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1. Meet the Commercial Law marketing team at Oxford University Press!

We are pleased to introduce the marketing team for the Commercial Law department at OUP. Chris, Simon, and Miranda work with journals, online resources, and books published on a variety of subjects which relate to the rights and practice of people in business. The resources they work with are used by practicing lawyers, academics and students, and cover a range of topics including competition law, energy, arbitration, and financial law. Get to know more about them below:

Chris Wogan

wogan c
Chris Wogan. Do not use image without permission.

What is your role in OUP’s Commercial Law department?

I’m Chris, the Marketing Manager for Commercial Law. I plan, implement, and execute marketing strategy for Oxford’s Commercial Law portfolio.

What is the best part of your job/highlight of working at OUP?

The people you get to work with are so much fun. There are some incredibly bright and talented people at Oxford, and I love making our authors and customers happy – that is a really great part of the job. Also, the variety – working in marketing at OUP means you get to try new and different things all the time, it’s a truly interesting place to work, and an exciting time to be in marketing.

Which three songs could you not live without?

Song for Zula – The Phosphorescent
Dream the Dare – Pure Bathing Culture
On the Sea – Beach House

What’s your favourite place in Oxford?

There are so many lovely places around Oxford, including Jericho, Cowley and the colleges, but my favourite place would have to be the walk round Christchurch meadow.

What is your favourite fiction book and why?

I have lots of favourites, it’s difficult to pick just one! I’m a huge fan of James Joyce so will pick one of his – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It’s debatable how fictional it is, but the language is incredible. Or Villette.

If you were in a Hogwarts house, which would it be?

I’d like to think it would be Gryffindor, but in reality it would probably be Ravenclaw.

 

Simon Jared

simon jared
Simon Jared. Do not use image without permission.

 

What is your role in OUP’s Commercial Law department?

I’m the Marketing Executive for Commercial Law and work mostly on our book products, though I do also pitch in with our online products and journals.

What is the best part of your job/highlight of working at OUP?

The best part of working at OUP is definitely the people here. I’ve made a lot of friends and there are loads of friendly and creative people around (especially in marketing!). The best part of the job is the diversity. We have a lot of products and types of products, and we’re doing more and more exciting things with digital, content, and social marketing to promote them. We also still get to attend events and meet our authors and other lawyers.

What’s your favourite place in Oxford?

My favourite place in Oxford is the top of the hill in Raleigh Park for two reasons. One: I think the best view of Oxford is from above, with all the spires, domes, and old buildings. Two: I only ever go there when I’m out running and it means the rest of my run is downhill!

Who is the most famous person you’ve met?

I once walked into Paloma Faith on The Strand (not intentionally).

Which three songs could you not live without?

The End – The Doors

Mine for the Summer – by my friend Sam Brawn

Gone – Kanye West

Do you have any hidden talents?

Yes, but I’ve forgotten where I hid them.

If you were in a Hogwarts house, which would it be?

Hufflepuff, because the name amuses me.

 

Miranda Dobson

What is your role in OUP’s Commercial Law department?

I am the newest member of the team, and recently started as the Marketing Assistant for the Commercial Law department.

What’s your favourite place in Oxford?

miranda dobson
Miranda Dobson. Do not use image without permission.

I’ve only just moved to the city, and it’s such a beautiful place it would be difficult to choose somewhere as a favourite. However, when I’m not hanging out with daffodils, I am a sucker for a good bar or pub, and there are some great places in the Jericho area of Oxford to mooch between!

What is your favourite fiction book and why?

My favourite book is The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, simply because I think it’s the perfect novel. I love how the book uses different perspectives through diary entries and a jumbled up time scale. It combines science fiction with a love story; it has violence; it has time travel; it has romance… what more could you want?

Who is the most famous person you’ve met?

I once met Judy Dench (Dame) in Disney Land Paris, she was all in white and looked very stern, but we spoke to her and she was lovely!

What is your biggest pet peeve?

When people have a first name for their last name… you can’t trust those people.

Which three songs could you not live without?

Ain’t no mountain high enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

Take me to church – Hozier

Say you’ll be there – The Spice Girls (no shame)

If you were in a Hogwarts house, which would it be?

I’d be in Slytherin, because green is my colour and just like Draco and Snape, beneath my cold, evil-seeming exterior, I actually do have a heart.

Featured image credi: Lady Justice, at the Old Bailey, by Natural Philo. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The post Meet the Commercial Law marketing team at Oxford University Press! appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. An appreciation of air conditioning

This week—August 15, to be exact—celebrates the climax of Air Conditioning Appreciation Days, a month-long tribute to the wonderful technology that has made summer heat a little more bearable for millions of people. Census figures tell us that nine out of ten Americans have central air conditioning, or a window unit, or more than one, in our homes; in our cars, it’s nearly universal. Go to any hardware or home goods store and you’ll see a pile of boxes containing no-fuss machines in a whole range of sizes, amazingly affordable, plop-’em-in-the-window-and-plug-’em-in-and-you’re-done. Not only do we appreciate the air conditioner, but we appreciate how easy it is to become air conditioned.

When it comes to cool, we’ve come a long way. But in earlier times, it was nowhere near as simple for ordinary citizens to get summertime comfort.

One of the first cooling contraptions offered to the public showed up around 1865, the brainchild of inventor Azel S. Lyman: Lyman’s Air Purifier. This consisted of a tall, bulky cabinet that formed the headboard of a bed, divided into various levels that held ice to cool the air, unslaked lime to absorb humidity, and charcoal to absorb “minute particles of decomposing animal and vegetable matter” as well as “disgusting gases.” Relying on the principle that hot air rises and cool air sinks, air would (theoretically) enter the cabinet under its own power, rise to encounter the ice, be dried by the lime, purified by the charcoal, and finally ejected—directly onto the pillow of the sleeper—“as pure and exhilarating as was ever breathed upon the heights of Oregon.” Lyman announced this marvel in Scientific American, and in the same issue ran an advertisement looking for salesmen. Somehow the Air Purifier didn’t take off.

More interesting to homeowners was the device that showed up in 1882, the electric fan. Until then, fans were powered by water or steam, usually intended for public buildings rather than homes, and most of them tended to circulate air lazily. But the electric model was quite different, with blades that revolved at 2,000 rpm—“as rapidly as a buzz saw,” observed one wag, and for years they were nicknamed “buzz” fans. They were some of the very first electrically powered appliances available for sale. They were also exorbitant, costing $20 (in modern terms, about $475). But that didn’t stop the era’s big spenders from seizing upon them eagerly. Delighted reviewers of the electric fan claimed that it was “warranted to lower the temperature of a room from ninety-five to sixty degrees in a few minutes” and that its effect was “like going into a cool grove.”

The fan combined with ice around the turn of the century, producing an eight-foot-tall metal object that its inventor called “The NEVO, or Cold Air Stove.” The principle was simple: air entered through a small pipe at the top, was pulled by a fan through the NEVO’s body—which had to be stuffed daily with 250 pounds of ice and salt to provide the cooling—and would then be discharged out an opening at the bottom. “It dries, washes, and purifies the air.” As the NEVO had more in common with a gigantic ice cream freezer than with actual temperature control, and the smallest NEVO cost $80 (nowadays, $1,700) and cost $100 per season (over $2,000) to operate, it didn’t get far.

By 100th Anniversary Press Kit – Carrier Corp (Carrier Corporation) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

By this time, a young engineer named Willis Carrier had developed a mechanical system that could actually cool the air and dry it, the Apparatus for Treating Air. But this was machinery of the Giant Economy Size, and used only in factories. In 1914, one wealthy gent asked Carrier to install a system in his new forty-bedroom Minneapolis home, and indeed the system was the same type that “a small factory” would use. Unfortunately, this proud homeowner died before the house was completed, and historians speculate that the machinery was never even turned on.

