Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Oxford Dictionaries' Shortlist for 2016 Word of the Year

Yesterday, we mentioned that Oxford had chosen "post-truth" as its 2016 Word of the Year. Here are some of the other words that made the shortlist while Oxford Dictionaries' staff contemplated the choice for 2016 Word of the Year. 

alt-right (noun)
An ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content.

Brexiteer (noun, informal)
A person who is in favour of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union.

chatbot (noun)
A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

Latinx (noun)
A person of Latin American origin or descent (used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina).

For a complete list,  click on the Oxford Dictionaries link. For more information about each word, click on the word.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Oxford Dictionaries' 2016 Word of the Year: Post-truth

Oxford Dictionaries announced "post-truth" as its 2016 international Word of the Year. The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year is a word or expression chosen to reflect the passing year in language. 

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

Every year, the Oxford Dictionaries team reviews candidates for word of the year and then debates their merits, choosing one that captures the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year. Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that use of the word post-truth has increased by approximately 2,000% over its usage in 2015.

The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade, but Oxford Dictionaries has seen a spike in frequency this year in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.

It has also become associated with a particular noun, in the phrase "post-truth politics." The compound word post-truth exemplifies an expansion in the meaning of the prefix post- that has become increasingly prominent in recent years. Rather than simply referring to the time after a specified situation or event – as in post-war or post-match – the prefix in post-truth has a meaning more like "belonging to a time in which the specified concept has become unimportant or irrelevant." This nuance seems to have originated in the mid-20th century, in formations such as post-national (1945) and post-racial (1971).
"It’s not surprising that our choice reflects a year dominated by highly-charged political and social discourse," says Casper Grathwohl, President of Oxford Dictionaries. "Fuelled by the rise of social media as a news source and a growing distrust of facts offered up by the establishment, post-truth as a concept has been finding its linguistic footing for some time."

Grathwohl goes on to say, ‘"We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and again in July when Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination. Given that usage of the term hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time."

The Word of the Year need not have been coined within the past twelve months. To qualify for consideration we look for evidence that its usage has increased significantly across a broad range of media. On the basis of that evidence, post-truth made it into this month.

Post-truth seems to have been first used in this meaning in a 1992 essay by the late Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich in The Nation magazine. Reflecting on the Iran-Contra scandal and the Persian Gulf War, Tesich lamented that "we, as a free people, have freely decided that we want to live in some post-truth world." 

There is evidence of the phrase "post-truth" being used before Tesich’s article, but apparently with the transparent meaning "after the truth was known," and not with the new implication that truth itself has become irrelevant.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Magazine Monday: Popular Science

Review of Popular Science
by Steven D. Mathews, Library Assistant

The Yocum Library subscribes to the print edition of Popular Science, a magazine that features accessible articles not only about current science topics but also predictions about the future.

This general-audience magazine also has a long history of evolution. The periodical was first published in the mid-nineteenth century as a monthly scholarly journal that housed some of the writings of Charles Darwin, Thomas Edison, William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, and other fin-de-si├Ęcle pioneers in science, philosophy, and technology.

However, the twentieth century created numerous problems for the publishers of Popular Science Monthly in terms of declining readership and sales. In 1915, the articles for educated readers were taken up by the publishers of what would eventually be named Science later in the century. This split created an opportunity for the writers and editors of Popular Science to focus on disseminating their knowledge into bite-sized articles for the general public that focused on everyday technologies and trades (e.g., cars, electronics, and other mechanics).

Starting in January 2016, Popular Science became a bi-monthly periodical, which means they only publish six issues a year—a big change after publishing one issue each month since 1872. The issues reviewed—Nov/Dec 2016, “100 Greatest Inventions,” and Jan/Feb 2017, “Explore”—separate into four pithy titles: Now, Next, Features, and Manual. 

The Now sections contain nuggets on some of today’s existing tools, experiments, crises, and gadgets, such as the Apple Watch, Uber’s self-driving cars, and how the tablet is replacing the laptop (or not). The Next sections speculate on potential explorations of deep space and oceans, twenty-second century climate predictions, and what “psychonauts” can learn about the benefits and harms of injesting various drugs and substances. 

The Manual sections are perhaps the most interesting and practical. For example, the “Explore” issue contain lists of essentials for “The Modern Explorer” (besides your smartphone): food, power, another “burner” phone, communication in cellular-lacking areas, first aid, water, navigation, and rain protection. 

Three of these sections (Now, Next, and Manual) average 1–2 pages, which leaves room for a few detailed featured articles. The latter are not simply pages and pages of text, however. They include large photos, designs, and creative approaches to narrative. 

For example, one feature, “The Proxima Trail,” found on p. 69 of “Explore,” is written completely as screenshots (on an Apple II, to boot!) that imitate the classic Oregon Trail video game from the 1970s and 80s. Instead of going from Missouri to Oregon in the middle of the nineteenth century, however, the Proxima Trail takes to you a new solar system during a nine-year journey (3017–3026). The parallels are astonishing, nonetheless.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Sugar Blues

by Marcina Wagner, Reference Librarian

If one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2017 includes losing weight, you already know that you need to eliminate or cut down on sugar. Although the consumption of sugar remains controversial—a recent article in the New York Times, “How the Sugar Industry Shifted the Blame to Fat,” reveals that since the 1960s, the industry has downplayed the negative effects of sugar— medical professionals have linked it directly to the obesity epidemic, and Dr. David Kessler, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, claims that it is as addictive as cigarettes. 

In Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss argues that the food industry is jeopardizing our health by creating products that generate cravings for those three ingredients. Perhaps the industry’s interest in its bottom line rather than our well-being will motivate you to ban sugar from your diet. 

Yocum has many vegan cookbooks, The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, for example, that provide desserts made without sugar although the sweeteners can be as high in calories as sugar. Better yet have fresh fruit for dessert or a snack. If your pantry has a canister of sugar left over from making holiday cookies, here’s an idea:

Make a sugar scrub for yourself or as a gift. The article, “Heal with Herbs” from Organic Gardening, found on ProQuest, offers this moisturizing body scrub, perfect for this wintry time of year.

½ cup coconut oil
1 cup sugar
10 drops of your favorite essential oil (I’m going to use lavender.)

Mix the ingredients together then store in a glass jar.

P.S. The Yocum Library owns Sidney W. Mintz’s Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. This book is a classic in the field of Food Studies.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Do You Believe in New Year's Resolutions?

Have you made any resolutions as the new year begins? Or maybe you make and keep resolutions all year long? Or you believe in just letting things happen? Whatever your beliefs about resolutions, what are your hopes for 2017? Let us know in the comments for this post.