The Curious Autodidact

July 10, 2008

Reading in Decline—still…

Filed under: book related — Honilima @ 8:06 pm

The ten basic points of the report are:

  1. The percentage of adult Americans reading literature has dropped dramatically over the last 20 years.
  2. The decline in literary reading parallels a decline in total book reading.
  3. The rate of decline in literary reading is accelerating.
  4. Women read more literature than men do, but literary reading by both groups is declining in significant rates.
  5. Literary reading is declining among whites, African Americans, and Hispanics.
  6. Literary reading is declining among all educational levels.
  7. Literary reading is declining among all age groups.
  8. The steepest decline in literary reading is in the youngest age groups.
  9. The decline in literary reading foreshadows and erosion in cultural and civic participation.
  10. The decline in reading correlates with increased participation in a variety of electronic media, including the Internet, video games, and portable digital devices.

In a strange way this report encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing. It is the hard evidence that I needed to let me know that what I’ve seen with my own eyes is in fact the trend I believed it to be – that people in America have stopped reading. Maybe my storefront closing has been a blessing. Maybe that is exactly what needed to happened so that I could do this work.

This report presents the results from the literature segment of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, conducted by the Census Bureau in 2002 at the NEA’s request. The survey asked more than 17,000 adults if during the previous 12 months they had read any novels, short stories, poetry or plays in their leisure time, that were not required for work or school. The report extrapolates and interprets data on literary reading and compares them with results from similar surveys carried out in 1982 and 1992.



July 1, 2008

More Phrases from the Sea

Filed under: origin of phrases — Honilima @ 8:05 pm



To understand how to do something. To be acquainted with all the methods required.


know the ropesThere is some doubt about the origin of this phrase. It may well have a nautical origin. Sailors had to learn which rope raised which sail and also had to learn a myriad of knots. There is also a suggestion that it comes from the world of the theatre, where ropes are used to raise scenery etc.

The first citation comes in Richard H. Dana Jr’s Two years before the mast, 1840:

“The captain, who had been on the coast before and ‘knew the ropes,’ took the steering oar”

That clearly has a seafaring connection, although it appears to be using the figurative meaning of the phrase, i.e. ‘the captain was knowledgeable’, but without any specific allusion to ropes.

There are also early citations that come from the theatre. J. Timon, in Opera Goer, 1850 includes this:

“The belle of two weeks standing, who has ‘learned the ropes’.”

The nautical derivation seems more attractive and convincing, but the jury has to remain out on this one.


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