It wasn’t until 1929 that Frigidaire announced the first home air conditioner, the Frigidaire Room Cooler. This wasn’t in any way a lightweight portable. The Room Cooler consisted of a four-foot-tall metal cabinet, weighing 200 pounds, that had to be connected by pipes to a separate 400-pound compressor (“may be located in the basement, or any convenient location”). And it cost $800, in those days the same as a Pontiac roadster. While newspaper and magazine articles regarded the Room Cooler as a hot-weather miracle, the price (along with the setup requirements) meant that its customers came almost solely from the ranks of the rich, or businesses with cash to burn. Then fate intervened only months after the Room Cooler’s introduction when the stock market crashed, leaving very little cash for anyone to burn. Home air conditioning would have to wait until the country climbed back from the Depression.

Actually, it waited until the end of World War II, when the postwar housing boom prompted brand-new homeowners to fill their houses with the latest comforts. Along with television, air conditioning was at the top of the wish list. And at last, the timing was right; manufacturers were able to offer central cooling, as well as window units, at affordable prices. The compressor in the backyard, or the metal posterior droning out the window, became bona fide status symbols. By 1953, sales topped a million units—and the country never looked back.

Appreciation? Of course. And perhaps, adoration.

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3. Preparing for the Vis Moot 2014

By Isabel Jones


This weekend will see the oral arguments for the 21st Annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot begin in the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna, an exciting event for students, coaches, arbitrators, and publishers. This yearly event is a highlight in the arbitration event calendar and a chance for lawyers and students from all over the world to meet. Oxford University Press will have a stand in the main meeting place, the Juridicum, and we’re looking forward to showcasing our great selection of products.

With nearly 100 mooting teams, the moot promises to be a busy, vibrant, and sociable event. To find out more about this year’s problem, visit the moot website. In case you didn’t know already, this year’s moot will be using the CEPANI rules.

At the OUP stand you will be able to find plenty of copies of the essential text, Redfern and Hunter on International Arbitration. Last year we caught up with the authors to discuss the book and the future of international arbitration, watch the videos below to find out more.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Also available will be the second edition of Principles of International Investment Law by Rudolf Dolzer and Christoph Schreuer, and the third edition of Schlechtriem & Schwenzer: Commentary on the UN Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG) edited Ingeborg Schwenzer. If you come to the stand you will be able to demo the fantastic newly re-lauched online service Investment Claims on our iPads.

It’s hard not to notice that Vienna is a great location for this event, and with so much do to in between moots that you’ll be spoilt for choice. Once you’ve had a good look at the OUP stand, why not:

  • Take a walk to the MuseumsQuartier, one of the largest cultural areas in the world. Here you can admire the mixture of baroque and modern architecture and visit a number of great galleries including Leopold Museum and the MUMOK
  • Have a coffee and cake in Café Central, only a short walk from the Juridicum and offers a great coffee house experience
  • Take a trip to the beautiful Schonbrunn Palace on the outskirts of Vienna
  • See Klimt’s famous painting ‘The Kiss’ at The Belvedere
  • Visit the amazing Faberge exhibition on at Kunsthistorisches Museum
  • Explore the Easter markets nearby, where you can buy beautiful painted eggs (if you can get them home intact!) along with traditional Austrian food and drink


We’ll be setting up our stand early on Saturday (13 April) morning and will be packing up on Tuesday morning. Do come by and say hello if you’re at the Moot, we’re looking forward to seeing you!

Isabel Jones is Senior Marketing Executive in OUP UK’s Law department.

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4. Photos from Oxford University Press offices around the globe

Our generous employees have been snapping away at our office decorations and we’d like to share them with you.



 

 

 

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5. Dataviz you can get behind, librarians as sees through a census lens

Today, the marriage rate among librarians is the highest it has ever been with 62 percent of librarians married in 2009.”

There is a lot of data in the world. Librarians are good at using census data to help people find families, get local information and just learn something about the way the world used to be. Here’s a neat post about using hte census data from the last 120 years to learn something about librarianship as a profession. Did you know that the number of self-reported librarians peaked in 1990 and has declined almost 30% since then? I am somewhat curious if this is just because people with library and information science backgrounds are calling themselves all manner of things now [Is a taxonomist a librarian? How about a metadata specialist?]. You can read the full post, with graphs, over at Oxford University Press’s Social explorer.

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6. Dispatch from Tokyo

By Michelle Rafferty


Last week we received a message from Miki Matoba, Director of Global Academic Business at OUP Tokyo, confirming that her staff is safe and well. This was a relief to hear, and also a reminder that although many of us are tied to the people of Japan in some way, our perspective of the human impact is relatively small.  So I asked Miki if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her experiences, and she kindly agreed. When she responded to my questions she wrote: “Hope my answers reflect a part of how we view the incidents as Japanese.”

1.) Where were you, and what were your thoughts as the earthquake hit?

I was in a meeting room with a visitor from OUP Oxford and my staff having a meeting when the earthquake started. You may find this weird but we all are very much living with earthquakes from a young age. So little shakes here and there are just a part of our lives. But not the one we had last Friday as that was the biggest one in some hundreds of years. What I normally think when earthquakes start is when shall I get up to secure the exit and go under the desk. Most of the time, you do not have to do either as it does not last long. But not this time. As the building started to shake for a while I opened the door of the meeting room thinking that this is a big one but should stop soon. But it did not. So we put ourselves under the table hoping for the shaking to cease. When it did not, I thought then that this is a serious one and something really severe will happen as a result.

Then we saw some white stuff coming down in the office (it was not fire – just some dust coming down from the ceiling) and someone shouted that we should leave NOW. So we did. I did not take anything. Just myself and those who were meeting with me, running down from 8th floor to the ground. Even when we were running down the stairs, it was still shaking. After a while, we went back to the office to get things as the decision was made very quickly to close the office for that day. Almost everything on my desk had either fallen over or was on the floor, and it was still shaking.

2.) Was anyone prepared?

Yes and no. As Japanese, we all are prepared for earthquakes but not for something of this size and the aftermath of it.

3.) How do you continue to manage your group at such a difficult time? Is it possible to work?

Try to communicate well. We email and also have set up an internal Twitter account that we tweet to, including who will go into the office and what they are doing as we are still mainly working from home. The situation is still very unsettling making it difficult to concentrate on work (power rationing, aftershocks and the nuclear power plant situation) but we try to process day-to-day things as usual.

4.) How would you describe the city right now (the business activity, the state of mind)?

Interesting question. I think Tokyo is normally one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Now the city is very quiet compared to normal. The weather has been clear and nice after Friday so it feels odd to be in this peaceful, quiet Tokyo under the sun after all that.

5.) I’ve heard radiation levels are higher than normal – is everyone staying inside?

We have lots of information going around including rumors. We live almost as normal – just listening to TV and radio all the time, watching the progress of the nuclear plant situation. I do not go out if that can be avoided.

6.) What do people outside of Japan need to know?

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7. oxford university press summer party



Okay, I've kept very quiet about this book with Oxford University Press, When Titus Took the Train, written by Anne Cottringer. But when I went to the Summer Party last night, they had it proudly displayed on the wall, so I guess the word's out. Now we need to sell lots of foreign co-editions, so if you live anywhere other than Britain and want to publish this book, do get in touch with OUP!!! (Spread the word!)

It's fab, here are a couple sneak peeks. I love the little Titus character, he's loosely based on my DFC comics friend Woodrow Phoenix, who told me he couldn't be separated from his cowboy hat when he was a teenager, even wearing it to Germany on a school exchange programme.

The book has a swish modern train, bandits, a fearsome dinosaur, lots of Titus's creative scribbling, what more could you want?

