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Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

I live near a place called Moyo, or Moyonga, by the ancient and modern native people of this captivating coastal region. The Spanish termed the land the Rancho San Joaquin, and you may know it by its American names, the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Irvine in Orange County, California. I was recently reflecting upon why I didn’t learn the name Moyo in school, or hear anything but a passing reference to the name of nation whose land I now inhabit, the Tongva. …


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Music is often described as an entirely distinct form of communication, one which relies not upon words and sentences, but on notes and their direct avenue to the hearts of listeners. Musical lyrics, however, are verbal and classically linguistic constructions, but the manner in which they are written, at least in contemporary American pop music, does not mirror other art forms, and not even the everyday conversations of most English speakers.

As a student of English literature, I was fascinated by the question of how the classical division of English vocabulary, that between Germanic words and French and Latin words, manifests itself in modern music. Surveys of English vocabulary have determined that 26% of the language originates in Anglo-Saxon or Old Norse Germanic languages, 26% comes from French, 29% is directly from Latin, and the rest is a combination of other borrowings along with place and personal names. That said, while 58% of our language is Latinate in origin, average daily dialogue tends tends to be less so, simply because many of the Germanic components of our language are the most common and grammatically essential words. …


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When you conjure mental images of the Civil War, it is undoubtedly the forested settings of the Southern Piedmont, or the hills and fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, or the broad-running Mississippi River, which you picture. Yet, there was another front of the Civil War, beyond the so-called Western Theater in Mississippi and Louisiana, where the Confederacy and the Union fought a conflict thoroughly connected to, but also very different from, the great struggle which was being waged back east. These were men from Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico fighting a war over slavery in a very different setting than their comrades were simultaneously. …


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In the 1920s, a decade in which the film industry rose to prominence and sound began to appear in theaters across the nation, four major motion pictures were set in Los Angeles, California. You read that right, four. In an era when seemingly countless films take place along the coastline of Southern California, the thought that only four would take place there, particularly in the formative years of the industry, a time when on-location shooting in exotic places was far less feasible, seems inconceivable. Los Angeles, though, was chosen not for its distinctive features, but rather for its indistinctiveness. …


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It is among the most unremarked upon facts of history that artful acting transitioned Rome from republic to empire. Entrenched establishments do not yield to such changes with ease and eagerness, and yet, the profound performance of one Roman, combined with his sole martial and political control of Rome’s domains, saw one of the most entrenched establishments in history do so in less than a decade.

In applauding one actor’s performance, the proudly independent and earnestly involved Roman Senate cast aside its centuries-old dominance of the Roman political order, leaving to him and his successors the mandate of controlling the Mediterranean and, in some measure at least, the course of Western civilization. …


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A land and its narrative are inseparable. Like students of long ago administered aptitude tests, we partake in word associations with the land, conjuring images of our conceptions of the places beyond our vision’s range. These images of distant wonder are among the most profoundly human of visions, and they have ever driven us to new employment, opportunity, and discovery. No country, nor region, is exempt from such associations, and yet there are none more defining, none more compelling, and none more alluring than those we have formed with the West.

China was long seen as a land of wealth, India as a land of spiritual seeking, Italy as a land of mighty empire, and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States as a land of religious and economic freedom, but no land was ever so mythologized and revered as the West. But today, that mythology and reverence seem to many, if not most, a past fascination without a place in the 21st Century. Yet even now, in our century, the West endures, and more than that, defines where our nation has been, and where it is going. …


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In the early evening of July 4, 1826, John Adams lay at his home in Massachusetts, speaking his final words. “Thomas Jefferson survives,” he said. These words are often cited as a curious mistake of speech, as Jefferson had in fact died earlier that day, at noon, in Virginia. The dual deaths of the two partners in the enterprise of independence on the fiftieth anniversary of the 4th of July, 1776 has been rightly cited as evidence of some force in history which is immeasurable except in its presence and effect. …

About

Neah Lekan

Jefferson Scholar at the University of Virginia | Orange County, CA

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