Friday, August 01, 2014. Last Update: Fri 4:08 PM EST

Author Archive

Articles by Merrill Perlman | Email the Author

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

Bemusement Park

It’s not amusing when writers misuse “bemused”

Here’s the lede on one article about the final presidential candidates’ debate: “Calmly swatting away John McCain’s aggression in their... More

Rescuing the Bailout

Which word best describes the government’s response to the financial crisis?

Politics, especially in the few weeks before an election, is full of semantics, but this year seems particularly fraught. Take... More

Mass Appeal

Or, rather, “hoi polloi” appeal

In most of her speeches, and in her debate last week with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin seems to be speaking... More

Getting To The Top

A proper use for “crescendo”

“Daring project reaches a crescendo,” read a headline in the Albany Times-Union the other day. It struck a chord. Anyone... More

How Forbes got to $475 million - That’s what a Hong Kong investor has agreed to pay for a firm that two years ago had trouble paying its rent

Journalists subpoenaed in ‘pink-slime’ suit - BPI wants emails from NYT’s Michael Moss, public-health lawyer Michele Simon, and others

Bloomberg struggles to break out of the box - Justin Smith’s ambitious digital transformation hits some bumps

The Grand Dame of Florida reporting has retired twice, but she’s still causing trouble - A conversation with the Tampa Bay Times’ Lucy Morgan

Embedded with the Koch brothers - Hometown reporters get rare access to the media-shy oilmen, with mixed results


James Fallows on David Frum’s asserted, then retracted, charge the NYT ran fake photos of Gaza

“For all their blind spots and flaws, reporters on the scene are trying to see, so they can tell, and the photographic and video reporters take greater risks than all the rest, since they must be closer to the action. For people on the other side of the world to casually assert that they’re just making things up—this could and would drive them crazy.”

The 60-second interview: Marty Baron (Capital New York)

CAPITAL: I just noticed that the most-read story right now on your website is an aggregated piece about a Russian lizard sex station in space. BARON: [Laughs] Is that right?

Your iPhone can now make free encrypted calls (Wired)

The beginning of the end of burner phones?

The new face of Richard Norris (GQ)

“‘Richard?’ I say. ‘Richard?’ I shove his shoulder and nothing happens. He is dead. He is on my watch and he is dead. I hear gurgling. Breathing. He’s on my watch and he is not dead.”

Bloggingheads

Greg Marx discusses democracy and news with Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute

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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.