My studio mate Gary Northfield gave me some help with getting ideas for how to draw the dinosaur, so I call it 'Derek the Dinosaur' (after his Derek the Sheep).



The OUP offices are amazing, they look like one of the grand old colleges on the rest of the campus with their tall yellow stone columns. So I was really hoping they'd hold the Summer Party out on the grass in the gorgeous cloistered courtyard. But this is a British Summer, so it was not to be. But there was free-flowing Pimm's and lemonade, so it still felt somewhat seasonal.


Korky Paul, Anna Currey, me, Layn Marlow, Steve Cole

I had a good time, even if all the name-badge checking everyone was doing was slightly overwhelming. So I was so glad my dear friend and critique group member Layn Marlow was there, along with my book's author, Anne Cottringer, and my fab publisher David Fickling (he used to work at OUP).


One of my fave writers, Geraldine McCaughrean - I ADORE her novel, The White Darkness - and fab illustrator Ian Beck


With Layn Marlow and When Titus Took the Train writer Anne Cottringer


With two-time Carnegie Medal winner Berlie Doherty


The Astrosaurs guy Steve Cole was a good laugh. Here's him in his sobre black jacket (but with Vern pin!) and in the second photo, when the Pimm's kicked in and clothes started coming off all round the room. Whoo! He's going to be at the Bath Kids Lit Fest the same day as me, good times ahead. XD

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8. Why Go Into Journalism?: A Video

A few weeks ago I had the honor of attending BEA2010 (no not the BEA that happened last week) which was part of the 2010NAB conference. I was there to celebrate the launch of the BBC College of Journalism Website (COJO) a collaboration between OUP and the BBC. The site allows citizens outside of the UK access to the online learning and development materials created for BBC journalists. It is a vast resource filled to the brim with videos, audio clips, discussion pages, interactive modules and text pages covering every aspect of TV, radio, and online journalism. At the conference I had a chance to talk with Kevin Marsh, the Executive Editor of COJO, and I will be sharing clips from our conversation for the next few weeks. This week I have posted a clip in which Kevin shares why he choose journalism as a career. Read Kevin’s blog here. Watch the other videos in this series here and here.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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9. Guilt Societies and Shame Societies, or, Shame and Guilt from an Etymological Point of View, With Some Observations on Sham and Scam Thrown in for Good Measure (Part 1: Shame)

anatoly.jpg

Long ago, after this blog had barely come into being (Spring 2006), I wrote an essay titled “Living in Sin.” It was about the origin of the word sin. Such abstract categories as sin, shame, and guilt develop from thinking about situations in which people realize that they have done something wrong or covered themselves with disgrace, and every now and then the inner form of the words coined for such purposes is transparent. The idea of sin in its Christian sense was alien to the Germanic peoples before the conversion, and in Gothic, a language mainly known to us from a 4th-century translation of the New Testament, the word for “sin” is frawaurhts, literally “misdeed” (fra- is a prefix of “destructive semantics,” as in Engl. forgo “relinquish,” and -waurhts is akin to Engl. wrought). Nor does transgression, from Old French, ultimately from Latin, pose any problems: it means overstepping what is allowed. But sin is a short word, and how it came to mean what it does is unclear, the more so because the speakers of Old English had forwyrht, an exact cognate of the Gothic noun. Apparently, sin (at that time, syn or synn) and forwyrht referred to different things. Those who are interested in knowing some conjectures on sin are welcome to read my old post. Shame and guilt are no less opaque than sin; shame is especially hard.

Native English words with sh- once began with sk-, and, indeed, the Old English for shame is scamu. The last sound (u) was an ending, while m could be a suffix because sca-m-u had a close synonym sca-nd-u. Scandu and its cognates have continued into modern languages; Germans still say Scham und Schande to express their disgust. Modern English lacks its reflex (if we disregard the archaic participle shent “ruined, disgraced”), but, by way of compensation, in the United States scam appeared in the sixties of the 20th century, as if from nowhere. All dictionaries dismiss it demurely as being “of obscure origin.” If we are unable to trace such a recent coinage to its source, how good is the chance of success in dealing with an ancient word? The chance is probably not very good, but sometimes the remoter the period, the easier it is to advance hypotheses. For example, if scam had emerged in Middle English, there would have been no doubt that it was a borrowing from Scandinavian (Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish have skam “shame”), and the meanings could have been aligned without much difficulty (“scam is a shameful thing”). 17th-century scam would have been more problematic since the best period for absorbing Scandinavian words was the Middle Ages. Present day Engl. scam leaves us stranded: it is definitely not a continuation of a word from the language of the Vikings! Hence the unanimous verdict “of unknown/uncertain origin.” Even sham, originally “trick, fraud,” which is clearly English (it begins with sh-), baffles researchers. Although it sounds like shame, it may have nothing to do with it. Despite all such hurdles there is no harm in trying to guess how shame acquired its meaning.

Since shame refers to the diminution of honor, it has been compared with the Old English adjective scam “short” (what an etymon for our scam!), from whose Old Norse cognate skamt English has scant. However, a much more popular hypothesis looks for a different root. In the old Indo-European languages, the prefix s- existed. It was an evasive entity. Roots existed with and without it, and its presence did not affect the word’s meaning. The same almost parasitic s (called s-mobile “movable s”) has been recorded in modem English dialects: some people say climb, others say sclimb. The main sound change that separates all the Germanic languages from its other Indo-European neighbors is the so-called First Consonant Shift: compare Latin pater, tres, and quod (that is, kwod) versus Engl. father, three, and what (from hw-). The quod/hwat pair shows that Germanic h corresponds to non-Germanic k. But in the group sk the consonant k was not affected by the shift. For instance, Latin had scabere “scratch,” and its Gothic cognate was skaban “shear.” As a result, some words going back to different languages sound nearly alike: scabies is from Latin, scab is from Scandinavian (Germanic), and their English siblings are shabby and shave. This digression was necessary to show that if a Germanic word begins with sk-, it may have variants with initial k- (the same root minus s-mobile), while its non-Germanic cognates may begin with h- (k regularly shifted) and sk- (in which k avoided the shift). This is why prefixed words like Old Engl. -hama “covering” and Gothic -hamon “get dressed” have been suggested as cognates of scamu “shame.” The idea was that the Germanic word for shame expressed the embarrassment of being naked.

Such a development is probable. A person could not experience a greater indignity than being caught by his enemies and stripped of his clothes. The god Othin (Odin) says in a mythological poem from medieval Scandinavia: “When I saw two scarecrows in a field,/ I covered them with clothes;/ they looked like warriors when they were dressed/—who hails a naked hero?” In the Slavic languages, styd- “shame” is related to stud- “cold,” which seems to give support to the scamu—hama etymology. But if hama (to stay with Old English forms) is a cognate of scamu, could it not be expected to mean “clothes”? Yet we have a huge zigzag: from “clothes” to “unclothed” and to the disgrace caused by not having anything to wear, all of it within the narrow confines of a short root. The phonetic part (hama ~ scamu) is flawless, but the semantic leap is “scarcely credible,” as dictionaries say in such circumstances. Another possibility is to compare scam- and Gothic hamfs “maimed,” a word that has an impeccable Greek cognate, though mutilation need not presuppose shame.

The inevitable conclusion appears to be “origin uncertain/debatable,” but I cannot finish my story without one more reference. The Italian scholar Vittore Pisani pointed to the noun eskamitu in an inscription on an Inguvian table (we are dealing here with an ancient Indo-European language of Italy). It means “genitals,” and Pisani compared it with the Germanic word for “shame.” The obscure Italic word may provide a clue more reliable than any other. Shame and genitals form an indissoluble union from time immemorial (this has been, of course, what gave rise to the “dress” etymology: the horror lay in being fully exposed). We may never be able to find out why the sound complex skam- came to designate what it did, but, if eskamitu has been interpreted correctly, reconstructing the development from “private parts” to “shame” looks like our best choice.


