In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do.
Click here for access to the complete project archive
English spelling is ridiculous. Sew and new don’t rhyme. Kernel and colonel do. When you see an ough, you might need to read it out as ‘aw’ (thought), ‘ow’ (drought), ‘uff’ (tough), ‘off’ (cough), ‘oo’ (through), or ‘oh’ (though). The ea vowel is usually pronounced ‘ee’ (weak, please, seal, beam) but can also be ‘eh’ (bread, head, wealth, feather). Those two options cover most of it – except for a handful of cases, where it’s ‘ay’ (break, steak, great). Oh wait, one more… there’s earth. No wait, there’s also heart.
[…] The answer to the weirdness of English has to do with the timing of technology. The rise of printing caught English at a moment when the norms linking spoken and written language were up for grabs, and so could be hijacked by diverse forces and imperatives that didn’t coordinate with each other, or cohere, or even have any distinct goals at all. If the printing press had arrived earlier in the life of English, or later, after some of the upheaval had settled, things might have ended up differently.
Associate Editor Alex Brock
“Typos, Trick, and Misprints,” by Arika Okrent, in Aeon
“You really must experience the heart with your hands,” he told the class. “I know it’s slippery but don’t be shy. You have to use your fingers to feel your way through the dissection.”
At night, she placed her flash cards on Reese to quiz herself. He stretched out on the couch, reading a novel, trying to remain still while she propped a card against his arm. She traced a finger along his biceps, chanting the Latin terms to herself quietly until he tugged her into his lap. Skin tissue and muscles and nerves, bone and blood. A body could be labeled but a person couldn’t, and the difference between the two depended on that muscle in your chest. That beloved organ, not sentient, not aware, not feeling, just pumping along, keeping you alive.
Editorial Intern Melissa Zhu
excerpt from The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett