History, Language, Politics

Lexicon and National Trauma



This presidency will end, but “the election” remains in our lexicon as a national trauma. 

I took the photo above the day after the election. Even a year later, that’s still what it’s called – “the election.” You don’t have to say “the 2016 election” or “the election of Donald J. Trump.” People know what you’re talking about. Yes, we’ve been through controversial elections before, and only time will tell the staying power of this phrase. But today, a year later, the nation shoulders the singular weight of a presidency collectively marked, not by the day the administration took office, but by the election itself.

While we can’t discount the disasters of the actual Trump presidency, psychologists increasingly argue that the election itself produced lasting, impactful trauma. This week, health journalist Beth Skwarecki spoke with therapists across the country about the long-term psychological effects of the election. According to Karen Koenig, a clinical social worker,

“I can say with certainty that my clients who are trauma survivors are coming into sessions triggered by our new president… The election itself reached into [a memory] of being abused while others in their life told them everything was fine.”  Continue reading “Lexicon and National Trauma”

History, Language

English Language Family Tree

Indo-European Language TreeOh man – this is a beautiful rendering of the Indo-European language family, stretching from English, to Russian, to Hindi–and also, like anything worth viewing on the internet, augmented by playful cats (full image below). Artist Minna Sundberg regretted that there wasn’t space to include hundreds of smaller linguistic offshoots, so the map is definitely not exhaustive, but still an impressive undertaking. Many who commented on the site didn’t seem to understand the concept of a language family, wondering why other significant languages were excluded (Arabic, Turkish, Tamil, etc.). Continue reading “English Language Family Tree”

History, Language

Squanto: America’s First Secretary of State

SquantoAccording to Thanksgiving lore, a friendly Native American named Squanto served as a guide and interpreter for the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony. Squanto facilitated their relationship with the Wampanoag tibe, without whom the pilgrims most likely would not have survived their first winter.

And why was Squanto such a key player? He spoke English. How exactly Squanto came to possess this ability is generally glossed over so we can get to the part of the story where everyone eats Turkey. But considering that, without Squanto and his language abilities, no Pilgrim would have been alive to enjoy said Turkey, this seems like a pretty glaring omission.

As it turns out, Squanto, whose real name was Tisquantum, was quite the character in pre-American foreign policy. Before meeting the Pilgrims, Tisquantum had already crossed the Atlantic Ocean six times, spending more than a decade in England and Spain, all as a result of bing kidnapped on three separate occasions.

Here’s a timeline of Tisquantum’s pre-Pilgrim life, adapted from reference.com: Continue reading “Squanto: America’s First Secretary of State”