Anatoly_libermanAnatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to blog.us@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”

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10. Shame and Guilt: Part 2 - Guilt

anatoly.jpg

Although the line between shame and guilt is sometimes blurred, the two differ clearly: guilt points to wrongdoing, whereas shame is the feeling of disgrace. In some communities it is shame that determines people’s behavior, in others it is guilt; hence the division of societies into two groups. In the previous post, I retraced the paths on which language historians hoped to find the root of the Germanic word for “shame,” and we saw how little they know about it (from being uncovered and exposed? from the “scanting” of honor? or was there a more direct way from private parts—so again exposure—to shame?). Guilt, one would think, will be more transparent, for guilt is a legal, rather than moral, category, but look up this word in almost any dictionary, and you will read: “Of unknown origin.” Even entries on shame, a word of rare obscurity, are more informative.

The first citations of guilt in the OED go back to the end of the 10th century, that is, to the Old English period. At that time, the word was spelled gylt and pronounced like German Gült. The OED states that no “equivalent forms” are known in any other Germanic language. This statement should be taken with a grain of salt, for German offers an exact equivalent, namely Gült (from Gült), though in extant texts it does not predate the 13th century. Gült(e) designated a specific tax levied on people in the Middle Ages. The German word provides less help that we need, but it has been around for a long time and its origin poses no problems: it is related to the verb gelten “pay.” Taxes exist to be paid. The English cognate of gelten is yield. However, a formidable obstacle prevents us from interpreting guilt as something to be yielded: the noun should have become guild (or yield); final t in guilt has no explanation.

Guild is a legitimate English word. It seems to have come to English from northern German (gilde) or Dutch. Some details remain obscure, but they won’t interest us here. Suffice it to say that a guild probably meant an association of persons contributing to a common object. Since guilt appeared in English long before guild, its pronunciation has nothing to do with an attempt to stay away from the newcomer (such cases are not too rare, for, although homonyms do not endanger communication, occasionally words choose to keep their distance from obtrusive neighbors): it always ended in -t. As regards the meaning of guilt, the OED appears to be a bit too harsh in its assessment. The earliest senses of Old Engl. gylt were “offence; crime; responsibility.” They are not incompatible with the idea of paying the price for a transgression. The OED says (I have expanded the abbreviations): “From the fact that Old Engl. gylt renders Latin debitum in the Lord’s Prayer and in Matt. XVIII. 27, and that is gyltig renders debet in Matt. XVII. 18, it has been inferred that the substantive [noun] had a primary sense ‘debt’, of which there seems to be no real evidence….” All this is true, but, if Engl. guilt had d at the end, the semantic difficulties would not have deterred anyone from comparing it with yield.

Sometimes, when sounds do not match, the idea of borrowing saves the day. Yet nothing supports the suggestion that Old Engl. gylt, a noun recorded several hundred years prior to its German “equivalent,” came to Britain from the continent, the more so because, as the OED points out, the ancient meanings of the two words do not overlap (it is “crime” in English and “tax” in German). One could fantasize that in the 9th or 10th century northern Germans had gylt “payment; tax” and that it was carried to the land of the Anglo-Saxons, where it changed its meaning to “crime,” with the only vestige of the original sense “payment; that which is due; debt” preserved in ritual texts (the Bible). Not only does the absence of this word in Old High German texts make such a hypothesis improbable. Phonetics also militates against it. The German language of that period lacked a vowel rendered in writing by Old Engl. y and by Modern German u with the umlaut sign.

To nonspecialists such an infinitesimal detail as t versus d may seem sheer pedantry, but the situation is familiar: “For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost,/ And all for the want of a horseshoe nail!” Etymology (a vulnerable kingdom) approached something that can be called science only when it began to pay attention to phonetic correspondences. Every time this criterion fails us, we should either explain the deviation or concede defeat. German t corresponds to Engl. d: compare German reiten and Engl. ride. There remains a feeling that guilt and yield are related despite the fact that we failed to break the magic circle around the English noun, but it will remain just this: a feeling with a bitter aftertaste. Incidentally, the first consonant is not a problem: g- instead of y- can be ascribed to the northern norm, as in the verbs get and give, which, if they had developed as expected, should have “yielded” yive and yet, but, when the entire structure collapses, who will rejoice at the sight of a relatively unimpaired roof?

We can only seek comfort in the fact that the cause of the odd spelling (gui-) is known. In today’s English the reading of g before i and e is always a problem. One should tread gingerly with all kinds of gills, and never assume that one knows how Mr. Gilson pronounces his name. Gill of Jack and Jill’s fame had to change the spelling of her name to avoid misunderstanding. The spellings gui- and gue- were introduced on the French model to clarify matters. Now gest- in digest, gestation, and gesticulation won’t be confused with guest. Right? Well, not quite. English spelling has never been reformed consistently. As a result, we struggle with get and jet, gig and jig, give and gyve (y is a redundant letter having the same value as i), and even guilt coexists with gilt; the last two words are homophones but not homographs. Thus we will live on with a sense of shame that an army of learned linguists has not solved the etymological mystery of guilt. But this is not their fault: something is really wrong with this word.


Anatoly_libermanAnatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to blog.us@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”

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11. An Intern’s Fond Farewell

Today is our amazing intern’s last day. Below are her thoughts on the experience. If you are interested in interning in the publicity department at OUP shoot me an email at blog.us@oup.com. Ashley, you have no idea how much you will be missed!

By Ashley Bray

My time at Oxford University Press has come to an end, and just when I was getting started! I may have only been at Oxford for a few short months, but I am walking away with a lot more knowledge than I walked in with.

To be honest, I happened upon this internship accidentally. I wasn’t planning on interning this semester, but a friend of mine recommended that I apply so I decided to give it a shot. My goal has always been to land an internship in book publishing, and since all of my past forays have been into magazines and newsletters, I couldn’t let this opportunity slide by. Obviously, things worked out in my favor!

My official title has been “Blog Intern,” but that is misleading because I’ve gotten the chance to do a little bit of everything while I’ve been here. What I’ve liked most about this internship is that I’ve done something different each day. There is always a new blog post to write or promote, a galley letter to write, or a press release to put together. I even learned about the editorial side of book publishing at a lunch I scheduled with an editor.

What was my favorite thing to do while at this internship? Why, update Publicity Assistant, of course (PA for short, we’re on pretty close terms, you all know how it is)! For those of you who can’t sense the sarcasm coming off that sentence in waves, let me clue you in— I’m joking. All jokes side, however, I am grateful for what I learned to do with Publicity Assistant; it’s an important program to know how to use and one more thing I can take away from this internship. Becca may think I’m lying considering she lived in daily fear that I would quit each time she gave me something to enter into PA, but really, I didn’t mind it.

So what was really my favorite thing about this internship? Getting the chance to work with a variety of books (and there’s not the least bit of sarcasm in that sentence!). I had the chance to read and write about books all day— it was almost too good to be true! From In Search of Jefferson’s Moose to From Colony to Superpower to The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes (a personal favorite), I’ve gotten the chance to work with books in almost every category. For an avid reader and writer, there’s really nothing better.

One of the most valuable things I took away from this internship is a much clearer idea about the blogosphere. Bloggers were quite foreign to me when I first started, and I was a bit overwhelmed at first by this new world of posts, Technorati, and Blogrolls. This is embarrassing for a college student— someone who should be on the forefront of this kind of stuff— to admit. I am forever grateful to Becca for teaching me everything I needed to know about the world of blogs; it’s knowledge that I know I’ll be able to apply no matter where I go.

I’m sad to leave, but I’m thankful that I decided to intern at Oxford. I’ve learned so much, met a lot of great people, and had fun along the way. Thank you, Becca, for making this experience so worthwhile! And thank you to everyone at Oxford who helped me to feel welcome and get involved while I was here.

