Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Leofranc Holford-Strevens, until his retirement in 2011, was consultant scholar-editor at OUP. He is the author of Aulus Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and His Achievement.

Eating or Being Eaten: Animal Grammar

Leofranc Holford-Strevens, 8 October 2015

How did​ human beings develop the capacity to speak, and to speak such complex languages? That is the question that James Hurford, emeritus professor of general linguistics at Edinburgh, has sought to answer. The Origins of Meaning, published in 2007, looked at animals’ cognitive representations of the world, their part in the evolution of abstract thought, and the limits of their...

Peter opened Paul the door: The Case for Case

Leofranc Holford-Strevens, 9 July 2009

English-speakers who have not had the good fortune to be exposed early to Greek or Latin, or even to their own language as it existed before the Norman Conquest, tend to find the notion of grammatical case baffling despite the survival in English of a genitive case (renamed possessive) and the distinction between subject and object pronouns in the first and third persons. Evidently, the...

Dithyrambs for Athens: The difficulties of reading Pindar

Leofranc Holford-Strevens, 17 February 2005

The Theban poet Pindar (c.520-446 BC), though he wrote much else, is principally known for his magnificent odes, known as epinicians, in praise of athletic victories by aristocrats and tyrants, nowadays esteemed less than Athenian democrats and Macedonian monarchs, but no worse than their counterparts in later ages who patronised poets, painters and composers still admired. In his day as in...

Like a Member of Parliament, I must declare an interest: I am employed by the publisher of both the OED and Simon Winchester’s account of its genesis. However, I have had no involvement with the latter, whose author’s qualities are well known to readers of his previous books, most relevantly The Surgeon of Crowthorne, and little with the former, which hardly needs my...

God’s Will: Do you speak Punic?

Leofranc Holford-Strevens, 22 May 2003

A poor gardener in Macedonia was riding a donkey when a soldier addressed him in Latin, asking him where he was taking the beast; unable to understand the question, he said nothing, whereupon the soldier knocked him off his mount. The gardener humbly explained in Greek that he did not know Latin; the soldier repeated his question in Greek, and received his answer. So runs an episode in the

Letter

First Fuck

20 November 2003

Geoffrey Ridley Barrow takes me to task for overlooking the Penguin Dictionary of English (Letters, 8 January). So I did, but so too did Robert Burchfield in his introduction to the A-G volume of the OED supplement; I ought to have used quotation-marks. Conversely, I now find that fired in the sense of ‘dismissed’, though given in quotation-marks, was in fact Simon Winchester’s own...

Learned Pursuits

Peter Parsons, 30 March 1989

The scene is set in Athens, a mid-December in the mid-second century AD. A group of Roman students meet to celebrate the Saturnalia with dinner and conversation. The host sets a quiz: each man...

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