Harpers on the wonders of the telegraph and typewriter… and the rightful place of philologists.

From the conclusion of a great article in Harper’s on the Telegraph :

The immense extension of the general telegraphic system, and its common use for business and social correspondence and the dissemination of public intelligence, are far more important to the community than any of these incidental applications of the system. The telegraph system is extending much more rapidly than the railroad system, and is probably exerting even a greater influence upon the mental development of the people than the railroad is exerting in respect to the material and physical prosperity of the country. It has penetrated almost every mind with a new sense of the vastnessof distance and the value of time. It is commonly said that it has annihilated time and space—and this is true in a sense; but in a deeper sense it has magnified both, for it has been the means of expanding vastly the inadequate conceptions which we form of space and distance, and of giving a significance to the idea Read the rest of this entry »


Why doesn’t anybody ever tell you this stuff? On the origins of the masculine and feminine pronouns.

I just discovered the most amazing posting about pronouns in the American Bibliopolist.

There are many perfectnesses in this work. But the best, by far, must be his excursus on the origins of he and she:

It would be a fortunate thing for us if there were any fossil remains of language. We could then discover in the rock of the earliest words made use of, many of which are necessarily buried in oblivion, and so arrive at some conclusion respecting the invention of our masculine pronoun he. It is supposable, and, indeed, only supposable, that it first found utterance through the lips of a woman, an event something like the dropping of pearls from the lips of the girl in the fairy tale. The Scotch woman always speaks of her husband as he. In the days of courtship her maiden timidly prevented her particularizing him. Besides, what need had she to specify the one who was all the world to her? Read the rest of this entry »


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