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12. Favorite Books 2008

Well my UK-counterpart Kirsty beat me to the punch this year but once again I’d like to share some of OUP’s favorite books of 2008.  Below are what my co-workers and I were reading this year.  Perhaps they will inspire you to read more next year!  Below I kick things off my with my favorite book.

Rebecca Ford, OUPblog Editor: I read a lot of books this year but I think the one that will stick with me is Crush by Richard SikenI haven’t bought a poetry book since college and Siken’s poems made me remember why I love poetry.  Each poem in Siken’s collection is overflowing with emotion and panic and his words make you feel his pain physically.  Don’t know what I mean?  Read here and here.  From “Wishbone”, “There’s smashed glass glittering everywhere like stars. It’s a Western, Henry,/ it’s a downright shoot-em-up. We’ve made a graveyard out of the bone white afternoon.”

Megan E. Kennedy, Marketing Manager, Academic and Trade Books
My libro favorito this year was Junot Díaz’s Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Told in fast-paced Spanglish and full of interesting (and oftentimes hilarious) footnotes, this book chronicles the life of a second-generation Dominican dork trying to overcome the limitations of his weight, ancestry, family, and an ancient curse called “fuku.” Díaz uses a lively cast of characters—including Oscar’s hermana bonita, his disapproving mother, and the dictator Trujillo—to tell the larger story of the history of the Dominican Republic. The high energy prose is captivating, and effectively conveys both the inner struggles of Oscar’s daily life in New Jersey as well as the struggles of a country oppressed by a maniacal dictator. Léanlo! (Read it!)

Cassie Ammerman, Publicity Assistant: Because I spend so much of my time commuting, I’ve started to listen to more and more audio books in the last year. I have a subscription to Audible.com (best gift ever, thanks Dad!) so I get two free downloads a month. It’s definitely hit or miss with the narrator adding another whole dimension to a book, but I’ve found a couple that really stand out as amazing listens.

I know The Graveyard Book has been hailed by critics worldwide as a fantastic young adult novel, but believe me; it’s not just for kids! Neil Gaimon narrates his own work in the audiobook, and his voice is wonderful and warm. Nobody Owens is a character you love, even when he makes mistakes and defies his ghostly guardians. Highly, highly recommended.

My second recommendation is Born on a Blue Day, by Daniel Tammet, narrated by Simon Vance. Another narrator with a British accent (both British authors too, come to think of it. Hmm. Maybe I should pay my colleagues in the UK a visit soon…) who does a wonderful job. This is the memoir of a man with Asperger’s syndrome and savant syndrome. On top of that, he’s gay. But if you think these difficulties kept him down, you’re wrong. He makes the most of his life and has adventures I would never even dream of. This is a great listen, designed to make you think about the people around you and see past the surface of people with disabilities.

Abby Gross, Associate Editor, Brain and Behavioral Sciences: I courted Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler at my neighborhood bookstore for months before going ahead with the purchase. It was worth it. The main narrative is written in the second person — meaning the reader is also the narrator — and it follows on the odd-numbered chapters. Interspersed are first chapters of 10 different books in different styles, set in different parts of the world, with titles that are more like phrases: “Outside the town of Malbork,” “In a network of lines that intersect,” “Without fear of wind or vertigo,” and of course, “If on a winter’s night a traveler.” The main narrative revolves around what begins as a literary detective story: the narrator purchases a book, reads the beginning, finds that where the second half of the book should be, there is the first half of another book, and is compelled to find the rest of the book. The narrator might have given up there but he has met a bookish woman whom he would like to impress by finding the missing ending. In his quest he manages to find not the ending but the beginnings of several other books, the existentialist crises of writers and readers, false authors, false translations, a rogue translator, experts of politically defunct languages, and book-banning dictatorships. Oh, and Mr. Cavedagna, “shrunken and bent,” the poor editor at the publishing house that mangled the books up from the beginning, whose corridors are described as “full of snares: drama cooperatives from psychiatric hospitals roam[ing] through them, groups devoted to group analysis, feminist commandos.” This is not a good subway read, note. But very funny and entertaining and either more profound than I can possibly understand or else not profound at all. A pen has bled itself all over my already rain-crimped copy, so I’ll probably get another one (if not more Calvino books) in 2009.

Dayne Poshusta, Editorial Assistant, History: My favorite book this year is Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin. I’m a huge fan of Gabriél Garcia Marquez; this sprawling ode to the timelessness of love and winter in New York City ranks among the best magical-realist fiction. Helprin’s elegant and lyrical writing simply transports the imagination. This was the perfect thing to read in November because it provided a lovely anti-dote to all the doom-and-gloom news about the economy, the war, and the environment.

Eve Donegan, Sales and Marketing Assistant: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz is an easy year’s best for me. Due to a lack of focus on my part, I prefer short stories. Diaz’s use of footnotes and the perspectives of multiple characters really got me involved with the text. I finished the book completely satisfied and without a hint of boredom. While the plot was humorous, it also incorporated a very honest look into the sorrows of Dominican history. Diaz offered just the right amount of history within the quirky, funny, and sometimes sad, storyline. This book is for anyone with an interest in the Dominican culture, underdog stories, tales of love, or generational narratives.

Justin Hargett, Associate Publicist: I’d be hard pressed to find a link between any of the books I read this year, other than at some point they were on my shelf or staring me down in a book store. So, as I’ve tried to determine which of this motley crew I’d call my favorite, I keep coming back to four particular books that I would absolutely recommend to anyone, anytime. (I swear this is not a cop-out, I have a favorite, but insist the other three must be noted.)

The runners up:

Barack Obama - Dreams from My Father (The insightful, inspiring memoir of our president-elect. A must read for the civic minded of both sides.)
Paul Hemphill - Lovesick Blues (The life and death of Hank Williams. A timeless experience of life in show business: poverty, stardom, and abuse.)
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up (Who briefly extended my hope of making it in show business as a juggler with no punchlines. Also, it serves as an interesting, and a completely contrary, companion to the previous.)

But, the winner is:

Haruki Murakami - Norwegian Wood
This tragic romance, the story of a doomed love-triangle soaked in the nostalgia of 1960s Tokyo, is a simple, beautiful novel. Despite a generation’s gap and nearly 8000 miles of ocean and land between, Murakami’s characters (for at least the time I spent with them) were as real to me as the friends I’ve known for years…and perhaps even more real to me than the three very true stories of the runners up.

Cassandra Palmer, Copywriter, Higher Education Group

Earlier this month, I picked up The Gospel According to Jesus Christ by Jose Saramago, and found it impossible to put back down. A fictionalized account of the life of Jesus Christ written by a great literary master, this book recreates Jesus Christ as a man who has conflicted feelings about almost everything, but most of all about God. Marked by wry, irreverent narration, it successfully combines philosophical analysis and literary fiction. I would recommend it to anyone dissatisfied with the—religious or commercial, as it addresses both—elements of the holiday season.

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13. Friday Procrastination: Link Love

Ah Friday!  I’m not sure how this week is over already but I have to admit that I am happy it is.  With the sun starting to appear and Spring making itself known, good things simply must be on the way.  So cheers to a good weekend and a great April.  Enjoy the links below.

Clip art in motion.

Comfort through comforting others.

1001 rules for my unborn son.

Waltz With Bashir in print form!

Watch Earth Day in Las Vegas.

Tis the season: Inside a Peep Factory.

I love Maira Kalman.

Overvalued board games.

Defaulting on a surrogate pregnancy.

Ferlinghetti and Seeger.

The NYTimes 10 rules for blogging.

Twitter growth in comparison to Facebook and Google.

