Word of the Week: Chanteuse

As in:

“Ever since Carol Diahann Johnson changed her name to Diahann Carroll and left the home of her middle-class parents in the mid-1950’s, she had been known as a ‘chic chanteuse’ and as a star very much in the mold that Lena Horne established in the 1940’s” (Feldstein, 2013, p.116).

Feldstein, R. (2013). How it feels to be free: Black women entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.  

For definitions of chanteuse, consult the Oxford English Dictionary.


Word of the Week: Zeitgeist

As in: “As a result, an enthusiastically positive ‘zeitgeist’ developed around Regan that not only blunted most of the sharp humor aimed at him but also insulated him personally from serious charges of wrongdoing, particularly with regard to the constitutional abuses of the Iran-contra scandal during his second term” (Robinson, 2010, p.207). 

Robinson, P. R. (2010). The dance of the comedians: The people, the president and the performance of political standup comedy in America. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

For definitions of zeitgeist, consult the Oxford English Dictionary.

Interested in the current Zeitgeist? Check out the Newspapers in Emmanuel’s collection!

Word of the Week: Verisimilitude

As in: “Then, says Schopenhauer—and every lover will recognize the truth of this the unconscious ensures that its wishes are fulfilled in fantasy ‘with fairy-tales’, and it will deck these fairy tales out ‘so that they obtain an appearance of verisimilitude’”  (May, 2011, p.183)

May, S. (2011). Love: A History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

For definitions of verisimilitude, consult the Oxford English Dictionary.


Word of the Week: Cadre

As in: “Article after article described the emerging cadre of black pilots and officers integrated into the army, air force, and navy units as the vanguard of integration elsewhere in American life” (Phillips, 2012, p.146). 

Phillips, K. L. (2012). War! What is it good for?: Black freedom struggles & the U.S. military. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press.

For definitions of cadre, consult the Oxford English Dictionary.



Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, better known as Mahatma Gandhi, was the fourth child of the prime minister of the tiny city-state of Porbandar, a city between Bombay and Karachi. After the death of Gandhi’s father in 1885, the family sent Mohandas to Great Britain and study law, with the hope that he might enter the civil service of local Indian princes.

Gandhi returned to India in 1891 to open a legal practice. For a variety of reasons, especially Gandhi’s own shyness and diffidence, the practice was a failure, first in his native region and then in Bombay. In 1893, a case required him to go to South Africa.

On the train from the port to Pretoria that first evening, Gandhi was literally kicked off for trying to sit in the first-class compartment when a white passenger objected to his presence. This event helped Gandhi overcoming his shyness and he began speaking and organizing meetings. At first, his goal was to protect Indian workers and traders in South Africa and then to expand their rights.

When Gandhi returned to India in 1914, where he became one of the leaders of the Indian independence movement. From the 1920s through the early 1930s, he was the movement’s leading planner, and throughout the interwar period he served as a bridge between rival religious factions, the various Hindu castes, the growing Westernized upper-middle class, and the masses working in the fields.

In India, he implemented his philosophy of nonviolent protest, which he called satyagraha (soul force). At times he might organize a section of the country to hold a general work stoppage or bring the entire Indian Empire to a halt as he fasted for an end to the terrible conditions of the so-called untouchables, rioting, or other problems besetting the country as a whole.

It was Gandhi’s belief that satyagraha was the only way to win independence from Britain honorably, for if a free India was born in violence, it might never recover. Therefore, Gandhi had to spend almost as much time establishing, and then maintaining, as strict a control over his own people as was possible as he did in winning independence from the British. The first was harder than the second, since the British could use the internal quarrels of the various Indian groups as an excuse to keep ultimate power in their own hands, no matter what reforms they might offer. Therefore, as the 1930s ended, the independence movement had not really come much closer to its goal after two decades of struggle. Gandhi had staged impressive demonstrations such as the march to protest the Salt Tax in March and April of 1930, started numerous publications, written scores of articles, unified the various factions, and won concessions from the British after some bloody riots and reprisals, but India was not independent.

World War II would prove decisive for the fate of India. While Gandhi and his followers preferred the British and the Americans to the Nazis and Japanese, for the most part they refused to cooperate with the Allies unless India was given its independence. Gandhi and many of his closest followers spent most of the war in custody. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League and a former follower of Gandhi, used the war to make the Muslim League independent of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress (the umbrella organization for most of the pro-independence organizations). By backing the Allies when most Indian groups refused, Jinnah was setting the stage to proclaim a separate Muslim state whenever India was granted independence.

When World War II was over, the Labour Party under Clement Attlee came to power in Great Britain. One of their goals was to establish the Indian Empire as an independent dominion within the British Commonwealth. The divisions that Gandhi had managed to unite within the Indian independence movement now came forward as the probability of independence came closer. Gandhi was committed to a united India, but the Muslims, the rulers of most of northern India before the British came but an overall minority, were inspired by Jinnah to seek a separate country for those areas with a Muslim majority. Although the British offered a plan for a confederated India that might have satisfied Muslim demands while maintaining a united Indian government, few of the Indian leaders of either side, including Gandhi, were willing to trust the British plan in 1946. The result was an India divided on religious lines, India and Pakistan becoming independent dominions in 1947.

