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A political pop quiz: which of the following is a quote from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign?

1. “The politicians just talk. In the meantime, the rich ruling elite just ignores [workers] . . . We need jobs. Now. Not later, now.”

2. “How many Mexicans are there in the United States? No one seems to know . . . statistics show that while Mexicans make up approximately five percent of the total American population they commit about 87% of all violent crimes.”

3. “It is our right, as a sovereign nation, to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish . . . most illegal immigrants are lower skilled workers with less education, who compete directly against vulnerable American workers.”

4. “We are devoted to the restoration of the American republic and the preservation of American sovereignty.” More… “Trump Speaks Far-Right”

Ashlyn Mooney is a recent college graduate. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Brevity and Westword.
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Do apostrophes matter, even though “nothing matters” in the end? German Lopez thinks they do. Is the period “no longer how we finish our sentences”? So says Jeff Guo. If you’re an editor like me, you notice writing about little things like apostrophes and periods, especially when you see it in big news outlets. First, in Vox in January, came “Apostrophes, explained.” Then, in the Washington Post in June, came “Stop. Using. Periods. Period.” Lopez and Guo are on opposite sides in the long-running “language wars” over English usage between prescriptivists, who (as caricatured) believe that nothing is right in usage except what their outmoded rules permit, and descriptivists, who (as caricatured) believe that nothing can ever be wrong. Those wars aren’t news if you follow the story of English, but how the two writers took their positions did seem new. In each article, I saw an oddness and wondered what it might mean about the state of battle. More… “The Language Wars”

Jeffrey Mitchell has worked for years as an editor, writer, and instructor at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
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Did you ever wonder where the odd term “pundit” comes from? Today it refers to talking heads on TV and opinioneering newspaper columnists. But the word derives from the Hindi “pandit,” which means a learned or wise scholar whose judgments deserved to be treated with respect. You know, like Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill Maher.

Given the current moral panic over “cultural appropriation” sweeping trendy U.S. college campuses, I’m surprised that Indian-American students have not demanded that the word “pundit” be banned or at least preceded by trigger warnings. More… “Pundits, Moguls, Sachems, and Czars”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.
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In 2001, Harper’s published an essay on lexicography by David Foster Wallace (“Tense Present”) that I have come to think of as classic, though I have no idea if fans of the author or lexicographers agree. I happened to be in college, studying linguistics, at the time, and I remember reading it excitedly, footnotes and all, the afternoon it arrived, on our college-y furniture, the requisite IKEA POÄNG. Rarely was the cover story so “relevant to my interests.”

Though my favorite subdiscipline was semantics, I had been largely unaware of what Wallace called “the seamy underbelly” of U.S. dictionary making, its “ideological strife and controversy and intrigue.” Said controversy, I learned, is essentially bipartisan — there’s a “liberal” school of pure descriptivism, wherein “words” like “heighth” get included without comment or censure, which sits in opposition and reaction to the “conservative” school of prescriptivism, or normative lexicography, which avows that “heighth” is not a word, sentences must not end with a preposition, etc. More… “Fair Usage”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.
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William Carter, in the first volume of his epic ongoing Proust edition for Yale University Press, characterizes Proust’s seven-volume series À la recherche du temps perdu as “considered by many to be the greatest novel of the 20th century and perhaps of all time.” The series — Du cote de chez Swanni (Swann’s Way), A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower), Le Cote de Guermantes (The Guermantes Way), Sodome et Gomorrhe (Sodom and Gomorrah), La Prisoniere (The Captive), Albertine dispartue (The Fugitive), Le Temps retrouve (Time Regained) — was written by Proust between 1913 and 1927 and has been confounding, transporting, and flattening readers ever since.

But it’s not actually À la recherche du temps perdu that sits at the heart of Carter’s work (two volumes of which have appeared so far, Swann’s Way and In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower); he’s not, as you might think at first, offering a new translation of Proust’s books. Instead, Carter has embarked on a thorough revision and annotation of an English-language translation. The translation in question is of course the one done by Scottish author and translator C.K. Scott Moncrieff between 1922 and his death in 1930.
More… “Moncrieff Relief”

Steve Donoghue is a reader, editor, and writer living in Boston surrounded by books and dogs. He’s one of the founding editors of the literary journal Open Letters Monthly and the author of one of its book­blogs, Stevereads. HIs work has appeared in The National, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and The Quarterly Conversation, among others. He tweets as @stdonoghue.
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What do you do when a bizarre combination of birthright and computer convention means that much of the digitized world doesn’t believe in your existence? (Wired)

You can’t choose your death like an item off the lunch menu. But what if you could? Do you know what you would order? (Wilson Quarterly)

Imagine the dialogue of your first memory. Even if you don’t know what exactly was said, chances are you have a strong connection to the language that was spoken. The impression made on you by the words, the accent, and the timbre of the language is one that will likely never go away. (Nautilus) •

Maren Larsen is the associate editor of The Smart Set. She is a digital journalism student, college radio DJ, and outdoor enthusiast.
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People often describe German, my native language, as hard and aggressive. They relish criticizing its guttural sounds, long compound words, and the sentence structure, which is said to be especially complex. Perhaps you’ve seen the much-shared video featuring characters like a Bavarian in traditional costume who says a series of German words – but instead of pronouncing them “normally,” he exaggerates the harsh sounds to an absurd degree. A few months ago I took part in a less-than-enjoyable Facebook discussion devoted to the question of what anybody could ever find appealing about German. I quickly found myself in the position of trying to defend my native tongue – and soon gave up, since no one seemed inclined to change their entrenched opinion.

Bernd Brunner writes books and essays. His latest book (in German) is When Winters Were… More…

Sometimes, when you really want to know what America is all about, you have to go to Belgium. Or so it would seem at the “American Documents” show at Antwerp’s FotoMuseum (FoMu). The star of the show is Walker Evans. You’re not going to get a whole lot of dissenters if you claim that American photography is dominated by the figure of Walker Evans.

“American Documents” Through September 5. FotoMuseum, Antwerp.

Evans got his start working for the government. The Great Depression was on and the WPA was in full swing. The Farm Security Administration was looking, in particular, for photographic documentation of what the Depression was doing to the American farmer. Fortune magazine was interested in the same thing and, famously, notoriously, sent the writer and critic James Agee along with Walker Evans to… More…

Edith Grossman is one of the finest literary translators working today. She has translated some of the greats of the Spanish language — from Marquez to Llosa, Fuentes to Dorfman. Her translation of Don Quixote was masterful and is widely accepted as the new standard text. She is the perfect complement to these writers, translating not only the language but also the emotion and experience of the original work. Indeed, the essays in the final half of her new book, Why Translation Matters — “Translating Cervantes” and “Translating Poetry” — are interesting and careful; they make a significant contribution to the philosophy and the practice of translation. That’s why the first half of the book is such a shame

Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman. 160 pages. Yale University Press. $24.

The first two pieces in this collection of… More…

Back in junior high school health class, we were told that the brain has two different hemispheres — the left and the right. The left brain, the textbook stated, is responsible for language, math, and science, logic and rationality. The right brain was the artistic one, the creative half of the brain. But that’s not quite true. Neuroimaging and experiments on patients with split brains and brain damage to only one hemisphere have allowed a much more detailed, and fascinating, accounting of how the two parts interact with the world, and how they combine to become a unified consciousness (and, in some cases of mental disorders, how they occasionally don’t). Iain McGilchrist has combined scientific research with cultural history in his new book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World to examine how the evolution of the brain influenced our society, and… More…