Category : Language

(History Today) Eleanor Parker–Chaucer's Post-Truth World

‘Post-truth’ is a word of our times, at least according to Oxford Dictionaries, who declared it their word of 2016. Their definition said that ”˜post-truth’ refers to ”˜circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’.

The appearance of a new word tends to encourage the idea that the phenomenon itself is new: that it did not exist before there was a neologism to describe it. That is not the case here, even if ”˜post-truth’ is the current buzz-word; as historians know well, there has never been a time when public opinion was not shaped more powerfully by emotion and personal belief than by facts. What is different now, perhaps, is how rapidly false stories and fake news can circulate: social media allows the public as well as giant news organisations to be involved in spreading untrue or distorted tales. That is a formidable challenge for those who care about truth.

But even concern about the ease with which false stories can spread is far from new. At the end of the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote incisively on this subject in his poem The House of Fame. This poem describes a dream-vision in which Chaucer (carried by a comically talkative eagle) is borne up into the sky, taken to a castle standing midway between Heaven and Earth. This is the House of Fame, to which all words uttered in the world, spoken or written, find their way.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Anthropology, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Philosophy, Theology

(NPR) Facing Blasphemy Charges, Indonesian Politician 'Happy That History Chose Me'

Last September, [Jakarta Gov. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama known by his chinese nickname as] Ahok told a group of fishermen that politicians who quoted from the Quran to say they should not vote for a non-Muslim were lying to them. But he also told the fishermen to vote their conscience.

Ahok, who has a reputation as a blunt speaker, later apologized, saying he had no intention of insulting the Quran or Islam.

But some Muslims took offense, and hundreds of thousands took to the streets in three massive rallies against Ahok that convulsed central Jakarta in November and December. Demonstrators continue to congregate at the courthouse where Ahok is on trial. Coils of barbed wire and riot police separate pro- and anti-Ahok protesters.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, * Religion News & Commentary, Asia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Indonesia, Inter-Faith Relations, Islam, Language, Muslim-Christian relations, Other Faiths, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Theology

Don't call pregnant women 'expectant mothers' as it might offend transgender people, BMA says

The British Medical Association has said pregnant women should not be called “expectant mothers” as it could offend transgender people.

Instead, they should call them “pregnant people” so as not to upset intersex and transgender men, the union has said.

The advice comes in an internal document to staff outlining a raft of common phrases that should be avoided for fear of causing offence.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anthropology, Children, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Language, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Theology, Women

Disappearing Idioms–Whistling Past the Graveyard

There seems to be two meanings for this idiom, both dependent on the same metaphoric setting and action ”” but while one is mostly positive, the other, not so much. The first connotes a situation in which a person does something (whistling, maybe?) to make of show ”“ to others, or even more commonly, to oneself ”” of bravery, or at least nonchalance, in the face of danger or difficulties.

The second meaning describes an individual who is genuinely confident and cheerful while in pursuit of a course of action at the same time blithely oblivious to the real risks involved ”“ i.e., clueless.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Language

Wycliffe Hall's response to an erroneous article in this past weekend's Sunday Times

From here:

An article in ‘The Sunday Times’ (22 January 2017) has been brought to our attention, which suggests that Wycliffe Hall’s “inclusive language policy” recommends that staff and students no longer refer to God as “He”, but as “the one who”. It does no such thing. Yes, inclusive language is encouraged at Wycliffe Hall in our preaching and our writing when describing people ”“ not ”˜man’, ”˜mankind’, ”˜every man’, but ”˜human’, ”˜humanity’, ”˜everyone’. Therefore careful thought is required when using older liturgy, hymnody, or Bible translations, in order to include the whole people of God. This is common sense and is common practice throughout the churches. But there is no suggestion that the traditional gender pronouns concerning God should be altered in any way. Indeed the Hall’s policy reaffirms that we should continue to speak of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as Christians have always done

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, Language, Seminary / Theological Education, The Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Theology

(BBC) Merriam-Webster's word of the year sums up 2016

Dictionary Merriam-Webster has named “surreal” as its word of the year.

The lexicographer selected surreal – which means “unbelievable, fantastic” – after spikes in searches following terrorist attacks and the US election.

The attacks in Brussels, the Bastille Day massacre in Nice and the attempted coup in Turkey all saw an increase in how often people searched for the word.

But the single biggest spike in look-ups came the day after Donald Trump’s election, said Merriam-Webster.

“It just seems like one of those years,” said Peter Sokolowski, the dictionary’s editor at large.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Language

(NPR) Billy Collins On How To Become A Poet, And Why Poetry Can Be A Game

For many NPR fans, Billy Collins needs no introduction. The former Poet Laureate is widely acknowledged as America’s most popular poet, regularly popping up on national best-seller lists (terra incognita for most poets, even beloved ones).

Public radio fans might know him best from his frequent appearances on A Prairie Home Companion … or may remember his lack of Phil Collins know-how, as displayed on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

So when Collins sat down with NPR for a reading on Facebook Live, we didn’t have to do much work to drum up an audience. The comments were quickly filled with his longtime fans.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Language, Poetry & Literature