When a divided India became inevitable, Gandhi basically kept silent on the plan, devoting the rest of his life to quelling the religious unrest that welled up in 1947 and 1948, as Muslims and non-Muslims (many of them unwillingly) left their homes and made their way to areas where they would be in the majority. Hundreds of thousands of people died from violence, disease, and malnutrition during the riots and forced marches and in the relocation camps. Gandhi made his way to some of the worst scenes of conflict, pleading, arguing, and fasting to bring the violence to an end. Although he nearly died from the fasting and was often threatened by mobs, he was finally able to bring the worst of the violence to an end by the beginning of 1948. Religious and ethnic tensions remained, but there was, in general, peace among Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, and the other groups.

On January 30, 1948, Nathuram Godse, a thirty-five-year-old high-caste Hindu newspaper editor and a refugee from Muslim violence, bowed in respect before Gandhi, who was on his way to a prayer meeting in New Delhi, when he shot Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi three times, killing him almost instantly.


Lewis, Terrance L. “Mahatma Gandhi.” Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2013.

Word of the Week: De jure

As in: “Once de jure segregation was established, African Americans and whites were not affected similarly by subsequent race-neutral policies” (Rothstein, 2017, p.188). 

Rothstein, R. (2017). The color of law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation.

For definitions of de jure, consult the Oxford English Dictionary.


You can find this and other books on display on the first floor in honor of Black History Month.



Word of the Week: Genomics

As in: “Largely unheralded among the juggernauts of particle physics and genomics, countless little investigations using cheap, often home-made apparatus provide an unceasing flow of surprises about the world” (Ball, 2013, p.410). 

Ball, P. (2013). Curiosity: How science became interested in everything. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

For definitions of genomics, consult the Oxford English Dictionary.




A History of Santa Claus

Santa Claus developed from religious traditions and secular Christmas practices. The character’s earliest influence is the fourth-century Turkish Christian bishop St. Nicholas who was known for being a kind and generous man. For example, there is a well-known story that St. Nicholas saved three daughters from being sold into prostitution by supplying them with dowries so they could secure husbands.

St. Nicholas died in the mid-fourth century and December sixth became his feast day. Into the Renaissance, parents celebrated St. Nicholas Day by giving their children gifts. St. Nicholas was given qualities that resembled the Norse god Odin; an old man with a white beard who could fly and who encouraged children to practice moral behavior. St. Nicholas remained a popular saint throughout Europe until the Protestant Reformation of the mid-1500s, when changing religious attitudes discouraged Christians from honoring saints.

The Dutch, however, never stopped appreciating St. Nicholas. To continue honoring him, they invented the character of Sinterklaas, whose name was the Dutch nickname for St. Nicholas. Men dressed up as Sinterklaas by donning the robes and mitre and distributing candy and other treats to children and the poor. Dutch families  and friends gathered to celebrate the saint on the night of December 5, the day before St. Nicholas Day. Children would then leave their shoes by the fireplace so that Sinterklaas would leave presents in them by the next morning.

These Sinterklaas traditions arrived in the United States, particularly in the New York region, by the late 1700s as it was settled by the Dutch. It was in the United States that St. Nicholas started to modernize and transform into what he would become, the Christmas character known as Santa Claus, with this name being derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas.

Christmases in early America were raucous, alcohol-driven celebrations and were not accommodating to children. In the early 1800s, several American writers and other figures were determined to reinvent Christmas as a family holiday, and used the Dutch St. Nicholas traditions to produce the Santa Claus figure.

These efforts included: Washington Irving’s book History of New York (1809) that described St. Nicholas as a man wearing a three-cornered hat and red waistcoat, smoking a pipe, and flying through the air in a wagon delivering presents to good children. The 1821 poem “The Children’s Friend” brought the emerging Santa Claus into modernity by describing a man dressed in furs carrying a birch rod (that could be used to punish disobedient children) and sitting in a sleigh being pulled by a reindeer. Clement Clarke Moore composed the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known as “The Night Before Christmas” that  described a fat, jolly Santa Claus who rides a flying sleigh.

Thomas Nast, a cartoonist, was responsible for standardizing the image of Santa Claus in Harper’s Weekly in the late 1800s. Nast portrayed Santa Claus as an obese, white-bearded, Caucasian old man wearing a red suit and furs and smoking a pipe. Nast images of Santa showed him carrying a sack full of toys and indicated Santa Claus could be contacted by writing to the North Pole.

Santa Claus was modernized once more in the early 1930s, when the Coca-Cola Company sought a realistic Santa image for one of its magazine advertisements. The company employed illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create the image. This Santa Claus first appeared in a 1931 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Later advertisements depicted the Santa figure delivering toys, reading a child’s letter, and visiting with children who waited for him to arrive at their home.


Salem Press Encyclopedia, 2016, “Santa Claus.”

Nast, Thomas Harper’s Weekly, 1881.

Word of the Week: Caïque

As in:

“Nicholas’ marine influence spread throughout the Mediterranean, the Aegean, and the Adriatic, into the Black Sea and latterly across the oceans. Trading ships and caïques took his name or hung his icon in the cabin, honoring it with a burning lamp” (Seal, 2005, p.33).                                

Seal, J. (2005). Nicholas: The Epic journey from saint to Santa ClausNew York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing.

For definitions of caïque, consult the Oxford English Dictionary

The Cardinal Cushing Library Staff wishes you a merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season. To celebrate by curling up with this book or others like it, visit our display on top of the reference shelves.