Alan Jacobs: BBEdit Freak, Essay Master

I keep insisting to my wife that I’m not a real reader. I play at it. I pretend by force of will to be a reader. I wanna be one when I grow up. That’s…

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Hessians vs. Yankees

How did the word “mercenary” get a metaphorical sense and a literal one? It started in classical Latin, says the OED, long before English was a twinkle in the Celtic eye. Mercenarius back then could…

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Why Study Greek?

I have always enjoyed languages, especially English, because my father did for me what I hope to do for my son: he insisted that I express myself and he created a welcoming environment for that…

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Linguistics, Homosexuality, and Friendship

Back in 2005, I wrote the following for the monthly newsletter I’m charged with producing: Touchstone recently dedicated its cover story to the disintegration of male friendships in American society. In the article, perceptive cultural…

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Snafusage

I admit it. Look it up. “Snafu” has a less-than-clean etymology. The other day, a nice middle-aged man heard me say, “Oops, I made a little snafu!” He later stopped me kindly in private and…

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