Presidential Addresses

 

President Barack Obama’s farewell address now belongs to the ages and Donald Trump’s inaugural address waits in the wings.

Did you know that George Washington delivered the shortest inaugural address of any U.S. president?  You can find out who was responsible for the lengthiest and read all of the presidential inaugural and farewell addresses in a site maintained by the University of California (Santa Barbara) — inaugural addresses and farewell addresses.

W&L’s benefactor, George Washington, also delivered the most famous farewell address (1796) and the University Library has just acquired a revealing new book that focuses on our first president’s parting words in office.   It is the latest of several books about this eloquent speech.

 

Where Did “Brexit” Come From?

 

This sounds like a job for the Oxford English Dictionary.

The OED is the boss of English language etymological dictionaries and its researchers not only track new scholarship on dusty old words, but also keep an eye on the appearance and development of new words which are finding places in our discourse.   And sometimes these researchers are able to document the development of a term from a self-conscious creation, such as in this essay on the now-familiar “Brexit.”

“Brexit” is but one of about 500 new entries in the Oxford English Dictionary this December and you can see the complete list on this update page.  For more on “hackery” and “tombstoning” and their comrades, current members of the W&L community may use the W&L University Library’s link to the OED.

Happy Yule, y’all !

 

Is the Word of the Year “Fascism”? As It Turns Out, No.

 

Merriam-Webster Unabridged , available online to the current Washington and Lee University community through the University Library, usually is considered the most comprehensive and most respected dictionary of the modern English language.

Each year the Merriam Webster editors identify a particular word or term as the official Word of the Year, an exercise also enjoyed by other dictionaries, newspapers, magazines, and anyone else with opinions about the English language.     Some of these selections are made subjectively, while others involve  quantitative methodology.    (For evidence of the variety, have a look at this list of articles on the subject, taken from the Academic Search Complete database.)

Merriam-Webster Unabridged routinely keeps track of the number of online queries made in its database, displaying lists of searches in the past 24 hours and in the past 7 days.   The natural outcome of this data-gathering is a Word of the Year, indicating the most looked-up word in the calendar year — and the editors are a bit alarmed about how this is playing out in 2016.

The Guardian recently reported on Merriam-Webster’s concern that the word “fascism” might be the top search in 2016, even going so far as to suggest other words readers might want to search.   If you want to follow this controversy, the Merriam-Webster Twitter site is worth a follow.     Or just keep an eye on the Merriam-Webster Unabridged homepage.

Feel free to vote early and often.

Update 12/19/16     —      See Merriam-Webster site, along with commentary from The Guardian.

 

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Good Books and Bad Sex

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‘Tis the season when we start to get all sorts of lists of the “best” books of 2016  — and many of these books are available in the Washington and Lee University Library.

You may have seen the Washington Post article “Best Books of 2016.”  All of these items are either in our library collection or are on their way.

Some of the other literary awards are a bit more… specialized.  The British magazine Literary Review has announced the finalists for its annual “Bad Sex in Fiction” award, devoted to recognizing an “outstandingly bad scene of sexual description in an otherwise good novel.”    And we have many of these nominees, too.    You can read more commentary in the Guardian, including a link to extracts.

Check for availability, call numbers, and more in the W&L library catalog.  Happy holidays and happy reading!

 

 

 

 

Understanding the Election

 

Today the New York Times published an interesting piece entitled 6 Books to Help Understand Trump’s Win.    The Washington and Lee University Library owns five of these books, and the sixth is on the way:

 

New Database — People of the Founding Era

 

The Washington and Lee University Library has initiated a subscription to the online database People of the Founding Era,  a scholarly reference work that provides biographical information on over 65,000 people born between 1713 (the end of Queen Anne’s War) and 1815 (the end of the Napoleonic War).    Most of the biographical excerpts are drawn from the digitized papers of the Founding Fathers and other documentary editions of the Founding Era, including The Geography of Slavery, augmented by further research by the University of Virginia Press.

This resource is not only biographical, but also prosopographical, allowing collective biographical research by such categories as locations, slaves, occupations,  and gender.   For example, one can view 76 entries on individuals born in or living in Rockbridge County.   (Scan down the page for the list of individuals.)

For much more detail on this ongoing project, we can recommend the site’s Introduction .

 

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The Truth About Jargon

 

From the Oxford English Dictionary, the foremost etymological dictionary of the English language:

The original meaning of the word “jargon,” dating back at least as far as Chaucer, was “The inarticulate utterance of birds, or a vocal sound resembling it; twittering, chattering.”
We have come so far.

Current members of the Washington and Lee University community — students, faculty, and staff — have online access to the Oxford English Dictionary through the University Library’s subscription.

 

 

New Dance Database

 

The Washington and Lee University Library purchases access to well over 100 research databases to support student and faculty work at W&L.

Our latest acquisition focuses on the world of dance.  Dance in Video is described by its publisher as hosting over 1,200 “dance productions and documentaries by the most influential performers and companies of the 20th century.   Selections cover ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, experimental, and improvisational dance, as well as forerunners of the forms and the pioneers of modern concert dance.”

Members of the current W&L community — students, faculty, and staff — have access to this online database from both on-campus and off-campus locations.   There is a link in the library catalog and links are likely to appear in relevant research guides.

Please note that W&L has purchased Dance in Video for a period of one year and a decision on continued access likely will be based on use during the 2016-17 academic year.

 

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Digitized History from Three Centuries

 

The Washington and Lee University Library’s Digital Archive project recently posted online a diverse collection of materials from three centuries, with a wide range of perspectives on aspects of W&L and Rockbridge County history.

By far the oldest item is the final will left by local farmer Hugh Adams in the late 1850’s, which includes his wishes for the freeing of his slaves upon his death.

Film footage of the W&L football team’s play in the 1951 Gator Bowl game is augmented by an interview with former player Don Ferguson and recently-recorded commentary from Doug Chase in a 17-minute video.

The 2014 video production Mock Con: The Storied History of the Washington & Lee University Mock Presidential Convention (available in the library on DVD) contained excerpts of interviews with alumni, students, faculty, and other members of the W&L community.   We are now able to share 22 full-length video interviews from which those excerpts were drawn, including comments from W&L President Ken Ruscio and U.S. Senator John Warner.

The ever-growing W&L Digital Archive , which also includes work from faculty and campus organizations and offices, is accessible through the University Library Web site.    Questions about the Digital Archive can be directed to Digital Scholarship Librarian Alston Cobourn.