In 2004, a United States Air Force F-16 jet fighter accidentally shot at an intermediate school in New Jersey. Fortunately, no-one was harmed.
The Dutch Renaissance scholar Desiderius Erasmus wrote a textbook of rhetoric in which he illustrated the flexibility of language by writing the sentence “Your letter delighted me greatly” one hundred and ninety-five different ways.
Tents appear outside a town in early 20th century rural United States. It’s not the circus, it’s the circuit chautauqua: teachers, preachers, musicians, and orators, ready to bring education and religion to the masses.
Shengguan Tu is a board game from a millennium ago that charts players’ rise through the many layers of Chinese bureaucracy.
How long would it take to study the whole Talmud, one page a day? Seven and a half years… and it’s best to begin tomorrow.
How do you bring a dying language back from the brink? Incubate it in a nest, of course.
In the late 19th century, a linguist and some language teachers concocted a writing system that could represent every meaningful sound in every spoken language in the world. It is still in use today.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, also killed the famous author of one of the earliest encyclopedias.
It’s my 200th post! Time to talk about the nature of proof, using 18th century literary hero Baron Munchausen and his horse too.
When trialling a new medicine, it’s standard practice to test it against a placebo medicine. But what do you do if you’re trialling a new surgery instead?
I say, after brekkers do you want to see if Tollers from the Bodder wants to play some rugger or soccer for eccer? This “er” slang abbreviation came from Oxford University, where it has been in use since the 19th century.
After years of toil and study, the Seven Wardens call you to attend a sacred ritual. At that ceremony, you swear a secret vow and are awarded a ring of iron. Classical cult? Medieval guild? Nope, you’re now a Canadian engineer.
Tuition was free but entry was difficult. Buster Keaton and Bugs Bunny were on the curriculum. You graduated with a wig, giant shoes, and full makeup. Welcome to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.
102 years ago, a tiny junior college was founded in Deep Springs Valley in eastern California. Despite having under 30 students at a time, alumni have received three MacArthur “genius grants,” two Pulitzer Prizes, and an Emmy award.
In 1970, an audience of doctors, graduate students, and other professionals listened to a talk by Dr. Myron Fox. They rated the talk and the teacher very highly… but it was in fact complete gibberish.