The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ Into English: The classicist Emily Wilson has given Homer’s epic a radically contemporary voice.

“If you’re going to admit that stories matter,” Wilson told me, “then it matters how we tell them, and that exists on the level of microscopic word choice, as well as on the level of which story are you going to pick to start off with, and then, what exactly is that story? The whole question of ‘What is that story?’ is going to depend on the language, the words that you use.”

Infographic: How a Word Gets Into the Dictionary

Language is a fluid thing. There are no real “authorities” that create words but dictionaries can serve as reflections of the words people are using in every day life. To some degree words gain a certain legitimacy once they are included in the dictionary. How does a word get into the dictionary? This interesting infographic from Merriam-Webster maps out the process.

“We’ve been at it again: the Merriam-Webster.com dictionary has gotten bigger, this time by over 250 new words and definitions. These terms have shown themselves to be fully established members of the language, some after hanging about on the fringes for decades, and others after proving themselves too useful to ignore in relatively short order. All have demonstrated significant use in a variety of sources, making them words our readers expect to find in the dictionary. As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon.”

Click on the image to see the full graphic.

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‘Lone wolf’ or ‘terrorist’? How bias can shape news coverage

“Another decision: describing the attack that authorities say was committed by Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white man, as a “mass shooting” rather than “domestic terrorism.” When a Muslim person mows down innocent victims and terrorizes a community, media and authorities are quick to declare it terrorism; when a white, non-Muslim attacker does the same, he is usually described as a disturbed loner in a freak incident. In both cases, journalists arrive at these conclusions early in the news cycle when information is incomplete. (Official statistics show far more terrorism in the U.S. is committed by white men than by Muslims).”

https://www.poynter.org/news/lone-wolf-or-terrorist-how-bias-can-shape-news-coverage

We Legitimize the ‘So-Called’ Confederacy With Our Vocabulary, and That’s a Problem

Fascinating article that delves into the role of language and its effect on our understanding of history as well as the present. How is our collective memory shaped by the words we use to describe the past?

“Landis goes on to suggest that we call plantations what they really were—slave labor camps; and drop the use of the term, “the Union.” A common usage in the 19th century to be sure, but now one we only use “the Union” in reference to the Civil War and on the day of the State of the Union address. A better way to speak of the nation during the war, he argues, is to use its name, the United States.”

“As Douglass was already concerned that the victors were losing the war of historical memory to the supposedly vanquished, I am not sure that he would have been surprised that not far from where he stood at the national cemetery—often considered the nation’s most hallowed ground—a Confederate memorial would be built in the early 20th century to the insurgents he felt “struck at the nation’s life.”

“Douglass knew, day-by-day, after the shooting stopped, a history war was playing out. It is clearly not over yet. Words, though they do not stand as marble and bronze memorials in parks and in front of buildings or fly on flagpoles, are perhaps even more powerful and pernicious. The monuments we’ve built with language may, in fact, be even more difficult to tear down.”

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/we-legitimize-so-called-confederacy-vocabulary-thats-problem-180964830/#D3DM5FOjKPhcmXuR.01