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14. Oxford’s Word Window: Week Six

We are in week six of our Word Window series in which we display an Oxford Word of the Week, culled from The Oxford English Dictionary in the windows in front of our NYC office on Madison between 34th and 35th street.

Last week’s word was: Entheogen n.: A psychoactive substance which is used in a religious ritual or to bring about a spiritual experience, typically a plant or fungal extract; (more widely) any hallucinogenic drug.

In case you aren’t in NYC or didn’t get a chance to walk by the office here is what it looked like:

This week’s word is: Nugatory.

Stop by the window to see its definition or check back on the blog next week!

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15. Library Love 2009: An Archivist Reveals the Charm of Libraries

Justyna Zajac, Publicity

In honor of National Library Week 2009, OUP will be posting everyday to demonstrate our immense love of libraries. Libraries don’t just house thousands of fascinating books, they are also stunning works of architecture, havens of creativity for communities and venues for free and engaging programs. So please, make sure to check back in all this week and spread the library love.

Martin Maw is an Archivist at Oxford University Press, UK.  Keep reading to learn about how he was charmed by libraries at an early age.

Though I never analysed it at the time, the power and charm of libraries took me over at a young age. I grew up in a fairly isolated town, long before anyone had even dreamt of the Internet, and the local library was the only way I had to explore my culture. Consequently, teenage Saturday mornings were often spent ferreting round that glass and concrete cube near the town hall, trying to find an alternative to school texts or to the unfathomably dull novels I knew at home.

It didn’t take long. Like many adolescents, I immersed myself in science fiction – though I read probably more of Ray Bradbury than any other writer. These days, I find Bradbury far too overblown and theatrical, but those are exactly the qualities that appeal to an impressionable 13 year-old: he seemed to be writing in wild colour when everything else I read was a tentative black and white. Bradbury was also the first writer I found who expressed the mystery of libraries themselves. His novel Something Wicked This Way Comes hinges on a small-town library and its caretaker, and exactly evokes suspended, after-hours atmosphere of deserted book stacks – places where anything may be revealed at the flick of a page. Equally, in writing Fahrenheit 451 Bradbury showed that books and stories can be dangerous things in themselves – you might have to memorise a text that was too risky to physically possess, and in some sense be taken over by that book. It wasn’t until much later I understood that Bradbury might be saying something else: that some people can get possessed by texts, that they can become walking repositories of other people’s words and thoughts, and that this can be a deprivation, even a threat to their very sense of self. It’s a theme handled with much greater subtlety – and menace – by Shirley Jackson in her story “The Tooth,” and in M. John Harrison’s work, especially The Course of the Heart: a mournful, visionary fantasy about the futility of fantasy itself, and (for my money) one of the best novels published in the past thirty ears. Needless to say, Bradbury’s implied caution is one you need to observe every day when working as a publisher – or as their archivist.

The enchantment of libraries persisted. I went to university in the Midlands, and discovered an open-shelf treasure house that offered everything from V.S. Pritchett’s short stories to obscure works by the Beats, Lorca, and Burton’s rare translation of the Arabian Nights. None of this was on my syllabus – I endured two months of pointless misery, trying to read law, before switching to a history degree – but that didn’t matter. I was after an education; I got one. Or rather, I started on one. The more you read, the more you realise how little you’ve read.

That came home to me when I started working at the Bodleian Library. Not to experience its spell is, I think, impossible: you seem to inhabit a vast, hushed pavilion of ivory stone, which floats at one remove from the crowded lanes around it in Oxford city centre. But for a reader, its stacks are mania made visible. The gorgeous architecture is just a penthouse. Under it lie five floors of subterranean shelves, some 90 miles in total, holding not only every book you’ve ever read, but also all the ones you’ve never read and never will. You see where Jorge Luis Borges, a librarian himself, got his inspiration. Standing in the midst of the Bodleian’s shelving, it’s easy to imagine that the stacks stretch to infinity, as in Borges’s story “The Library of Babel,” and that their volumes capture every conceivable combination of letters – including this article. It’s said that the ancient library at Alexandria had a motto carved on its wall: “The Place of the Cure of the Soul.” Underground in Bodley, you might well think the opposite. This would be an easy place to go mad.

All of which helps to explain the lasting mystery of libraries, even with the “gimmethat” reach of the Internet. Good libraries are zones outside the mundane. They show you what you never imagined. They can put you in touch with the dead voices, take you to imaginary or vanished places: as in séance, you’re suddenly on those extraordinary blue lawns Fitzgerald glimpsed after dark at ‘20s society parties, or at Einstein’s elbow as he writes, very carefully, for the first time, “E=mc²”. Libraries are time travel on the cheap. But more than that, those ordered books on quiet shelves order ourselves in their turn, and help us keep our small intelligence in perspective: for, as an 18th century rabbi once noted, no matter how many books we absorb in our life, we have not yet truly read the first page.

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16. Say hello to OUP’s newest additions!

Today I am thrilled to introduce you all to the newest residents here at OUP in Oxford. They have made themselves at home in one of our many quads. Behold, the OUP ducklings!

Here they are:

I think they might be the most adorable things I have ever seen in my life. As you can see, we’re taking good care of them - they have their own paddling pool! They decided to make their home in one of the quads without a pond, so we gave them one. They’ve also been given some foam to sit on, so that they stay warm.

But here’s the most important question: what shall we name them? Anyone got any clever ideas?

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17. Congratulations to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson

Purdy, Publicity Director

Bob Geldof said it best back in 1979 with the hit “I Don’t Like Mondays.” My staff know better than to approach me too early on Mondays. My crankiness can sometimes last well into the afternoon. Yesterday, however, was an exception to the rule. I love it each year when the Nobel Prizes are announced. And yesterday two Oxford authors were recognized by the Nobel committee for their work in Economics. Congratulations go out to Elinor Ostrom, co-author of The Samaritan’s Dilemma: The Political Economy of Development Aid (OUP, 2005) and Oliver Williamson, author of The Mechanisms of Governance (OUP, 1999), Organization Theory: From Chester Barnard to the Present and Beyond, 2nd Edition (OUP, 1995), and The Nature of the Firm: Origins, Evolution, and Development (OUP, 1993).

While I have not had the great good pleasure to work with Ostrum and Williamson, there is still a sense of pride in working for the publisher that recognized their genius and contributions to Economics long ago. We might not see too many celebrity authors (thankfully), or New York Times bestsellers (unfortunately) here at OUP, but we do have a long list of authors who are Nobel laureates, Pulitzer recipients, and National Book Award winners (fortunately). And to the sage Nobel Economics committee in Oslo I say, “Thanks for making my Monday a little sweeter. Keep up the good work. I look forward to next year’s recipients.”

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18. National Book Award Contest: Win Prizes!

Purdy, Publicity Director

The National Book Award nominees were announced earlier this week. Kudos to all nominees, especially to our friends & compatriots at the nominated University Presses. I am glad to see the great good wisdom of the nominating committee at the NBAs. Congratulations aside, it is tradition here in the OUP publicity dept to host a little friendly contest to see who can pick the most NBA winners. This year I am inviting our blog readers to join the fray and send me your picks.  Details below.

Please note there is a point system in this contest. Correct picks in Fiction and Non-fiction will each receive 1 point each, 2 points for a correct pick in YA literature, and 3 points for a correct pick in the Poetry category. Please, only one submission per person. Send your entry to publicity.us@oup.com.

In the event of a tie, all entrants with the highest score will be placed in a raffle for prizes. Prizes include a copy of Garner’s Modern American Usage (3rd edition), the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, and the Historical Thesaurus of the OED. One prize per player. I reserve the right to disqualify anyone I feel is trying to game this friendly competition. Awards are announced on November 18th. Winners here will be announced on November 20, 2009. Good luck.

