Special 2016

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Classic Communication by Jed W. Atkins In 64 B.C., during a time of great political unrest in Rome, Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul,... Read more
A Word That Can’t Be Captured in Words by Charles L. Campbell The language of faithful preaching is tensive language—unsettled language,... Read more
The Places Words Go by Daniel Jose Camacho Intersectionality, a concept that started in academia and became popular among grassroots... Read more
Do You See What I See? By William Chafe and Gareth O. Price Word clouds, like real clouds, can reveal or obscure; two people looking at the... Read more
In a Room Full of Voices by Heather Havrilesky Young writers often ask me how I found my voice as a writer. This is the question they’ve... Read more

Special 2016

As a social practice that operates through language, law confronts two limitations: The imprecision of words—what the great legal theorist H.L.A. Hart called “open texture”—makes their application...
I’m a novelist, working, published (and broke), and I have a confession: Since Pico Iyer recommended James Salter’s Light Years to me two decades ago, I don’t think I have written a word without...
The modern athlete can make more money off the court through endorsements than through competition, and sometimes that means it pays to be bland.LeBron James made an estimated $48 million in off-...
I attended two conferences, interviewed ten women, met another fifteen remarkable women, and produced twenty YouTube videos in eight short weeks just to answer one question: How do we address online...
I collect words.” That was the first line of my college admissions essay, written before I had any idea where my lists of words would take me. My essay went on to wax poetic about how I jot down...
If there is a platonic ideal of American politics, it is that of the “great debate”: two opposing sides armed with sharp rhetoric and strong values yet with enough wisdom to concede to the soundest...
When I speak with my grandfather, my voice stutters as I translate English thoughts into broken Vietnamese. Often, I cannot understand what my grandfather is saying, so I just smile sheepishly and...
We didn't need dialogue,” exclaims Norma Desmond. “We had faces!” She’s halfway to lunacy at that moment in Sunset Boulevard, remembering a glorious past before movies added soundtracks, but she has...
In 64 B.C., during a time of great political unrest in Rome, Marcus Tullius Cicero ran for consul, the highest office in the land. His campaign faced long odds. He was not from one of the...
If you look at old medical texts, you see a kind of poetry in the naming of things. Some names are nearly onomatopoeic: The rumbling your stomach and intestines makes is called borborygmus. Some...
After thirty years as a public radio reporter and documentary maker, I joined the podcasting stampede last fall, launching Scene on Radio at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies. Even more than I...
For the past year, I have spent untold hours studying, and sounding out, two pages in an old book: Hans Sloane’s 1707 Voyage to the Islands. It’s a beautiful object, large, leather-bound, full of...
Each spring I look forward to seeing the mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum) twist their way up and out of the ground, unfurling like umbrellas and creating a short-statured canopy for imagined...
Even his detractors acknowledge that few justices ever have approached the clear, powerful, and evocative writing style that the opinions of the late Justice Antonin Scalia consistently typified....
The language of faithful preaching is tensive language—unsettled language, language at the breaking point. For it is language that seeks to speak of God, but cannot fully speak of God. It is the...
I come from sugarcane and riceGold that never touched the fingertips of my peopleJust blessed their skin a honeyed brownLeft their lips sweet and fruitfulSo I know my tongue got a power to itGives...
When I was four years old, I watched That’s Entertainment!, the time-capsule compilation film documenting the golden age of MGM musicals. I was entranced. My delight was so profound, in fact, that...
What separates a poem from a jingle? Is a tagline just poetry that persuades us to buy something? Is poetic speech simply an advertisement for something that cannot be purchased? These were the...
It was the stigma of being considered a “blue-jeaned slobbermouth” that drove Marlon Brando to bellow himself hoarse in an Omaha cornfield. Woodshedding for the role of Mark Antony in Joseph...
Intersectionality, a concept that started in academia and became popular among grassroots activists, recently has exploded in broader culture. Today, there’s even a viral YouTube video that uses...
his past February I was invited to give a lecture at a Duke seminar called “LGBTQ Activism and History.” I arrived a bit late, and each of the dozen or so students had already filled out a name card...
This might be hard for some people to hear, but English majors are terrible Scrabble players. To win in Scrabble one has to come to terms with the fact that “za,” “aji,” and “yez” are far more...
Our native tongue is beautiful and expressive, even if it’s not technically one of the world’s  Romance languages. English is, by category, a West Germanic language, and German itself is—at least to...
Word clouds, like real clouds, can reveal or obscure; two people looking at the same cumulonimbus invariably will see different things. Using stories from The Chronicle archives, we created two word...
In the home videos my father filmed of my childhood, I am often the star: a skinny, bright-eyed girl, shouting with ear-piercing shrillness in Chinese, running to get back into the camera frame...
When I was a child, we had a Compaq 286 computer with a green-and-black screen. It didn’t have a mouse, of course; instead, you had to type commands for everything. There were still games for...
As songwriters, we try to write about the subjects that matter to us. In the early months of 2015, no social issue was more regularly consuming my mind and dominating the conversations within my...
Young writers often ask me how I found my voice as a writer. This is the question they’ve been taught to ask, the appropriate, million-dollar question, the one M.F.A. programs and English teachers...
I am always trying to find the right word for things. It bothers me when I say annoyed instead of frustrated, or tired instead of exhausted. Perhaps this is a remnant of my childhood, growing up in...
Facebook can now identify the faces in your photos. Apple can recognize commands you speak into your cell phone. And if you point your phone at a sign printed in a foreign language, Google can...
The dining hall was packed. Forks clinked at plates piled with lentils and rice. Wooden benches creaked. Someone occasionally cleared his throat. But amid the bustling of seventy-five men, not a...