The Definition of a Dictionary

Merriam-Webster Inc. sta pensando di rinnovare il suo storico dizionario. La nuova edizione uscirà online e sarà disponibile pagando un abbonamento annuale. Questa è anche l'occasione di ripensare ai dizionari, “Within certain boundaries, we get to reinvent what the dictionary is,” Morse [Merriam’s president and publisher] says. “The opportunity does not come often, so it’s vitally important that we seize it.” slate.


Siamo o non siamo Charlie Hebdo?

Da noi effettivamente non esiste una satira come quella del giornale francese, né si trova negli USA dove pure c'è una tradizione di satira piuttosto feroce e libera. Adam Gopnik ci spiega il perché risalendo alle origini, "The staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, massacred in an act that shocked the world last week, were not the gentle daily satirists of American editorial cartooning. Nor were they anything like the ironic observers and comedians of manners most often to be found in our own beloved stable here at The New Yorker. (Though, to be sure, the covers of this magazine have startled a few readers and started a few fights.) They worked instead in a peculiarly French and savage tradition, forged in a long nineteenth-century guerrilla war between republicans and the Church and the monarchy. There are satirical magazines and “name” cartoonists in London and other European capitals, particularly Brussels, but they tend to be artier in touch and more media-centric in concern. Charlie Hebdo was—will be again, let us hope—a satirical journal of a kind these days found in France almost alone. Not at all meta or ironic, like The Onion, or a place for political gossip, like the Paris weekly Le Canard Enchaîné or London’s Private Eye, it kept alive the nineteenth-century style of direct, high-spirited, and extremely outrageous caricature—a tradition begun by now legendary caricaturists, like Honoré Daumier and his editor Charles Philipon, who drew the head of King Louis-Philippe as a pear and, in 1831, was put on trial for lèse-majesté". newyorker.


Ancora sui cliché

Like many people with family for whom English is not their first language, I’ve always had a soft spot for clichés. Or a mushy place, as someone might say. A relative of mine terms someone behaving strangely a “weird chicken” (from “odd bird”), and when something is exceptionally great or exceptionally inappropriate we say it is “totally out of the water.” I think this is a crashing together of “out of the ballpark” with “out of bounds” with “fish out of water.” All fish out of water are beloved among us. And without the water of clichés, how would we ever recognize these aqueous exiles? Rivka Galchen, nyt.


The Clichés Killer

Orin Hargraves is, by self-designation, a “cliché-killer,” out to divest the English language of as many clichés as possible by highlighting their illogic and ridiculing their stupidity. Excellent cliché hitman though he is, he realizes that the job cannot be done with anything like thoroughness and that most clichés will live on; he even believes that some clichés deserve to do so, if only because they can put people at ease by their informality and familiarity. “None of these judicious uses of cliché,” he writes, “if kept in check, is objectionable.” He distinguishes between clichés and proverbs, and he does not regard as clichés those idioms that do the job of precise expression more economically than lengthier phrasing, among them “shed light,” “leaps and bounds,” and “part and parcel.” His larger intention here is to bring about a greater awareness of the inanity of most clichés and to point out “the detriment that they typically represent to effective communication.” Joseph Epstein, weeklystandard.

P.S. All'inizio dell'articolo c'è una barzelletta simpatica.


The Most Dangerous Man in America

Cass Sunstein has been regarded as one of the country’s most influential and adventurous legal scholars for a generation. His scholarly articles have been cited more often than those of any of his peers ever since he was a young professor. At 60, now Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School, he publishes significant books as often as many productive academics publish scholarly articles—three of them last year. In each, Sunstein comes across as a brainy and cheerful technocrat, practiced at thinking about the consequences of rules, regulations, and policies, with attention to the linkages between particular means and ends. Drawing on insights from cognitive psychology as well as behavioral economics, he is especially focused on mastering how people make significant choices that promote or undercut their own well-being and that of society, so government and other institutions can reinforce the good and correct for the bad in shaping policy. Lincoln Caplan, harvardmagazine.


Switzerland Today

A short story by Michael Chabon
"In the summer of 1974 my parents sent me to live with my grandparents.
My mother’s parents lived in a modest, one-story house in Silver Spring. It was a nondescript little box, half-heartedly Colonial, with a pointed cupola and black shutters that could never be shut. The driveway was stained, the front walk cracked, and the black weathervane atop the cupola listed to one side like the mast of a foundering ship.
I was given the room, at the back of the house ..." Tablet.



La storia del New Yorker di questa settimana si intitola "Breadman" ed è di J. Robert Lennon. Intervistato da Cressida Leishon: 
Your story "Breadman,” takes place largely in a bread line, as a man waits to buy some bread for his wife. When did the idea for the story come to you? Did you want to satirize a current obsession with artisanal food?
The idea came to me while I was in line waiting to buy some bread for my wife—or, rather, it really came to me while relating the story of the bread line to my friend Adam in a bar some years later. I suppose that I wanted the story to sneakily present itself as a parody of trendy food, before quietly undermining itself and changing into one about the social mores of small communities, including the smallest of all, marriage. newyorker.


A Trip to the Library

Un viaggio nelle biblioteche israeliane.
"I went on a trip, a library trip, to Israel to see archives and manuscripts and scrolls. I saw words preserved and words unearthed, words ordinary and sacred. ... 
We went to Yad Vashem. We rode down the elevator to the bowels of the place where 170,000,000 documents the museum has received have been processed, copied, placed in files, and registered. There are boxes and boxes of identity cards. Documents from the Nazis on Jewish nose size. Diaries from the Warsaw ghetto.  ...
We went to the National Library. Among a gathering of librarians from all over the world we were shown into a small room where under glass there was a brown-lined notebook with Kafka’s writing. ..." Anne Roiphe, tablet.


I am not Charlie

Of course, I unequivocally support the right to free speech. Period. And I also believe in choosing to exercise that right responsibly and respectfully. That's why I would not have published cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed, insulting 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide in the process (and no, I wouldn't have published many of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons insulting Judaism and Christianity, either).
In no way should this be taken -- as it has been by some on Twitter -- to suggest that I somehow condone the killings of Charlie Hebdo's staff. That's a ridiculously insulting idea and just plain wrong. It's possible to honor and protect the free speech rights of publications like Charlie Hebdo while simultaneously believing such cartoons are unnecessarily disrespectful and offensive.