FICTION (1 point)image001
Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (Random House)
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (Norton)
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf)
Marcel Theroux, Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

NONFICTION (1 point)
David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer’s Notebook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origins of Species (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt)
Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome’s Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press)
T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Alfred A. Knopf)

YOUNG PEOPLE’S LITERATURE (2 points)
Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)

POETRY (3 points)
Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again (Viking Penguin)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)

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19. happy picture book updates!



Hooray, I just turned in my picture book artwork! Yesterday I went up to Oxford and had two great meetings, one with David Fickling and my editor Hannah Featherstone, and the other at Oxford University Press with the editor and designer who have been working with me on this particular picture book: Helen Mortimer and Molly Dallas.

First, the exciting news from David Fickling: Morris the Mankiest Monster has almost completely sold out of its first print run!
I think Random House are rather astonished, since the trade in hardback books is kind of slow right now, but they're racing around making sure there will be more books printed up so people can buy it for Christmas gifts - Go go go! :-D Thanks to everyone who's bought copies and is making it a success, yay!!!
Edit: I've sold out of all my copies and I know the warehouse is empty, but I see you can still get some on Amazon.co.uk.

I'm moving on to three more projects with David Fickling, starting with something involving both books and comics and co-created with my fab friend and fellow comics jammer, David O'Connell. More about that soon! The other two projects involve Vern and Lettuce, which is really exciting because I've really missed that sheep and rabbit.


Molly and Helen at Oxford University Press

Moving on to OUP: So I can't say too much about the picture book, it won't come out til next autumn, and I still have to make the covers and do some hand lettering and spot illos, but it's going to be a rollicking great adventure story! Helen said I could give people a peek at one of the pages. I love this page because it's such a great example of collaborative work; I initially was having a hard time getting the look of this book just right, and in particular, really fighting with a drawing of a dinosaur. So I turned around to my studio mate Gary and said, 'Hey, can you draw me a dinosaur?' Without missing a beat, he scribbled something onto a post-it note in about five seconds, and whadya know... he nailed it! So I've been calling it 'Derek the Dinosaur', because it totally looks like Gary's sheep:

click to buy Derek!

That was a bit of a turning point in the book, things flowed much better after painting that page. Woodrow and Viv have also given me some great pointers and book loans and I'm so grateful because, at the end, it's not about how much I've done, but how good the book is. And it's way better for having really talented people around during its creation process. Thanks, Woodrow, Gary, Viv, Helen and Molly!

Edit: Don't miss today's radio interview with Viviane and me! 5pm on Resonance 104.4 FM, streamed at www.resonancefm.com and podcast soon after at Panel Borders:

Alex Fitch sums it up: Strip! - Banal Pigs and Constabulary Sheep
Concluding this month's series of shows on 'collectives and anthologies', we're looking at two very different animal themed collectives. In an interview recorded at this year's Small Press Expo in Bristol, Dickon Harris talks to Steve Tillotson and Gareth Brookes about their self published comics, including
The Manly Boys Annual, Can I borrow your toilet and The Banal Pig Landscape anthology; while in an interview recorded in the Old Police Station, Deptford, Alex Fitch talks to Sarah McIntyre and Viviane Schwartz, who illustrate books for children and share a studio with Beano artist Gary Northfield that they affectionately call The Fleece Station...

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20. Friday Cat Blogging: Jennifer Weber

Jennifer Weber, author of Copperheads: The Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North, and Professor in the Department of History, University of Kansas, sent us this picture. This kitten has brightened my week and I hope he brightens your Friday!

Kit’s Lit

Lots of people enjoy Oxford’s books, but OUP’s fans aren’t limited to humans. Ike here has a deep interest in the Civil War, and OUP’s list slakes his thirst for knowledge.

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21. A Photo Journal of South Africa: Place of the Year 2009

Our OUP-UK friends Helen Eaton, Assistant Commissioning Editor, Academic Science and Dewi Jackson, Publishing Editor, Higher Education, recently went on a trip to South Africa.  In honor of our 2009 Place of the Year selection they have shared their experience with us and some stunning photos.  Be sure to check out other “Place of the Year” contributions here

We recently spent 20 days in South Africa split between Cape Town, the Garden Route, and Kruger National Park.
resized_1. Cape Town - Dewi Jackson

Cape Town is a beautiful and unique city filled with plenty of things to do and see whatever your taste. It is watched over by Table Mountain – an imposing 1000m rocky mountain that fills every vista. The views of the city and surrounding sea from the top are incredible – you can either hike up it or take the easy cable car option (as we did). Day trips to Cape Point (the site of many shipwrecks) and inland to the famous Cape Winelands are highly recommended. We certainly enjoyed eating and drinking in the ‘Mother City’!
resized_2. Cape Winelands - Dewi Jackson

The Garden Route is a verdant strip of coast stretching east from Cape Town. Its towns are small and friendly and its beaches pristine. South Africa is famous for having some of the best whale watching in the world and it didn’t disappoint. The whales swim so close to land that you can easily watch them from the shore, but we took the boat option and got within feet of 18m long Southern Right Whales. Just inland from here we visited Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo, the home of ostrich farming, where we saw, rode, and ate the largest bird in the world.
resized_3. Ostriches - Helen Eaton

You can drive yourself around National Parks and Game Reserves in South Africa – in a VW Polo in our case – making for a more personal experience. Be aware, however, that this means if you get into trouble there may be no one around to help you, as we found when trapped between a lone elephant bull walking down the road towards us and a large herd crossing behind. We’ve never wanted a Humvee more.
resized_4. Garden Route scenery - Helen Eaton

In the Kruger National Park we were lucky enough to see the Big Five (Africa’s ‘trophy’ animals) – Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Rhino. But there’s much more to the Kruger experience – its smaller creatures and bird life, the views, the unique sounds of the African bush at night, and cooking an enormous steak on your braai make it truly memorable.
resized_5. Buffalo in the Kruger Park - Dewi Jackson

South Africa is a worthy winner of ‘Place of the Year’. Nowhere else in the world can you experience beautiful landscapes and incredible wildlife at the same time as eating in exquisite restaurants and relaxing on empty beaches. We had a wonderful holiday there and I’m sure that anyone who visits after reading this will do too!
resized_6. Lions in the Kruger Park - Helen Eaton


Photo Index

1. Table Mountain viewed from Cape Town harbour. Photo by Dewi Jackson
2. Growing wine outside Cape Town. Photo by Dewi Jackson
3. Ostriches in the Little Karoo. Photo by Helen Eaton
4. Spectacular scenery on the Garden Route. Photo by Helen Eaton
5. Buffalo in the Kruger Park. Photo by Dewi Jackson
6. Lions in the Kruger Park. Photo by Helen Eaton

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22. The Best Valentine’s Day Gift

Purdy, Director of Publicity

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Back in August 2009 Oxford University Press, Inc. was approached by producers at ABC’s Extreme Makeover, “We will be building soon in the DC area for a family that runs a nonprofit afterschool program for children. We will be building a new learning center for the program, and were wondering if Oxford might be interested in providing some books for the children.” This is not the first time we’ve been approached by Extreme Makeover, but it was heartening to see that any titles would benefit a community of children, rather than a single family. I quickly alerted my colleagues and we managed to pull together a number of reference books, children’s classics, and bi-lingual dictionaries from our ELT team we thought the kids might appreciate and find useful. We sent them off to a warehouse to await the inevitable demolition and reconstruction of the house/school. After many months I received word that construction is complete and the episode will air on ABC, Sunday, February 14, 2010. A happier valentine’s day gift we could not have hoped for here at OUP USA, and hope the kids of the Fisher School enjoy and benefit from our modest donation.

