Words & language
Working with Words: Corey Wakeling
Corey Wakeling is an Australian poet and academic based in Japan. His second full-length work of poetry, The Alarming Conservatory, is out in February. He spoke with us about Eileen Myles, grease traps, alternative realities and weeping for Wolverine.
What do the Oscar Wilde, Snoop Dogg, BuzzFeed writers and your grandpa have in common? The love of puns!
Last year’s Pundemonium was tense, but now that’s past … ahem … it’s time to present another. This time, we invite six of our punniest friends to The Toff in Town to unleash their most gasp-inducing, groan-generating and perhaps even mind-altering feats…
A Celebration of John Clarke
On Sunday 2 July, crowds filled the Melbourne Town Hall to pay tribute – and share in the humour of – the late satirist John Clarke. Here, we're sharing photos and a full audio recording of the event, as well as a rundown of the evening's programme.
More Than Words: Translation and Interpretation
Gregory Rabassa, revered translator of Gabriel García Márquez, wrote that ‘every act of communication is an act of translation.’ Even when speaking the same tongue, we so often get our wires crossed. It’s not just words but gestures, tone, cultural context and, of course, silence that convey meaning – intentionally or otherwise. Translation between languages is at once fraught (Umberto Eco called…
Strange Here: George Saunders
'If we were going to try to write a novel about right now, what’s the equivalent of a god’s-eye-view of right now? I think it’s … every thought going on right now, presented simultaneously.'
American writer George Saunders is one of the world’s most surreal – and most empathic – eyewitnesses to modern life. But quixotic? Not so much. In his writing…
The Wheeler Centre
Hisham Matar with Hilary Harper
‘One day justice will be done and the jailer will replace the jailed.’ Hisham Matar’s father wrote these words in a smuggled letter to his family in 1992, while imprisoned in one of Muammar el-Qaddafi’s notorious jails in Tripoli.
Jaballa Matar was a political dissident, kidnapped in 1990 by the dictator’s agents, and jailed. For years he wrote occasional letters to his family – but then the letters stopped. In the decades since, his London-based son, a writer, has worked to find out what happened to his father; to learn if he is dead or alive.
Matar’s latest book, The Return, describes this hideous quest with exquisite skill and sorrow. In April, it won a Pulitzer Prize. His previous books, the Booker-shortlisted novel In the Country of Men and Anatomy of a Disappearance, dealt with similar themes, winning praise from the likes of J.M. Coetzee.
‘You make a man disappear to silence him but also to narrow the minds of those left behind, to pervert their soul and limit their imagination,’ Matar writes in The Return. It’s a story of exile, absence and appalling suspense told with rare gentleness and restraint.
In this episode of the Wheeler Centre podcast, this extraordinary writer makes his second visit to the Wheeler Centre to discuss his life, career and the art of recollection with Hilary Harper.
Anything and everything in Words & language from across our archives.
The Interrobang: A Festival of Questions
Why are so many people intimidated by poetry, but love song lyrics? Alan Brough
Refudiate Word of the Year
Sarah Palin’s linguistic skills have been given the highest honour as the New Oxford American Dictionary has picked her made-up refudiate as the 2010 Word of the Year.
Palin first used the word when she was tweeting about a mosque being built at Ground Zero. Pushing the 140 character count and the bounds of the sensibility, Palin tweeted “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it…
No Magic to This Spell
The Emerging Writers’ Festival ended last night with a spelling bee. It was won by Mel Campbell, who correctly spelled the word bildungsroman (a coming-of-age novel, the most famous example of which is probably LP Hartley’s The Go-Between).
Coincidentally, in the US, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was held this weekend. The competition was won by 14 year-old Sukanya Roy, who lives near…
Two New Books on Arabic’s Decorative Beauties
Detail of a photograph from the book Arabic Graffiti
The decorative potential of Arabic script is famous - the exteriors of the entrances of the Taj Mahal, for example, are decorated with Koranic inscriptions that run in both directions at once. But modern artists are making the most of the beauties of the script too. Arabic Graffiti is a new book that highlights the…
Dictionary Creator Gets Modern Rhymes
Dr Samuel Johnson has been an active Twitterer for some time but recently he has published a new dictionary based on our modern world.
Of course, it’s a fake but as an extract from the Quietus shows, author phoney-Johnston Tom Morton has captured much of Dr Johnson’s humour especially when defining hip-hop right down to the characteristic spelling. Here’s the basic definition: “Hip-Hop is…
A Usage That is So, Like, Old
Over at the ever-informative OUP blog, Anatoly Liberman is wrestling with what he calls a “ubiquitous modern parasite”: the word “like”. He chronicles the rise of the word as though it were a virus mutating to defy definition. Liberman believes “like freed itself from the verb to be and became an independent filler” with very little meaning.
And far from belonging to 21st century…
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