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Where do new words come from?

WHERE do new words come from?  Few are purely invented, in the sense of being coined from a string of sounds chosen more or less at random. Most tend to be existing words given new meaning (“to tweet”). In other cases, a word changes its parts of speech (“to Photoshop”, …

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The arcane world of Japan’s taiko drummers

Drum roll THERE is a felicitous double meaning to Kodo, the name of the celebrated Japanese drumming ensemble. Its written characters mean “drum child”. But an infinitesimally different stressing of the second syllable will give you the character which means “heartbeat”. The company regards this accidental ambiguity as a symbolic …

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Enrico Fermi, father of the nuclear age

The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age. By David Schwartz. Basic Books; 451 pages; $35 and £27.99. JUST before daybreak on July 16th 1945 Enrico Fermi lay down in the open desert of New Mexico. At 05:30, the world’s …

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The economists’ diet

Elastic demand The Economists’ Diet: The Surprising Formula for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off. By Christopher Payne and Rob Barnett. Touchstone; 288 pages; $25. DO YOU indulge in QE (quantitative eating)? Do you have a high marginal propensity to consume chocolate? Then you might be piqued by a diet …

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“Black Mirror” continues to excel at limited world-building

SINCE the launch of “Black Mirror” in 2011, critics have lauded Charlie Brooker for his dark and thought-provoking stories. Stephen King called the anthology series “terrifying, funny, intelligent”. Jon Hamm was reportedly such a fan that he asked to appear (he got his wish, starring in season two). Indeed, a …

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“Hostiles” is a bloody depiction of the American frontier

“HOSTILES”, a bleak and bloody western, opens with a horrific act of violence. In New Mexico in 1892, a homesteader is cutting wood while his wife gives their two daughters a grammar lesson and cradles their newborn baby. Four Comanches ride towards the house, guns and bows drawn, to steal …

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The legacy of the Russian revolution can still be felt today

HE LIES under bulletproof glass, lit up with red rays. He has hardly changed since a Pravda essayist, seeing him dead in 1924, wrote: “His face is calm, and he is almost—almost—smiling that inimitable, indescribable, sly childlike smile of his…His upper lip with its moustache is mischievously lifted and seems very much …

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The Las Vegas Golden Knights are hitting hockey’s jackpot

CALL it the fundamental law of expansion teams: when new franchises join North America’s closed team-sports leagues, they aren’t supposed to be very good. Cobbling together their initial rosters from the detritus incumbent clubs choose to make available, expansion teams typically need several years to develop young talent and acquire …

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At 50, “The Graduate” still has much to say about youth

IN JANUARY 1967, Time announced that its “Man of the Year” for 1966 was not an individual, but the generation of “Twenty-five and under”: “Never have the young been so assertive or so articulate, so well educated or so worldly.” The cover featured a young man in a suit, attractive …

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The rich get richer as a home-run champion moves to New York

THE PAST decade has been a resounding success for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) efforts to promote competitive balance. Back in 2000, when the New York Yankees, the sport’s richest team, were en route to winning their fourth championship in five years, MLB hired a “blue-ribbon panel” to propose reforms that …

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