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23. Truth in Journalism: A Video

A few weeks ago I had the honor of attending BEA2010 (no not the BEA happening this week) which was part of the 2010NAB conference.  I was there to celebrate the launch of the BBC College of Journalism Website (COJO) a collaboration between OUP and the BBC.  The site allows citizens outside of the UK access to the online learning and development materials created for BBC journalists.  It is a vast resource filled to the brim with videos, audio clips, discussion pages, interactive modules and text pages covering every aspect of TV, radio, and online journalism.  At the conference I had a chance to talk with Kevin Marsh, the Executive Editor of COJO, and I will be sharing clips from our conversation for the next few weeks.  To start us off I have posted a clip which emphasizes the value of truth in journalism.  Read Kevin’s blog here.

Click here to view the embedded video.

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24. Friday Procrastination: Link Love

Is it me or does the week before a long weekend always go particularly slowly?  Wednesday feels like a month ago.  Luckily, despite my whining, Friday has arrived and so has Memorial Day Weekend.  I hope you have lovely weather, delicious barbecues, and some time to relax with a good book.  Below are some links to get you through the day.  See you all on Tuesday!

Tina Fey wins the Mark Twain Prize for Humor!

Speaking of Mark Twain, here comes his autobiography.

Are we really friends with our friends?

Sequencing the bugs in our bodies.

A simple swab can save a life.

Do paywalls kill traffic?

The unicorn at Microsoft was real.

The Kagan kids.

Bookshelves to make you drool.

EMT’s in Massachusetts and New Hampshire faked their papers.

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25. Bare or Bear, or, the Story of Berserk

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Everybody must have heard the phrase to go berserk, but not everybody is aware of the fact how little is known about berserks and how obscure the word berserk is. Berserks were mentioned for the first time in a poem commemorating King Harald Fairhair’s victory in a battle that occurred around the year 872. The language of the poem is, consequently, Old Norwegian. For that period, Old Norwegian means the same as Old Icelandic. All we learn from the relevant lines is that “the berserks roared, the battle was in full swing, the wolfskins howled and shook the irons.” It is hard to decide whether wolfskins is a synonym of berserks or whether there were two groups of warriors (one roared, the other howled?) and on whose side the berserks made noises. Be that as it may, the information on the original berserks is admittedly scanty. Perhaps the poet (Old Scandinavian court poets were called skalds) coined the word berserk himself, but it may have existed in the language before him. Contrary to expectation, it occurs most rarely in later poetry, and, when it does, it means “warrior,” without any specification, and only with reference to the heroes of old. Once we hear that the great god Thor fought berserks’ brides. Since Thor’s main opponents were giants, berserks’ brides probably meant “giantesses.” Female monsters were feared more than superhuman males (thus Beowulf overpowered Grendel, a mighty “troll,” but nearly perished by the hand of Grendel’s vengeful mother), so that Thor cannot be accused of attacking defenseless girls.

The greatest Old Icelandic historian was Snorri Sturluson. He lived in the 13th century, and we owe several priceless books to him. One of them treats the history of the kings of Norway. As was common in those days, Snorri began his work with a mythological introduction, for royalty needs divine origins, and in a short chapter he said that Odin (the Old Norse form is Othin, rather than Odin), the main god of the Scandinavian pantheon, had a retinue of fearful warriors who “fought without armor and acted like mad dogs or wolves. They bit their shields and were strong as bears or bulls. They killed people, and neither fire nor iron did them any harm.” This he adds, “is called berserk rage.” In English we say going berserk (like going amuck), but we too know what rage is, though more often on the road than in battle.

Snorri’s description comes as a great surprise. In addition to his magnificent history of the kings of Norway, he wrote a book called the Edda, a collection of ancient Scandinavian myths. Odin figures prominently in it, but his wild retinue is not mentioned a single time. He is usually depicted as traveling alone or accompanied by two other gods at most. Nor was the word berserk of any importance to Snorri. The source of this passage is a mystery, and no one can tell why berserks failed to appear in the Edda. In the absence of facts theories purporting to explain the role of Odin’s berserks are many. I also have a theory, but it runs counter to those proposed by many eminent scholars, for which reason it found little support. Yet, like a true berserk, I roar and howl and stick to my guns (or should it be spears, slings, and arrows for the sake of preserving the local coloring?).

Berserks reemerged in Icelandic sagas (prose narratives), recorded mainly in the 13th century, when Snorri was active. But there they are gangs of vagrant marauders, intimidating farmers, raping women, and killing everybody who dares oppose them. It is in the sagas that they bite shields, fall to the ground, with their mouths foaming and frenzy making them allegedly invulnerable to fire and iron (they cannot be killed with a sword, but a cudgel does fine), and practice other stage effects. I suspect that, while writing an introduction to The History of the Kings of Norway, Snorri borrowed the portraits of berserks from the literary clichés flourishing in his lifetime. Real, not epic, berserks certainly existed, though they were exterminated in both Norway and Iceland before Snorri’s birth. Nobler berserks, the choicest warriors of kings, are mentioned in the so-called legendary sagas, and it seems that a vague memory of such bodyguards went back to at least the 8th century. Later bandits may have called themselves berserks, to aggrandize themselves, or perhaps the population called them this. It matters little who gave them such a name, for they did not resemble their predecessors of King Harald’s epoch. If Snorri had heard or read myths about Odin’s berserks, he would have retold them in the Edda. Apparently, he did not. So I assume that he knew none and, in his history, modernized the god’s image under the influence of literary tradition.

The problem is complicated by our ignorance of the etymology of the word berserk. We remember that Snorri mentioned berserks’ custom of fighting without armor and roaring like bears. The second part of the noun berserk (-serk) means “shirt,” but the first is ambiguous: it may mean “bear” (which accords well with roaring) or “bare” (in reference to throwing off armor in battle; however, being without armor is not the same as being naked), for in Old Norse the words for bare and for some forms of bear are as close as they are in Modern English. (Has anyone seen a pin I saw in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the mid-seventies: “Bare with me”? It was worn by a grinning female. No one seemed to be paying attention.)

Bears play an outstanding role in the history of Germanic cults. On the other hand, medieval sources, both Scandinavian and Irish, describe scenes of heroes fleeing in a panic when women expose themselves to them. No superstitions are connected with male nudity. Thus, either interpretation (“bareshirt” and “bearshirt”) makes some sense. Until the middle of the 19th century Icelanders had no doubt that “bareshirt” is correct. Then an influential Icelandic scholar opted for “bearshirt,” but seventy years later the original theory again found an excellent supporter. I think he was right. Recapitulating his arguments here would take me too far afield. The main of them is that berr “bear” did not exist in this form in Old Norse, and other compounds with ber- “bear” as the first element have not been recorded either (a single exception is dubious). It is also unclear whether serk- was current as a technical term for “skin” or “shirt” as early as the 8th century.

Those who will delve into the berserk problem will find numerous things, intriguing but largely irrelevant. Did berserks form unions? If so, did those unions have a religious character? Did berserks consume poisonous mushrooms and, intoxicated like hashish eaters, attack their enemies? Were berserks akin to wervolves? Both agony and ecstasy fill the pages of the works devoted to those semimythological creatures. Little is known, a lot has been surmised. Some medieval Scandinavian warriors were certainly called berserks. They started as kings’ bodyguards. Theirs was a dignified name. With the dissolution of early feudal retinues like King Harald’s, those groups degenerated into plundering riffraff, their members turned into brigands, and the word acquired negative connotations. (The same happened to the word Viking.) Odin was hardly surrounded by berserks, Snorri’s evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. It is more likely that berserk first meant “bareshirt” (that is, someone who fights with nothing but a shirt on) even if berserks roared like bears in battle. Anyone who would try to go to battle with a bearskin on will find himself easily overheated and incapacitated. A few of my pivotal statements can be and have been contested, and herein lies the beauty of scholarship. Some people, as Snorri put it, make mistakes and others correct them, so that everybody has something to do.


Anatoly_libermanAnatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins…And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears here, each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to blog.us@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.”

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