The Word For… by Ivan Crouch

There ought to be a word for “the limbo-like precincts of an airport baggage claim, where groggy travellers gather around the motionless treads of empty conveyor belts.” It is a singularly desolate scene, and there should be a succinct way for a forlorn luggage-seeker to text a quick apology to the friend who is idly circling the airport roads. Now, there is: “baggatory.”

That clever turn is just one of a couple hundred neologisms coined by Liesl Schillinger in her new book, “Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexicon for the 21st Century.” Other gems include “social crawler” (a party-goer who accidently mingles with losers); “Facebook-happy” (a miserable person who fakes bliss in carefully managed Facebook posts); “polterguy” (an ex-boyfriend who haunts future relationships); “factose intolerant” (a person who claims a false allergy or irrational antipathy to certain foods); and “rotter” (the bottom drawer in the refrigerator where produce goes to putrefy). Most of the words and phrases in the collection are accompanied, in a bit of whimsy, by an illustration of birds acting out the scenes described: the “social crawler” is a peacock mixing with pigeons.


Raymond Aron

Raymond Aron: 30 years on by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins

In turn, Raymond Aron’s major work on international relations realism, Peace and War (1962) has also received renewed attention, not only because it recognised and warned against the illiberal origins of early American international relations theory, but because it attempts to offer a third way between political idealism and political realism.

The post-9/11 moment also explains the renewed interest in Aron’s major work, Clausewitz: Philosopher of War, which articulated a conception of partisan warfare undergirded by the practical rationality motivating insurgent actions. Here, Aron sought to moderate the sharp distinction between friends versus enemies. Aron then affirmed the existence of natural justice and thus the possibility of diplomacy. Aron’s sympathy with the “partisan” caused René Girard to argue in his recent book, Achever Clausewitz, that Aron’s thoughts on warfare are now simply too liberal for an age of apocalyptic terror.

Gone may be the days when having an interest in Aron or Sartre’s work implied some sense of moral or political loyalty to them. Since what matters most is the significance of their lives and the power of their ideas, celebrating Sartre in a room dedicated to Aron now makes sense.