Wednesday, April 23, 2014. Last Update: Wed 3:00 PM EST

Author Archive

Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

Waif Goodbye

How various dictionaries define the word “waif”

Let’s say you find a “waif” on the street and take it home. Should you call an orphanage, an animal... More

Wait Lifted

Do you wait for, on, or upon someone?

For hundreds of years, linguists, grammarians, and others have argued over what word should follow “wait,” as in “I am... More

Persuasive Convincing

On the vanishing distinctions between “persuade” and “convince”

Back when English grammar was rigorously taught in schools, certain rules were hammered into students’ heads: Never split an infinitive;... More

A Noisome Joy

Another word that doesn’t mean what it looks like it means

Think of all the words that don’t mean what their spellings seem to indicate they mean—among the ones already discussed... More

Presidents Setting

Attempting to punctuate President(s)(s’)(’s) Day

We used to have two holidays in February: Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday. Now, we have three, though most of... More

Cultured Plurals

Plurals, singulars, and the de-Latinization of English

When baseball season starts in just a few short weeks, the New York Yankees will have a new “stadium.” The... More

A Frayed Knot of Words

The difference between “homonym” and “homophone”

Last week’s posting discussed sound-alike words that are often mistaken for one another, despite their different meanings. That brought a... More

Pedal Pushers

“Soft-peddling” a faulty homonym

Now that Barack Obama is president, one columnist wanted to know, weren’t the late-night comedians, who had taken so many... More

Able Action

When the audience isn’t in on the definition

English has no grammar police to prevent someone from taking a word and putting it to work with another meaning,... More

Not So Impeachy

“Impeachment”: a clarification

When the Illinois House of Representatives voted to “impeach” Governor Rod Blagojevich, a number of blogs carried public comments like... More

Our Tense Past

Sneaking a dive into a swim

When you tell your friends that you took a swim yesterday, did you say you “swam” yesterday or that you... More

Kicking the Can

Congress describes its take on an auto bailout

In late November, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the Big Three automakers that they needed to devise a better financial... More

Missed Step

Using “set foot in” is a step in the right direction

Everyone has language pet peeves: those little things people say that aren’t quite right, and that we can’t help but... More

The Britishisms Are Coming!

Gobsmacked by the recent British slang invasion

“I am gobsmacked by these appointments, most of which could easily have come from a President McCain,” Max Boot, a... More

Healthy Usage

Here’s hoping that your Thanksgiving was a healthful one

Here’s hoping everyone ate only “healthy” foods at Thanksgiving. Many people, including those watching calories or wanting to be “healthy,”... More

Poisonous Coinage

Tracing the evolution of the term “toxic loan”

As the country tries to escape its economic doldrums, there’s been a lot of talk about how banks made “toxic... More

When Opposites Detract

Is “sanction” a contradictanym?

A country ignores the wishes of the United Nations and continues its human rights abuses. Its behavior is “sanctioned.” Meanwhile,... More

Our Historical Past

The presidential election was both “historical” and “historic”

Last week’s election was “historical.” It was also “historic.” As my predecessor Evan Jenkins explained here in 2004, “By hoary... More

Damning With Excessive Praise

“Fulsome” doesn’t mean what you think it means

Language is communication, but it works only if the communicators understand one other. If you think a word means one... More

When A Plus Is A Minus

The real meaning of the word “nonplussed”

Last week, some people who read here that “bemused” doesn’t mean “wryly amused” may have been “nonplussed.” “Nonplussed” is another... More

16 women whose digital startups deserve Vox-level plaudits - A look at the media entrepreneurs who aren’t grabbing headlines

Why was ‘Dasani’ shut out of the Pulitzers? - 5 problems with The New York Times’ ambitious, influential series on the life of one homeless Brooklyn girl

The AP downplays its Obamacare scoop - Repeal on deductible caps marks another step in The Great Cost Shift

The enduring pull of mag covers - Why do magazine cover images still hold so much cultural power in this decline-of-print era?

Michael Wolff’s digital media bloopers - The Newser founder trolls (other) digital-news companies


The top spook’s stupid gag order

The nation’s top spy has prohibited all of his spies from talking with reporters about “intelligence-related information” unless officially authorized to speak

Slate wants you to subscribe

Andrew Sullivan on the new Slate+

Why liberals have fallen for Thomas Piketty

The French economist gives the American left a sturdy framework for its economic ideas

The greatest threat to women

Louis CK is nonplussed at how ladies do it

  • If you like the magazine, get the rest of the year for just $19.95 (6 issues in all).
  • If not, simply write cancel on the bill and return it. You will owe nothing.

Who Owns What

The Business of Digital Journalism

A report from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Study Guides

Questions and exercises for journalism students.