me the secret of a good life! Other people, it seems, also read the obits faithfully, snip and save them, stand in the back of the old theater, feeling that warm and special glow that comes from contemplating and appreciating [who] has left the building forever.”

Notice the phrase she just used: “who has left the building” a variation of the well-known idiom “Elvis has left the building.” Were it not for the obituary of country music promoter Horace Lee Logan, Jr. (1916-2002) on October 13, 2002, most people — especially the writers of English idiom and phrase reference books — would not have remembered or known who had originated the phrase “Elvis has left the building.” In this case, Logan’s obituary served a very important purpose in the realm of the English lexicon: it brought to the forefront a long forgotten fact: that on December 15, 1956 at the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum in Shreveport, Louisiana, Elvis Presley had performed for a very enthusiastic and adoring audience. Since Elvis had performed in the middle of the evening’s line-up, Logan had to calm down the audience so that the other performers could get on stage and perform. He had to announce that Elvis had left the coliseum so he announced, “All right, all right, Elvis has left the building. I’ve told you absolutely straight up to this point. You know that. He has left the building. He left the stage and went out the back with the policemen and he is now gone from the building.” That phrase became a catchphrase associated with Elvis which was repeated at the end of some of his shows, radio interviews, and captured on some of his albums. The catchphrase, included in most idiom reference books published after 2002, is used more generally to refer to any person who has either left a location or has passed away.

Let us turn the page to another obituary… A recent obituary on June 4, 2022 would not capture most people’s attention: it featured the name of a 95-year-old former teacher and writer that few would recognize: Ann Turner Cook. Although she lived in relative obscurity, she has one of the most recognized place on this planet seen and known by billions of people. If you saw the face you would recognize instantly. You see, Ann Turner Cook is the face of the iconic Gerber baby that appears on all baby food packaging. Her identity was a secret for more than a half century. Gerber finally revealed her identity at the drawing’s 50th anniversary in 1978 — a detail lost to time. At the time of her death, the staff at Gerber wrote the following tribute: “Gerber is deeply saddened by the passing of Ann Turner Cook, the original Gerber baby, whose face was sketched to become the iconic Gerber logo more than 90 years ago. Many years before becoming an extraordinary mother, teacher and writer, her smile and expressive curiosity captured hearts everywhere and will continue to live on as a symbol for all babies.”

It’s a remarkable story. When Cook was merely five months old, a neighbor, Dorothy Hope Smith, who was a commercial artist who specialized in children, drew a simple charcoal sketch of her face with an unfinished body. She submitted it to the Gerber Products Company, founded by Dorothy Gerber in Fremont, Michigan in 1927 (Gerber joined the Nestle family in 2007), that was running a contest to find the face for their baby food advertising campaign. The executives had pored over thousands of entries, some that were very detailed oil paintings; however, they were delighted with the rendering’s simplicity, innocence, and universality. Consequently, they they accepted exactly as Smith had rendered it. Cook explained in a 1992 interview, “I have to credit Dorothy with everything. I was really no cuter than any other baby, but she had wonderful artistic talent and was able to draw a very appealing likeness.” Indeed, the appealing wide-eyed, cherubic face with pursed lips was used for the next 90 years on billions of baby food products. In 1931, Gerber trademarked the iconic baby face. Naturally, since Gerber kept the baby’s identity a secret, there was much speculation in the press and the public about the model’s true identity, including Shirley Temple, Elizabeth Taylor, Brooke Shields, and even Humphrey Bogart. Sadly, Elvis never made that list. One family even sued the Gerber company, claiming that their baby was the one on the label; however, once Smith testified, the family lost the case. In 1951, Smith sought a settlement for her original drawing and received $5,000 from Gerber. Back then, that amount was “enough to make a down payment on a modest house and to buy a first car,” she said in an interview. (For comparison, note that the Pepsi logo cost $1 million in 2008; the BBC logo cost $1.8 million in 1997; and the BP logo cost $211 million in 2008.)

Cook married, had four children, moved to Orlando, Florida and earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in English. She taught English in junior high and high school. After she retired she began writing crime novels that she published independently.

Through most of her life, Cook’s secret was in plain sight and she took pride in being a global symbol for babies. In an interview with CBS in 2013 she noted “I can’t think of anything nicer than to be a symbol for babies. And that’s what I think I became.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/04/business/ann-turner-cook-gerber-baby-dead.html
http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-much-the-worlds-most-iconic-logos-cost-companies-2013-3#bp-211-million-13

July 4: The Day Three Presidents Died

alex atkins bookshelf triviaWhile July 4th is a day of celebration marking the day that the United States declared its independence from Great Britain, it is also a solemn day. In one of the most fascinating coincidences in U.S. history, three Presidents, who were  Founding Fathers, died on July 4th: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe.

