Any linguist will tell you that languages differ when it comes to how easily they let you specify information. At Slate, Gretchen McCulloch points to a video that highlights four linguistic features we might like to have in English.
“Almost as soon as the concept of the Great American Novel was invented, in the nation-building years after the Civil War, Buell finds it being mocked, noting that one observer dryly put it into the same category as ‘other great American things such as the great American sewing-machine, the great American public school, and the great American sleeping-car.’ It was enough of a cliché by 1880 for Henry James to refer to it with the acronym 'GAN,' which Buell employs throughout his book.” On the reigning gold standard for quality in American fiction. (Related: we asked nine experts their picks for the best American novel.)
What would the child of The Big Lebowski characters The Dude (Jeff Bridges) and Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) look like? Maybe like Lt. Col. Django (Bridges, again), one of the characters in Grant Heslov's The Men Who Stare at Goats, set to release in November, a comedy about the U.S. military's attempt to train psychic soldiers (based on the book by Jon Ronson).
If you've ever had a successful friend you secretly envied and maybe even hated, you may be in startlingly good company: a new reading of an old letter between Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot indicates that the "flamboyant misanthrope and the restrained one" shared exactly this kind of frenemyship. Unrelated: a short recording of Eliot reading "The Naming of Cats."
In their latest Trend Watch, Merriam-Webster announced they've been seeing more searches for "Kafkaesque," a spike they attribute to British publishers writing about Booker winner Han Kang. Since the word is so overused, it's worthwhile to ask: just what does it actually mean now, anyway? Allison Flood tries to pin it down at The Guardian.
Toni Morrison wrote an obituary for James Baldwin in The New York Times, published December 20, 1987 and online for you to read. “Jimmy, there is too much to think about you, and too much to feel. The difficulty is your life refuses summation - it always did - and invites contemplation instead. Like many of us left here I thought I knew you. Now I discover that in your company it is myself I know.” Justin Campbell reflects on Baldwin, race, and fatherhood.