The Death Wail

The death wail is a cry of mourning performed ritually in response to the death of a loved one. Though found in numerous cultures, it is closely associated with Australian Aboriginal peoples. Some accounts of the death wail describe its presence in conjunction with fighting and disputes. For instance, Edward Eyre, a British colonial administrator in 19th-century Australia, documented its usage between members of two rival tribes. Where can you listen to an 1898 recording of a death wail? Discuss


impatient – Meaning “not able to bear or suffer,” based on Latin pati, “to suffer.” More…

compatible – Its base is Latin compati, “suffer with.” More…

harrow, harrowing – To harrow is to wound the feelings or cause to suffer—which gives us harrowing. More…

suffer – To suffer something is, etymologically, to “hold or sustain it from underneath,” from Latin sufferre, “sustain.” More…

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg Convicted of Espionage (1951)

In 1951, the Rosenbergs were prosecuted for conspiracy to transmit classified military information to the Soviet Union. During the Rosenbergs’ trial, the government charged that they had persuaded Ethel’s brother, an employee at the Los Alamos atomic bomb project, to provide them with top-secret data on nuclear weapons. They were convicted and executed via the electric chair, becoming the first US civilians to suffer the death penalty for espionage. What happened to their children? Discuss

Borrowed Days

According to an old Scottish rhyme, the last three days in March were “borrowed” from April, in return for which March promised to destroy three young sheep. Other references go back even farther. Both an ancient calendar of the Church of Rome and a 1548 book known as The Complaynt of Scotland allude to the days at the end of March as being more like winter than spring. Whatever their origin, it seems likely that the wet, windy weather that so often comes at the end of March gave rise to the notion that this month had to “borrow” some additional time. Discuss

Sir John McEwen (1900)

McEwen was an Australian politician and the country’s 18th prime minister. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1934 and served in several ministerial posts between 1937 and 1941. He was prime minister for three weeks following the disappearance and presumed death of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967, and he caused a leadership crisis by announcing that he and his party colleagues would refuse to serve in a government led by William McMahon. What was McEwen’s objection to McMahon? Discuss

Classical Orders

Classical orders are ancient styles of architecture defined by the type of column, base, capital, and entablature used. The Parthenon is a prime example of the Doric order, the earliest and simplest of the five classical orders. The Corinthian order, with its fluted columns topped with leaves and scrolls, is the most ornate. Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius details these forms in his De architectura. The only surviving architectural writing from antiquity, it was rediscovered when? Discuss