Jefferson, who served as the third President, died of illness on July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence — at the age of 83 in Monticello, Virginia. He had been suffering from rheumatism and intestinal and urinary disorders. He was also enormously troubled that he was deeply in debt. His last words were “No, doctor, nothing more” as he refused medicine (laudanum) from his doctor.

Just five hours later, Adams, who served as the second President, died of illness at the age of 90 in Quincy, Massachusetts. At 90 years old, he was old, frail, and ill and suddenly collapsed in his reading chair. For the next few hours in was in and out of consciousness until he finally passed away. Unaware that Jefferson had died hours earlier, Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives.” President John Quincy Adams (John’s son), observed that the timing of the death of these two former presidents, who had become close friends over the years, was “visible and palpable remarks of divine favor.” American statesman and lawyer Daniel Webster’s eulogy for these two revered men underscored the role of divine intervention: “The concurrence of their death on the anniversary of Independence has naturally awakened stronger emotions. It cannot but seem striking and extraordinary, that these two should live to see the fiftieth year from the date of that act, that they should complete that year, and that then, on the day which had fast linked forever their own fame with their country’s glory, the heavens should open to receive them both at once. As their lives themselves were the gifts of Providence, who is not willing to recognize in their happy termination, as well as in their long continuance, proofs that our country and its benefactors are objects of His care?” (Incidentally, it was Webster’s son, Noah, who published the first American dictionary in 1806 and the comprehensive American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828.) The editors of the New-York American (1895-1937) write an equally eloquent eulogy of this coincidence: “By a coincidence marvellous and enviable, Thomas Jefferson, in like manner with his great compeer, John Adams, breathed his last on the 4th of July. Emphatically may we say, with a Boston paper, had the horses and the chariot of fire descended to take up the patriarchs, it might have been more wonderful, but not more glorious. We remember nothing in the annals of man so striking, so beautiful, as the death of these two ‘time-honoured’ patriots, on the jubilee of that freedom, which they devoted themselves and all that was dear to them, to proclaim and establish. It cannot all be chance.”

Monroe, who served as the fifth President, died of tuberculosis, five years later on July 4, 1831 at the age of 73 in New York City. The following day, this remarkable coincidence was called a “coincidence that has no parallel” by a reporter from the New York Evening Post, the newspaper founded by Alexander Hamilton; he wrote: “Three of the four presidents who have left the scene of their usefulness and glory expired on the anniversary of the national birthday, a day which of all others, had it been permitted them to choose [they] would probably had selected for the termination of their careers.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: John Adams by David McCullough, Simon & Schuster (2001)
Marilyn Johnson: The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries (2006)
http://www.dartmouth.edu/~dwebster/speeches/adams-jefferson.html
constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/blog/three-presidents-die-on-july-4th-just-a-coincidence
http://www.bu.edu/historic/battin.htm

So Long as You Write What You Wish to Write, That is All That Matters

alex atkins bookshelf quotations“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

From the essay A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. The essay, published in 1929, is based on two lectures Woolf delivered at women’s colleges at the University of Cambridge a year earlier. The essay takes its title from the following sentence: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Woolf explores whether women, facing many social and economic challenges in a patriarchal society, are capable and free to produce great literature. During Woolf’s time, women were not encouraged to attend college and obtain a formal education. She cites Austen and Bronte who broke with societal norms: “Only Jane Austen did it and Emily Brontë. It is another feather, perhaps the finest, in their caps. They wrote as women write, not as men write. Of all the thousand women who wrote novels then, they alone entirely ignored the perpetual admonitions of the eternal pedagogue—write this, think that.”

In this passage, Woolf presents the chasm between how women are idealized in fiction written by men and how women are actually treated:

“Women have burnt like beacons in all the works of all the poets from the beginning of time. Indeed if woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person of the utmost importance; very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; beautiful and hideous in the extreme; as great as a man, some would say greater. But this is woman in fiction. In fact, as Professor Trevelyan points out, she was locked up, beaten and flung about the room. A very queer, composite being thus emerges. Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave of any boy whose parents forced a ring upon her finger. Some of the most inspired words and profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read; scarcely spell; and was the property of her husband.”

ENJOY THE BOOK. If you love reading Atkins Bookshelf, you will love reading the book — Serendipitous Discoveries from the Bookshelf. The beautifully-designed book (416 pages) is a celebration of literature, books, fascinating English words and phrases, inspiring quotations, literary trivia, and valuable life lessons. It’s the perfect gift for book lovers and word lovers.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by FOLLOWING or SHARING with a friend or your readers. Cheers.

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