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From the archives

The Trust Spiral

Restoring faith in the media

Dear Prudence

A life of exuberance and eccentricity

Who’s Afraid of Alice Munro?

A long-awaited biography gives the facts, but not the mystery, behind this writer’s genius

James Harbeck

James Harbeck grew up on the Morley Nakoda reserve in Alberta. He has a PhD in drama and is now an editor, linguist, designer, and the author of the blog Sesquiotica and numerous articles on language for The Week, Slate and the BBC.

Articles by
James Harbeck

26 Stories to Tell

Why the letters of our alphabet look and sound the way they do. April 2004
Perhaps it is fitting that the English language should use the Roman alphabet. English has passed through so many evolutions, with so many influences and borrowings, and its words have changed so much in meaning over time, it might as well use a borrowed alphabet that has just as checkered a history, and use it in an irregular and abnormal…

Pep Talk

Tomson Highway reveals the animation of his native tongue July–August 2015
This book is a trick window. Tomson Highway, as we will see, is a Trickster and a window installer. Highway’s favourite character and metaphysical persona is “a cosmic clown, as he/she has been called, a merry-maker called the Trickster, Weesageechaak in Cree, Nanabush in Ojibway, Glooscap in Mi’kmaq, Iktomi in Lakota, Coyote on the plains, Raven on the west coast.” The Trickster shows up in Highway’s…

Cunning Linguistics

A picaresque history of English puts the LOL in philology January–February 2014
When I studied the history of English in university, there were three of us keeners who sat up at the front while the rest of the class cowered near the back. Every so often I would look back to see who was still there. Over the course of the year, their number diminished by at least…