How Spanish, not English, was nearly the world's language

The reason has to do with how the wind was blowing in a particular part of the world in August of 1588. It's that specific.

Want to know the reason much of North America speaks English and not Spanish? It all boils down to a single day in the English Channel in August of 1588, says Yale University history professor John Lewis Gaddis. The Spanish Armada was cleverly chased out of British waters by a rag-tag British fleet that set old ships on fire and pointed them right at the anchored Spanish fleet, causing the Spaniards to cut anchor and flee. Because of the way the wind was blowing, the Spanish ships had to sail all the way around the British Isles (about 2,000 nautical miles) to get home and were soundly defeated. That led, John posits, to the rise of the British empire. John's latest book is the fascinating On Grand Strategy.

When We Value Brand Loyalty Over News Content, Our Worlds Become Smaller

How to be media savvy? Sample ideas you disagree with, and be duly skeptical of celebrity journalists.

When PR strategist Matthew Hiltzik visited our video studio, he framed the world as a marketplace of ideas, and the US as a fortunate country whose citizens have a multitude of voices and perspectives—both traditional and revolutionary—to learn from. So are we exercising that luxury, or are we staying loyal to one or two key news sources that comfortably align with our worldview, even our self-identity. What is the cost of that? We may be limiting our own education and cementing arguments instead of working toward resolutions. Hiltzik suggests that there are opportunities and benefits to listening to a wide variety of news sources, even ones that present ideas you may not be accustomed to, and that doing so could help bridge the divides in modern America: "The more understanding you have of your neighbor the more you have the ability to find common interests," he says. If the world is a marketplace of ideas, buy into them carefully, Hiltzik says, but sample them broadly and skeptically, especially in an era of celebrity journalism and see-sawing journalistic standards.

Talking to Yourself in the Third Person Can Lower Stress and Negative Emotions

A new study finds that talking to yourself in the third person may help deal with stress.

credit: Getty Images

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Want to Unite America? Think Like a Gay Rights Activist

If gay people could unite America enough to win the right to marry, surely an entire society can borrow from that playbook to get the US back on track.

For four decades, gay rights activists and couples who appealed to the courts for the right to marry their partners were fighting against a legal system. The real battle, however, was against public perception. Evan Wolfson, founder of the national bipartisan organization Freedom to Marry, outlines the strategy that transformed public understanding and led to a triumph in the Supreme Court in June 2015. It wasn’t the legal appeals or height of the headlines that brought marriage equality to gay people, Wolfson says, rather it was millions of quieter, more personal conversations "around coffee tables and living rooms and water coolers in offices" that became the necessary engine of change. It’s much more difficult to deny a person a basic human right one on one, face to face. Wolfson opens his strategic playbook to Americans in a time of cavernous political division. "The elements of success [of Freedom to Marry] are very applicable and adaptable... for other causes, other organizations, other countries, other ways of moving our society forward, getting our country back on track, and making a better world," he says. Wolfson and the marriage equality story are the subject of the new documentary The Freedom to Marry, in cinemas now.

How America and Russia Can Avoid Cold War 2

The United States and Russia are longtime geopolitical adversaries looking for a new way forward.

The Cold War between the U.S. and Russia is either over for good or a new round is about to begin. As most things today, it all depends on whom you choose to believe. You can (and should) soberly agree that Russia hacked the American Presidential election and in some part helped elect Donald Trump, who has been consistently sympathetic to Russia himself, has had business interests there, featured Russia-friendly advisors in his campaign and potentially as part of his administration, like the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, known for his close relationship with President Putin from his days running Exxon Mobile. It just makes sense Russia would prefer this kind of candidate over the antagonistic Clinton.

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