Fascinating little tidbit that I ran across today: In 1854, 1 in 155 residents of Martha's Vineyard were deaf—compared to 1 in 5728 as the national average.
Historians trace those high rates of deafness back to a genetic variation common in Weald, England. People from this rural, sparsely populated region moved to Martha's Vineyard in the late 1600s, where they joined a pretty genetically isolated population, with few off-island marriages. The result was a high rate of this specific kind of deafness. That's interesting enough, but what's really amazing is how the genes shaped culture.
Until the 20th century, deafness was an unremarkable, normal part of life on the island—akin to the level of "oddness" or handicap we'd ascribe to left-handedness today. Pretty much everyone, deaf or hearing, spoke a local version of sign language, which made it possible for the deaf to be fully integrated into society without anybody really missing a beat.
Martha's Vineyard Sign Language is mostly dead today, but it has an important legacy. In the early 19th century, children from the island brought their language to America's first school for the deaf, where it mingled with French Sign Language and other colloquial home sign traditions to create modern American Sign Language.
Brexit is not the cause of Britain’s renewed interest in its weird folk heritage, in the joys of cults and pagan sex. But the sudden veering into that world’s darker side, where violence and groupthink and human sacrifice rule, seems guided by its anguish and sickly glee. Here’s Michael Newton on the new flowering of […]
Liam Williams was given money by the BBC to explain the success and culture of YouTube vloggers. A search for the next megastar vlogger finds an unlikely victor in struggling comedian, Liam, who must undertake a series of challenges in order to win a £10,000 prize. Along the way, several successful YouTubers give him help […]
Most of history exists for us only in black and white. As a kid, we had a black and white TV because it was all we could afford. I grew up watching The Wizard of Oz every year in the 1960s and had no idea it was a color film.At least that exists in color […]
Yes, yes there is. The ultraportable Twisty Glass Mini boasts all of the simplicity of its forebear, while fitting just a little bit better in your pocket.The Mini is perfect for casual smokers, and anyone who doesn’t have the patience or fine motor skill for rolling papers. This piece keeps the convenient design of its older […]
Learning to code is a perfect way to grow your technical sophistication, and open up a host of new career options. But since most “learn to code” initiatives focus heavily on web development, it can be tough to find good resources for general-purpose computer science outside of a 4-year degree program. To get a broad […]
While many newer smartphones boast decent water resistance, most of us are still stuck with the kind of handsets that need to spend the night in a bowl of rice when they get wet. If you want to enjoy your favorite podcasts in the shower but are holding out for your next phone upgrade, this […]