Banned Books and Bill Cosby

 

This is Banned Books Week, during which the American Library Association shares its annual list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books, which the ALA admits is only a “snapshot of book challenges,” over 80% of which are never reported.

There is weirdness in every year’s list and 2016 was no exception.  As pointed out in the New York Times, one book was challenged this year not because of its content, but because of the behavior of its creator.  Bill Cosby’s Little Bill series got tarred by its association with its own author and this appears to be the first time any book was challenged solely because of who wrote it.

 

Histories of Athlete Protests

 

Nearly every day brings us news of events and personalities that surely must be unprecedented in American culture, but actually very little is completely new.    Certainly, the spectacle of athletes or others using public events to call attention to social or political issues can be startling, but such actions have a rich history in modern America.

Thanks to a University Library subscription, current Washington and Lee University students, faculty, and staff have online access to America: History and Life,  a database which focuses on the literature in history-related academic journals on North American history.   A search in that database on protests or demonstrations by athletes yields this list of over 50 journal articles and other sources detailing fascinating events dating back over 100 years.

Please note that next summer will mark the 50th anniversary of what is probably the most famous such protest, the “black power” salute of John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics.

 

[from the Washington Post ]

New Chicago Manual of Style

 

Surely, a college campus is one of the very few places in the world in which a new manual on writing style and usage (or is it use?) is a cause for rejoicing — or maybe outrage.

But here we are.

The University of Chicago Press just released the new 17th edition of its Chicago Manual of Style, one of the most venerable and respected guides to the use of the English language.  Or, as the publisher phrases it, ” It is the indispensable reference for writers, editors, proofreaders, indexers, copywriters, designers, and publishers, informing the editorial canon with sound, definitive advice.”   But most students (and former students)  probably know it as one of those infamous guides, so beloved by their professors, to the formatting of research paper bibliographies, footnotes, and such.

The University Library now has a printed copy (on Reserve at the Information Desk) and W&L students, faculty, and staff also have online access through the library’s subscription to the official Chicago Manual of Style website, which contains the complete text of the new edition, plus lots of other authoritative guidance.   Links to the guide are available in the library catalog and various online course research guides.

Much of the discussion in the new edition is fascinating for any fan of the English language.   As Exhibit A, we offer the entry on the “Singular ‘They‘,” which includes a brief examination of the use of the word themself.   Enjoy.

 

 

Recumbent Lee Memorial

 

This past Sunday evening Washington and Lee University alumnus Colonel Ty Seidule (’84), professor and head of the history department at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, delivered a fascinating and inspiring Constitution Day address entitled “Robert E. Lee and Me: Reflections on Confederate Memory by a W&L Graduate, Soldier and Scholar.”    His talk in Lee Chapel is now available via streaming video .

Professor Seidule’s address includes several references to historical memorials and he made the comment that any evaluation of a monument or memorial must emphasize the motivations of those who were responsible for creation of that monument.    Thus, anyone interested in the history of Lee Chapel, and specifically the recumbent statue of Robert E. Lee, might wish to consult an 80-pagepublication entitled “Ceremonies Connected with the Inauguration of the Mausoleum and the Unveiling of the Recumbent Figure of General Robert Edward Lee, at Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Va., June 28, 1883,”  available in printed form in the University Library’s Special Collections and online via the HathiTrust Digital Library.

W&L researchers also may read the New York Times coverage of the 1883 event via the Library’s subscription to the Historical New York Times database.

100 Years of OMG!

 

Tomorrow is an august day in the history of the English language.  (Although, really, isn’t every day?)

Tomorrow, 9 September 2017, is the 100th anniversary of the earliest documented example of a writer using the acronym OMG as a boiled-down version of the exclamation “Oh! My god!”   It most definitely predates the Internet.

How do we know this?  The OED tells us so.   The venerable Oxford English Dictionary, which is available online to Washington and Lee students, faculty, and staff, points to a letter written by J. A. F. Fisher on 9 September 1917:

  • 1917   J. A. F. Fisher Let. 9 Sept. in Memories (1919) v. 78   I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis—O.M.G. (Oh! My God!)—Shower it on the Admiralty!!

You may read further to discover that the editors of the OED have found no other uses of the term in print for nearly 80 years — John Arbuthnot Fisher was ‘way ahead of his time.     You also may find Lord Fisher’s original quotation in his volume Memories, courtesy of the HathiTrust Digital Library.